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.

Duke QB Thomas Sirk to miss season with Achilles injury

Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk (1) looks to pass against North Carolina during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk‘s senior season is over before it started.

The Blue Devils announced Saturday Sirk suffered a partial tear of his left Achilles tendon during Thursday’s practice and will undergo surgery at an undisclosed date.

A fifth-year senior, the injury will end Sirk’s career unless the NCAA grants him a medical redshirt. Which, to be clear, there’s no reason — on the surface, at least — he wouldn’t receive one. This is the third Achilles injury Sirk has suffered in the last three-and-a-half years. He missed the 2013 campaign with an Achilles rupture in his right ankle during the spring, and ruptured his left Achilles in February of this year.

Sirk led the Devils to a Pinstripe Bowl victory last season. On the year, he completed 59 percent of his throws for 2,625 yards with 16 touchdowns.

Parker Boehme, a redshirt junior and Sirk’s backup last season, figures to start in Sirk’s stead. He completed 43-of-78 throws for 579 yards last season.

Miami dismisses Muhammad, Grace for NCAA rules violations

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 21: Al-Quadin Muhammad #98 of the Miami Hurricanes sacks Antonio Bostick #13 of the Savannah State Tigers on September 21, 2013 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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Miami has dismissed veterans Al-Quadin Muhammad and Jermaine Grace for violations of NCAA rules, the program announced Saturday.

The reason for the investigation, per the Palm Beach Post, was the pair’s use of luxury rental cars.

The statement from ‘Canes head coach Mark Richt:

“The University of Miami announced today that red-shirt junior Al-Quadin Muhammad and senior Jermaine Grace have been permanently dismissed from the Hurricanes football program for violating NCAA rules.  The University will, however, continue their financial aid through graduation.  The decision was made in consultation with outside counsel and after discussions with the NCAA enforcement staff.  As no staff members or boosters were involved in the violations, the program will not be subject to sanctions and, at this time, the University deems this matter closed.”

Muhammad (pictured, 98) was one of Miami’s top returning players on the defensive line. An Irvington, N.J., native, he registered 54 tackles while leading the club with 8.5 TFLs and five sacks a season ago.

Grace was also penciled in to start along the Hurricanes’ defensive front. The Miami Gardens native posted a team-high 79 tackles from his linebacker spot with six TFLs, two sacks and five pass breakups, which also ranked third on the club.

The suspensions could have an impact beyond affecting defensive coordinator Manny Diaz‘s unit as well.

The Hurricanes’ probation doesn’t end until October.

Miami will have time to ease Muhammad and Grace’s replacements into the lineup. The Hurricanes open with Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic at home, then visit Appalachian State and take a week off before opening ACC play at Georgia Tech. Florida State comes to Miami on Oct. 8.

Marshall dismisses safety Tiquan Lang

HUNTINGTON, WV - SEPTEMBER 6: Tiquan Lang #21 of the Marshall Thundering Herd returns an interception for a touchdown late in the second half against the Purdue Boilermakers at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on September 6, 2015 in Huntington, West Virginia. Marshall defeated Purdue 41-31. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Marshall has dismissed safety Tiquan Lang, the program announced in a statement Friday.

The dreaded “violation of team rules” is the culprit here. Draw your own conclusions from there.

“Marshall senior safety Tiquan Lang has been dismissed due to a violation of team rules and policies,” said head coach Doc Holliday.

Lang ranked second on the team last fall with 91 tackles. He also posted two interceptions, six pass break ups and a tackle for loss.

He posted a career day in the 2015 opener, posting 17 tackles and returning two interceptions for touchdowns in a 41-31 win over Purdue. Lang was named Conference USA’s Defensive Player of the Week for becoming the first C-USA player since 1998 to record two pick sixes in the same game.

Mike White wins battle of transfers for Western Kentucky QB job

BOWLING GREEN, KY - DECEMBER 5:  Players of the WKU Hilltoppers celebrate with their fans after a game against the Southern Miss Golden Eagle at Houchens-Smith Stadium on December 5, 2015 in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  The Hilltoppers defeated the Golden Eagles 45-28.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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One of the most enviable jobs in Group of 5 football has been awarded.

Western Kentucky head coach Jeff Brohm has announced Mike White will be the Hilltoppers’ starting quarterback this season. A transfer from South Florida, White defeated Louisville transfer Tyler Ferguson and sophomore Drew Eckles to win the job.

“Mike has done a nice job preparing himself for this moment and operates our offense well,” Brohm said, via the Louisville Courier-Journal. “All three of our veteran quarterbacks worked extremely hard and will be prepared if we call their number. On Thursday, Mike will be our starter and I’m excited for his potential to lead our team.”

A native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., White, a redshirt junior, started off and on for the Bulls in 2013 and ’14 (oddly enough, the Bulls’ down years before taking off in 2015), tossing a total of 11 touchdowns against 16 interceptions. The Bulls 2-12 in games where he saw significant action though, to be fair, he was hardly South Florida’s only work in progress at that time.

White inherits the job from Brandon Doughty, who ranked second and third nationally in passing over the past two seasons. Doughty is now with the Miami Dolphins.

Western Kentucky opens its season Thursday against Rice.