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.

Alabama schedules 2018 game with The Citadel

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 19:  Cupcakes from Little Cupcake Bakeshop on display as Jason Binn of DuJour celebrates January cover star Nick Cannon with Elite Daily, Related Rentals, Invicta and Philipp Plein at PHD Terrace at Dream Midtown on February 19, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for DuJour)
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Let the cupcake talk commence in three… two… one…

Tuesday morning, The Citadel announced that it’s reached an agreement with Alabama on a game during the 2018 regular season.  The game is scheduled for Nov. 17 and will, obviously, be played at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

The 2018 meeting will mark the first-ever between the Bulldogs and the Crimson Tide.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for our program,” head coach Brent Thompson said in a statement released by the school. “These games are important for many reasons, and they allow us to provide our cadet-athletes with once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I’m excited that our team will have the experience of playing in front of more than 100,000 fans against one of the premier teams in college football.”

From the release:

Since the NCAA split Division I football into subdivisions in 1978, current FCS programs have seven total victories over current SEC teams, and The Citadel has earned four of those seven wins. The Bulldogs are 11-75-4 all-time against current members of the SEC.

The game against Citadel is the third of four non-conference games for ‘Bama in 2018, with the other announced two against Louisville (in Orlando) and home against Arkansas State.  UA also has future non-conference games scheduled against USC (2016, in Arlington, Tex.) and Florida State (2017, Atlanta)

Dalton Santos announces decision to transfer from Texas

AMES, IA - OCTOBER 3:  Linebacker Dalton Santos #55 of the Texas Longhorns tackles running back Aaron Wimberly #2 of the Iowa State Cyclones in the first half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on October 3, 2013 in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
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An injury kept Dalton Santos from taking the field for Texas for all of 2015.  Now, a personal decision will prevent him from doing the same in 2016 and beyond.

The Longhorns linebacker took to Twitter Monday to announce that he has decided to leave UT and finish up his playing career elsewhere.  The fifth-year senior will be leaving the ‘Horns as a graduate transfers, which means, of course, that he would be eligible immediately at another FBS program in 2016, his final season of eligibility.

In 2013 and 2014, Dalton played in a combined 23 games. Dalton did not play at all last season because of a lingering ankle injury.

Marshall DB Tiquan Lang arrested on DUI, weapons charges

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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There’s a combination you don’t see very frequently.

According to the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, Marshall defensive back Tiquan Lang was arrested on multiple charges early Saturday morning.  Those charges include driving under the influence, possession of a concealed deadly weapon and possession of a controlled substance.  All three of those charges are misdemeanors.

The situation began when police officers observed Lang asleep/passed out in a running vehicle and went downhill from there.  From the Herald-Dispatch’s report:

Upon arrival, officers turned off the car and made multiple attempts to wake the man, who was asleep with the driver’s seat reclined, according to criminal complaints. Police state the man had trouble maintaining balance as he exited the vehicle once awake.

After he was out of the vehicle, police say they found a Glock 27 with an extended 30-round magazine partially concealed under the seat.

A police dog sniffed out one full and two partial Xanax bars in the center console. Reports state police could smell the odor of marijuana, but none was found. A plastic cup with a small amount of liquor was located in the console.

Lang told police he had a prescription for the medication, and his drowsiness was exacerbated by drinking the liquor, according to the complaint.

The football program is aware of the development and will handle the matter internally.

Over the past three seasons, Lang has started 23 gams the past three seasons.  Last season, Lang was second on the team with 91 tackles.  He returned both of his interceptions for touchdowns as well.

Even before Kenny Chesney concert trashed it, plan was to replace Jordan-Hare turf

performs onstage during the 4th ACM Party For A Cause Festival at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds on April 3, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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On April 23, country music star Kenny Chesney performed at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium — and it’s fair to say that he tore the place up. Chesney and various guests performed at the “Music and Miracles Festival,” one of the first concerts ever at Jordan-Hare. The goal was to raise a million dollars to fight hunger and cancer. And it was a party. More than 50,000 people were there.

“Sometimes,” Chesney said after it was over, “you feel the energy long before you hit the stage.”

With all that energy, yeah, the field took a significant beating.

Jordan-Hare

The Auburn grounds crew then announced via Twitter that they would resod the field at the end of May and get things back to normal in plenty of time for football. The story could have died there.

But, of course, stories don’t really die too quickly these days. I mean: Look at that field. First came the comments and the talk about how the flooring was kept down the whole time. Then came the backlash toward Chesney. There’s no need to explain just how holy the Jordan-Hare Stadium field is to Auburn football fans. When people saw the after photos — even though it is months until the season opener against Clemson — well let’s just say things were said.

Chesney, a big football fan who wrote the song “The Boys of Fall” about high school football in his town, was pretty troubled by the whole thing. See, Auburn had always planned on resodding the field after the concert. That was obviously the strategy after inviting Chesney to perform in the first place.

“The plan to host Kenny Chesney at Jordan-Hare Stadium always included a full field replacement following the event,” Auburn associate AD for Operation Jeremy Roberts said. “And the field cover strategy we approved took this into consideration.”

“The plan the school had in place,” concert production manager Ed Wannebo says, “had nothing to do with this concert … the sod was being torn out regardless.”

Ah well, what is it that Chesney sings in “The Boys of Fall?”

It’s knockin’ heads and talkin’ trash
It’s slingin’ mud and dirt and grass