Kain Colter

Northwestern players take step toward unionization


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.

Kirk Ferentz would be owed $25 million if Iowa fired him this year

TAMPA, FL -  JANUARY 1:  Coach Kirk Ferentz of the Iowa Hawkeyes directs play against the LSU Tigers January 1, 2014  in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
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Yes indeed: if there were an Agent Hall of Fame, Neil Cornrich would be a first-ballot inductee.

Early last month, Iowa announced that it had reached an agreement with Kirk Ferentz on a new contract that runs through the 2026 season.  The details of the contract, revealed as part of USA Today‘s annual coaching salary database release, negotiated by Cornrich and agreed upon by the university are staggering.

From USA Today‘s report on coaching buyouts:

— Even if he’s fired after this season for not winning enough games, the 61-year-old Ferentz would be owed more than $25 million, payable in monthly installments until 2026.

— He’s guaranteed an additional $22 million from 2021 through 2025 if he sticks around and wins at least seven games each season through 2020. It wouldn’t matter if he’s dismissed in 2021 after finishing 0-12.

— If that’s not enough, those guarantees wouldn’t even be reduced if Iowa fired him and he took a lucrative new job somewhere else.

Another Cornrich client, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, would be owed nearly $25 million if he were fired today without cause. All told, there are at least seven head football coaches, the paper writes, “who would be owed at least $20 million in guaranteed money if he were fired on Dec. 1 for losing too many games.” Jimbo Fisher tops the buyout list, with Florida State on the hook for $33.1 million in the improbable event that Florida State dismisses him.

Others with the $20 million-plus golden parachute include Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($27.4 million), Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh ($25.6 million), Alabama’s Nick Saban ($23.3 million), Clemson’s Dabo Swinney ($20 million).  Another, Illinois’ Lovie Smith, is just shy of that mark at $19.3 million.

Of the four coaches already dismissed this year, Les Miles had the highest buyout with LSU owing the former coach nearly $9 million according to the paper.  Darrell Hazell is due $5 million from Purdue, while Fresno State will owe Tim DeRuyter $3.3 million and FIU will shell out $609,000 to Ron Turner.

Texas will owe Charlie Strong just north of $11 million if, as expected, they fire the coach at season’s end.

The multimillion buyouts are part of a burgeoning trend all across the sport.

In 2011, there were 15 coaches with guaranteed buyouts of at least $8 million. This year, at least 33 are guaranteed that much — well more than half of the 53 publicly available coaches contracts in the Power Five conferences.

When it comes to actual salary being paid in 2016, Saban would sit atop the list at $6.9 million.  However, Harbaugh is the highest-paid coach in college football at $9 million, with $5 million of that coming in salary and $4 million in the form of insurance payouts.

In 2006, the first year the USA Today database was published, there were eight head coaches making at least $2 million annually.  A decade later, that number has risen to 58.

For USA Today‘s complete database, click HERE.

Jabrill Peppers makes inroads, but Lamar Jackson still Bovada’s overwhelming Heisman favorite

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12:  A general view of the Heisman Trophy during a press conference prior to the 2015 Heisman Trophy Presentation at the Marriott Marquis on December 12, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Most observers have already handed the 2016 Heisman Trophy to Lamar Jackson, but there are still a couple of players who could make the race at least mildly interesting.

The Louisville quarterback is, once again, Bovada.lv‘s overwhelming favorite to win this year’s Heisman, coming in at 1/3 (bet three dollars to win one). Those are slightly shorter odds than the 1/2 Jackson was getting a week ago.

Tied at 15/2 are Michigan’s jack-of-all-trades Jabrill Peppers and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. Peppers was at 33/1 just three weeks ago, while Watson, the preseason wagering favorite, will have a high-profile matchup with Florida State in which to bolster his Heisman pedigree and chip into Jackson’s perceived lead.

Speaking of FSU, running back Dalvin Cook could state his case in the same game and push Bovada odds that currently sit at 40/1. Just three other players are on this particular house’s current board: Washington quarterback Jake Browning (10/1), Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett (12/1) and Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts (22/1).

Two other players, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr., were taken off Bovada’s board.

Gophers lose TE Brandon Lingen to season-ending foot injury

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 22:  Anthony Cioffi #31 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights tackles Brandon Lingen #86 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the second quarter at TCF Bank Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
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Brandon Lingen‘s injury-plagued season continues.  Or, more accurately, has come to an end.

Citing people familiar with the situation, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is reporting that the Minnesota tight end will miss the remainder of the regular season.  Lingen sustained a left foot injury in last Saturday’s game against Purdue.

On the weekly injury report, Lingen is listed as out for this weekend’s game against Illinois.  Beyond that, the school has not addressed Lingen’s status moving forward.

Lingen had missed three games earlier this season with a broken clavicle.  That issue helped limit him to three catches for 28 yards on the year.

A starter in 10 of 12 2015 games, Lingen was third on the team with 33 receptions for 428 yards.  He was named honorable mention All-Big Ten.

With Lingen injuries, Nate Wozniak (eight receptions, 92 yards) and Colton Beebe (5-42) have taken over the bulk of the responsibility at the tight end position.

Stanford hands keys to offense to QB Keller Chryst

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Quarterback Keller Chryst #10 of the Stanford Cardinal looks downfield to pass against the Washington Huskies on September 30, 2016 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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With things not going anywhere close according to plan this season, Stanford head coach David Shaw is in need of a change. This week that change will come at quarterback, where Keller Chryst will get a chance to start his first game with the Cardinal. Chryst will replace Ryan Burns, who has been picked off seven times this season.

”I hate to get to this point,” Shaw said. ”But it’s the best thing for this offense. We need more production at that position. It’s our challenge to support Keller.”

Chryst has attempted 18 passes this season, completing seven for 63 yards with one interception. He has also rushed 11 times for 11 yards.

Stanford’s offensive woes are not to rest squarely on the shoulders of Burns, but one of the biggest ways to spark a struggling offense is to change the quarterback. Shaw hopes this change will turn things around before things get too much worse this season. Stanford’s offensive numbers are down much more than anyone would have expected this season. The Cardinal are averaging just 17.0 points per game and 299.1 yards per game. Stanford has reached the end zone on offense just 10 times. Oklahoma and Texas Tech combined for 17 touchdowns on Saturday.

”I’ve been working with both all year and they’re both great people,” Stanford wide receiver Trent Irwin said. ”Sometimes you just need a change. We’ll see where it goes and have fun with it.”

Stanford takes on Arizona in Tucson this Saturday night.