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.

Big 12 upset brewing in Austin? Longhorns tied 7-7 with Oklahoma State at half

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Don’t hit the upset alarm just yet, but No. 10 Oklahoma State is in a bit of a defensive battle on the road against the Texas Longhorns. After one half of play, the Cowboys and Longhorns are knotted at seven points apiece to set the stage for an interesting second half of play in Austin.

J.D. King gave Oklahoma State a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a seven-yard touchdown run. It came on Oklahoma State’s third possession of the game and at the end of a 96-yard drive. The next time the Cowboys had the football, another long drive for points was stalled when Justice Hill lost a fumble at the Texas 14-yard line. The Longhorns capitalized on the turnover by orchestrating a quick three-play 86-yard touchdown drive. Sam Ehlinger completed a 90-yard pass to John Burt on a 2nd and 16 and then Ehlinger took it in himself from two yards out on the next play to tie the game at 7-7.

Wisconsin defense scores and bails out Badgers offense in first half vs. Maryland

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Wisconsin does not appear to be in much of any trouble this afternoon in Madison, Wisconsin against Maryland, but the Badgers took a while to start putting away the Terrapins. Wisconsin owns a 21-3 lead on the Terps at halftime, but the Wisconsin offense has had two turnovers so far. Maryland just has not been able to capitalize on those opportunities.

The Badgers defense put the first points on the scoreboard on the game’s opening possession. T.J. Edwards picked off a pass from Max Bortenschlager and returned it 54 yards for a score. It was the fourth pick-six of the season for the Badgers, moving them into a tie for the national lead with Duke.

Maryland failed to take advantage of a fumble by Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor that gave the Terrapins the football on the Wisconsin five-yard line. Unable to pick up any yardage, Maryland settled for a field goal to cut the lead to 7-3. The Badgers responded with a 10-play, 70-yard touchdown drive ending with Taylor making his way to the end zone on a three-yard run. Wisconsin added a late touchdown on a pass from Alex Hornibrook to Zander Neuville.

In the second half, Wisconsin will get the ball to start the third quarter and will look to start overpowering Maryland to get this game wrapped up with a “W.”

LOOK: GameDay signs roast Jim Harbaugh ahead of Penn State game

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When you are as high-profile as Jim Harbaugh has been — and when the off-field headlines don’t translate into the type of on-field success your fan base craves– you are the perfect target for the those in attendance for college football’s preeminent traveling road show.

With Penn State set to host Michigan Saturday night, ESPN‘s College GameDay show made its way to Happy Valley>  As is the case every weekend, so too did the signs that have become a huge part of the three-hour pregame show.

And, not surprisingly, Harbaugh was a significant target as part of this Saturday’s festivities.

Syracuse fans looking to help fellow fan who broke both legs celebrating upset of Clemson

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For one fan, his college football team’s win last Saturday came at an extremely steep cost. And now, some fellow fans are hoping to defray those costs.

Ranked No. 2 in the nation heading in, Clemson was stunned by unranked Syracuse in a monumental Week 7 upset in the Carrier Dome last Friday. Predictably, those in attendance went wild over the football program’s biggest win in more than a decade and stormed the field.

One of those fans was Justin Heath, who jumped over a railing to join his fellow fans and promptly injured himself. Specifically, he broke both of his legs, sustained what was described as a crushed right ankle and his left kneecap was displaced.

The injuries, which have already resulted in two surgeries that included having rods, plates and pins inserted in his injured limbs, are expected to keep Heath out of work for at least three months and possibly as long as six.

Other Orange fans have set up a GoFundMe page “to raise funds to help offset medical bills and lost time from work for one of ‘Cuse’s biggest fans.” If you so desire, you can donate by clicking HERE.

The initial goal was to raise $4,400; as of this posting, $5,162 has been raised.