Kain Colter

Northwestern players take step toward unionization

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A movement seeking a landmark shift in the landscape of college athletics in general and football specifically has taken another, potentially monumental step in that direction.

ESPN’s Outside the Lines is reporting Tuesday that “Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, filed a petition in Chicago on behalf of football players at Northwestern University, submitting the form at the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board.”  It marks the first step in those players — a group officially called the College Athletes Players Association — being recognized by/as a union and as employees of the university.

The CAPA, OTL reports, was created by, among others, Huma and Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter.

Colter was part of a movement last fall with the tagline “All Players United.”  Colter, several of his teammates and players from Georgia and Georgia Tech all scribbled the acronym “APU” somewhere on their (university-issued) football equipment as part of the “protest.”

In addition to the filing of paperwork, union cards signed by what Huma, a former UCLA linebacker, described as “a vast majority” of the Northwestern football players on scholarship were filed with the regional NLRB.  The website wrote that “to have the NLRB consider a petition to be unionized, at least 30 percent of the members of a group serving an employer must sign union cards.”  Only the players on scholarship — the NCAA limit of 85 — were permitted to sign union cards, meaning walk-ons are excluded from the group.

The NCPA — and ultimately the CAPA — has the backing of the powerful United Steelworkers union.

For now, the goals of the NCPA/CAPA are “better concussion and other medical protections, and for scholarships to cover the full cost of attendance” as well as “a trust fund that players could tap into after their NCAA eligibility expires to finish schooling or be rewarded for finishing schooling.”  Huma declined to rule out the union, if it’s certified, pushing for universities to pay salaries to the players, which would initially include only those involved in football and basketball.

For Colter, though, there’s one overwhelming issue on the agenda in the here and now.

“Money is far from priority No. 1 on our list of goals. The health of the players is No. 1,” the quarterback told Yahoo! Sports. “Right now the NCAA does not require or guarantee that any university or institution covers any sports-related medical expenses. Student-athletes should never have to worry about if their sports-related medical bills are taken care of.”

A certification that leads to such guarantees, however, is likely many, many years down the road and will face numerous obstacles as both universities and the NCAA push back.

First, this union push, for the moment, applies only to private institutions such as Northwestern.  Public universities, which make up the vast majority of FBS institutions, are under the jurisdiction of state laws, not federal.  And those laws at the non-federal level vary widely from state to state, which could open yet another Pandora’s Box, as explained by the esteemed John Infante of the Bylaw Blog:

Assuming a crushing victory by the student-athletes and union organizers, there would still be the issue of public universities. In theory, student-athletes at public universities who became employees would be state workers, whose unionization and collective bargaining rights are governed by state law. Years from now the end result could be many different sets of rules applied at different public and private colleges in different states because of the different collective bargaining rights.

In other words, if the players are successful and unionize to the point that public universities are involved –players at those schools would need to take their case to their individual state boards — you could see football programs within the same conference, depending on where the rights are collectively bargained, operating under myriad different sets of rules — and rates of pay.  And you thought recruiting in the SEC was a free-for-all now?

Any ruling in favor of the athletes will most certainly be appealed by the universities.  The most likely result is years of motions and counter motions at the federal court level, with Colter and his group prepared to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States if necessary.

While Dan Wetzel states very plainly in his Yahoo! piece that “[t]his will be a war of attrition,” Infante offers up a simple solution to a problem that will become more complex — for both sides — as the lawyers’ billable hours do nothing but grow.

All of this begs to be resolved in one fell swoop (at least for the time being) by Congress passing a comprehensive NCAA reform act, which provides the protections the student-athletes are asking for in exchange for avoiding the employee designation and having different NCAA rules on a conference or institutional basis. The question now is whether Congress could get such a bill together and whether the NCAA sees discretion as the better part of valor and federal regulation as the lesser of two evils.

Watch your backs, though, players. There’s snakes in them there D.C. Beltway suits.  Be careful if you go the Congressional route.

David Shaw on LSU opening: Are you serious? The answer is no

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Head coach David Shaw of the Stanford Cardinal reacts after a fumble by Francis Owusu #6 during the second quarter against the UCLA Bruins at Rose Bowl on September 24, 2016 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
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LSU opened up a high-profile head coaching vacancy on Sunday by removing head coach Les Miles as the head of the football program. As Miles was shown the door, the list of possible candidates started popping up just about everywhere you might look. Names like Houston’s Tom Herman and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher have been popular and trendy, but not so much for Stanford head coach David Shaw.

Asked about the new opening in Baton Rouge, Shaw was rather definitive in his stance.

Are you serious? The answer is no,” Shaw said, seemingly without hesitation according to ESPN reporter David Lombardi.

It should be mentioned that it is incredibly rare for a head coach in a current position with one program would even drop a hint of interest in another position elsewhere, so keep that in mind as coaches like Herman and Fisher deny having any contact with LSU and so on during the annual coaching carousel. That said, Shaw leaving Stanford would be a pretty good shock, so we can probably take Shaw at his word here.

Torn ACL brings end of 2016 season for Michigan CB Jeremy Clark

TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  A Michigan Wolverines flag is carried during the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against the Kansas State Wildcats at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona.  The Wildcats defeated the Wolverines 31-14.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh announced senior cornerback Jeremy Clark will not play another down this season. Clark suffered a torn ACL in a blowout win against Penn State on Saturday while on special teams duty.

With Clark no longer an option for the defense, Harbaugh mentioned a few players as possible replacements for the rest of the season; Brandon Watson, Lavert Hill, and David Long.

Harbaugh also said the school will petition the NCAA to see if they can get a sixth year of eligibility for Clark. Players are eligible to apply for a medical redshirt of a season-ending injury occurs in the first third of the regular season, which Michigan’s fourth game would qualify for. Clark has already used a redshirt season at Michigan.

Tennessee video team scores a win over Florida and makes friends with Oregon

Smokey feeds ducks
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When you go out on a limb and guarantee a victory, you better hope you and your team can back it up. Otherwise, your statements could come back to haunt you. The folks in Tennessee had a little fun at the expense of Florida defensive back Quincy Wilson this week after the Vols came from behind to beat Florida in a key SEC East Division game in Knoxville. The win brought an end to an 11-year losing streak Tennessee had going against their division rivals from Florida, which was cause for celebration alone, but being able to capitalize on a golden quote served up by Wilson a few days prior to the game ensured yet another victory on social media.

“Have you ever seen a duck pull a truck? Ducks don’t pull trucks,” Wilson said in the days leading up to Florida’s game at Tennessee. “Nobody has ever seen a duck pull a truck. Florida Gators are going to win, simple as that.”

As that particular quote started making the rounds around the college football world, the Oregon Ducks of all programs decided to weigh in on the rivalry smack talk by sharing a video of the Oregon mascot pulling a truck…

So, it was only fitting that after Tennessee snapped its losing streak against the Gators and made Wilson eat some crow for his duck metaphor, the video production team at Tennessee had a little fun with everything that transpired. It would appear that Smokey, Tennessee’s mascot, appreciated the support from Oregon and is now repaying the favor.

Well done, Tennessee video team!

QB Luke Del Rio “highly doubtful” for Florida’s next game

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Luke Del Rio #14 of the Florida Gators in action during the first half of the game against the North Texas Mean Green at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images
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The Florida Gators do not appear to be optimistic about quarterback Luke Del Rio being available for their next game against Vanderbilt this weekend. Florida announced Del Rio is “highly doubtful” for this weekend’s game after missing this past weekend’s game at Tennessee.

Del Rio suffered a left knee injury two weeks ago against North Texas, forcing him to miss last weekend’s game against the Vols. Florida expects to be able to work Del Rio back into the practice routine starting Tuesday and will continue to monitor his progress as they make sure he is good to go before testing him in a game.

“I would say he’d be highly doubtful for this week,” Florida head coach Jim McElwain said Monday. “But I’m still not going to count him out.”

Austin Appleby stepped in to get his first start at Florida since transferring from Purdue when he took the field on Saturday at Tennessee. It is expected Appleby will once again get the start against Vanderbilt. Del Rio visited with the team and was in a uniform last weekend, more so he could communicate and help Appleby out as best he possibly could from the sideline.