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.

Wyoming, Craig Bohl agree to new seven-year contract

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 10: Head coach Craig Bohl of the Wyoming Cowboys watches warmups before the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
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Less than 24 hours before the Mountain West championship game, one of the head coaches involved is being rewarded for, in part, getting there.

Wyoming announced Friday night that Craig Bohl has signed a new seven-year contract that would keep the coach with the Cowboys through the 2023 season.  The news comes as UW is set to face San Diego State in the MWC title game.

It’s the football program’s first-ever appearance in the game.

“When I hired Craig three years ago, I believed he was the best coach to turn around our football program,” said athletic director Tom Burman in a statement. “He has certainly delivered and the turnaround is evident in the performance of our team this season.

“What excites me most about this new contract is the opportunity to develop stability in our football program. Our fans, our student-athletes, donors and our state legislators will now get an opportunity to watch this football program continue to grow. I believe Coach Bohl is going to be the head football coach at the University of Wyoming for the rest of his career.”

Bohl came to UW after creating an FCS dynasty at North Dakota State, a program that won three straight national championship before Bohl left for Laramie after the 2013 season.  A 4-8 first season with the Cowboys gave way to a 2-10 second year that had some whispering that Bohl might be out of his element at the FBS level.

However, Bohl’s eight wins thus far this season are the most since 2008 and just the second time they’ve reached that mark since 1998.  With wins in the league title game and a bowl, the Cowboys would reach double-digits for the first time since 1996.

“This is a mutual agreement to continue to move Cowboy Football forward,” said Bohl. “I can’t thank Tom Burman, Governor Mead, President Nichols and numerous members of the state legislature enough for the support they’ve provided our football program to help us be successful. And to our donors, fans and the UW student body, I want to thank them for the enthusiastic manner in which they have embraced our team and our coaches. …

“All of these elements will provide the resources necessary to give Cowboy Football the opportunity for long-term success, which the people of Wyoming deserve.”

Starting QB Alex Hornibrook questionable for Wisconsin in B1G championship game

MADISON, WI - OCTOBER 15: Alex Hornibrook #12 of the Wisconsin Badgers warms up before the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Camp Randall Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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The lead-up into tonight’s Big Ten championship game apparently won’t be without some injury intrigue.

On Wisconsin’s injury report ahead of its title game matchup with Penn State, quarterback Alex Hornibrook is listed as questionable with a head injury. The redshirt freshman sustained the injury in the regular-season finale against Minnesota last Saturday.

Hornibrook took over the starting job in late September and has started the last nine games in a row for the Badgers. However, for the last two-thirds of those starts, he shared significant time with Bart Houston.

Houston started the first three games of the season, and would get the start if Hornibrook is unable to go.

Also making a surprise appearance on the injury report for the Badgers? Defensive lineman Conor Sheehy, who’s listed as questionable with an injury to his right arm.

The junior has started 11 of 12 games this season and 19 total in his career. In 2016, he’s been credited with four tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

BC, Rutgers to renew Big East rivalry in future home-and-home

20 Sep 1997:  Running back Quinton Lee of the Boston College Eagles  (left) moves the ball during a game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Rutgers Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey.  Boston College won the game, 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello  /Allsport
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Boston College’s departure from the ACC a decade ago brought an end to their “rivalry” with Rutgers. That regional series has been on hiatus since, but is set to be renewed. Eventually.

FBSchedules.com first reported that the two football programs have reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series. Nj.com subsequently confirmed the initial report.

The Scarlet Knights will travel to Chestnut Hill On Sept. 12, 2026, with the Eagles headed to Piscataway Sept. 11 the following season.

The two teams played each other every year from 1981-2004. The last 14 matchups came when both were members of the Big East.

BC owns a 19-6-1 edge in a series that was first played in 1919. The Eagles own a 13-game unbeaten streak against the Scarlet Knights — there was a tie in 1994 — and a 10-game winning streak as well. RU’s last win came in 1991.

No. 4 Washington crushes No. 8 Colorado for Pac-12 title and all but secures a playoff berth

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 02:  Myles Gaskin #9 of the Washington Huskies runs with the ball against the Colorado Buffaloes during the Pac-12 Championship game at Levi's Stadium on December 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Ticket punched? It looks that way out West.

No. 4 Washington stated their case for the College Football Playoff in impressive fashion on Friday night by blowing out No. 8 Colorado 41-10 to capture the program’s Pac-12 championship since 2000.

The Huskies struggled to move the ball against the stingy Buffs defense for most of the first half but broke things open with 24 consecutive points in the third quarter. That run was fueled in part by back-to-back interceptions from the defense to start the half, which clamped down on the South Division champions like they were the Colorado of old.

Quarterback Jake Browning had one of his worst outings of the season despite having the stage he needed to possibly get invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. The signal-caller finished just 9-of-24 for 118 yards but did throw two touchdowns on the night, one of which was a remarkable escape job from a sack before finding wideout John Ross for a 19 yard score.

Washington didn’t need their passing game with as effectively as they ran the ball however. Myles Gaskin picked up 159 yards on the night while backup Lavon Coleman added another 101 on the ground in addition to finding the end zone.

Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau was knocked out of the game with a lower leg injury in the first half but emerged from the locker room to start the third quarter. He promptly struggled upon his return, throwing an interception off a receiver’s hands that was returned for a score and tossing another on the next series. He finished the game with as many passes completed to the Buffs as he did to the Huskies.

To add injury to insult to Colorado and put a slight damper on their Cinderella season, the performance from Levi’s Stadium probably cost the Buffs a shot at the Rose Bowl. The selection committee could still keep them above red-hot USC in the rankings but based on the result in the title game, it seems likely that the Trojans will be smelling the roses in 2017.

Washington’s postseason destination won’t be known until Sunday either but they can rest easy after that outing in knowing they will all but assuredly go to either the Peach Bowl semifinal or stay closer to home for the Fiesta Bowl semifinal in the playoffs.

That will be a celebration for another day however, as all Chris Petersen and the Huskies could do on Friday was hoist a conference title and savor being champions of the Pac-12.