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Economist to NLRB: College football a lot like the NFL, but with no pay

Kain Colter AP

The second day of hearings at the National Labor Relations Board over whether Northwestern players can form a union continued and was highlighted by an economist who compared the college game to the NFL.

“The difference would be … the NFL pays their players,” Southern Utah University sports economist David Berri testified to the NLRB. Since colleges don’t pay their football players, it likely boosts their profits, he added.

The hearing is to determine whether Wildcats’ football players can be recognized under U.S. law as employees, which would pave the way for them to unionize. Northwestern, the Big Ten and NCAA are all fighting the movement, claiming the player are student-athletes rather than employees.

Berri didn’t hold back in his indictment of the current system.

“There is an economic definition of the word ‘exploitation,’” he responded. “A worker is exploited … if their economic value is greater than their wages. … By that definition, they are exploited.”

Given the current union-friendly makeup of the NLRB, don’t be surprised if Northwestern is given the right to unionize.

And then all bets will be off with regards to the future of college football.

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21 Responses to “Economist to NLRB: College football a lot like the NFL, but with no pay”
  1. saints97 says: Feb 19, 2014 9:16 PM

    College football is a lot like the NFL, just less money and the profits got to fund non-revenue sports and education.

    You can pay someone to say anything.

  2. derekgorgonstar says: Feb 19, 2014 9:21 PM

    Yeah, exploitation.

    Bet this economist isn’t a liberal…..

  3. lawson1974 says: Feb 19, 2014 9:48 PM

    I am still not sure how they think they are going to square paying the economically exploited athletes of football and mens basketball with all of the title nine equality regulations.

  4. onbucky96 says: Feb 19, 2014 10:08 PM

    What some ass clowns. The vast majority of students at Northwestern take out STUDENT LOANS to pay for school. Some pompus windbag of a QB gets it in his head that since he doesn’t have a future playing on Sunday, he’d better cash in now. BTW DB, due to title IX, they’d have to pay ALL student athletes.

  5. thraiderskin says: Feb 19, 2014 10:16 PM

    What a nightmare…

  6. normtide says: Feb 19, 2014 10:30 PM

    How many parents on here would love their children to be exploited exactly like these football players? I know I would. Look into the dollar amount spent per student athlete by the big schools. Elite training, medical care, tutoring, conditioning, education. Not to mention the social scene.

    Best advice I’ve ever received: Don’t mess up your own good thing.

    Another point, if paying players becomes reality, your favorite team better be one of the top 25 all time programs. Everyone else will follow the no scholarship model. They can’t afford to pay every player. While the football side makes millions, the vast majority of athletic depts actually lose money. The programs that do make money WANT to pay players, the SEC has been pushing for a stipend. It prevents an uncontrollable rouge booster from imploding the program. I’m just saying, be careful what you wish for.

  7. thefiesty1 says: Feb 19, 2014 10:42 PM

    That’s what we need, more liberals involved in college football. There’s already too many in
    Washington, DC now.

  8. detectivejimmymcnulty says: Feb 19, 2014 10:52 PM

    I’ve said before the colleges themselves paying players would be a horrible idea, but they should allow players to sign endorsement deals. If Pryor wants to trade his gear for tats, it’s his gear. If Manziel wants to sell his autograph, it’s his to sell. If Subway wants to pay Jameis Winston to be on their commercials, why shouldn’t he be allowed to take advantage?

  9. manik56 says: Feb 19, 2014 10:54 PM

    If you don’t like your awesome setup Mr. colter, don’t play.

    You come across a spoiled brat and make it impossible not to dislike your team.

  10. Tim's Neighbor says: Feb 19, 2014 11:47 PM

    If college loans don’t count as pay, I sure wish they’d stop taxing me on them

  11. sparky151 says: Feb 20, 2014 12:29 AM

    Title IX shouldn’t overly affected. If athletes are employees, there won’t be a requirement for equity between the profit producing divisions and the money-losing divisions. So mens and women’s tennis would have to be balanced but schools whose football teams made a profit wouldn’t have to come up with 85 scholarships for women in other sports. Title IX just requires schools to balance their subsidies to sports by gender.

  12. udub says: Feb 20, 2014 2:04 AM

    College football is a lot like the NFL huh?

    Funny, I don’t recall ever seeing the Oakland Raiders playing the Kansas City Chiefs in women’s tennis brought to you entirely through money generated from their football teams.

    This whole college football makes so much money for the schools falls apart as soon as you look into the numbers. Its the Missouri Athletic Department, the Kansas State Athletic Department, not Missouri Football Inc. or Kansas State Football Co. Only a handful of departments in the country even turn profits when the whole year is done. You simply won’t be able to pay football players $xx,xxx / year and fund the women’s golf team, the men’s lacrosse program, etc.

  13. lowtalker says: Feb 20, 2014 7:10 AM

    what is the cost of a 4 year education at Northwestern? If you don’t think those kids are being paid , then you never paid for college tuition. Besides, if they think they are being taken advantage of, they do not have to accept the scholarship and play football. They can just take out loans like everyone else.

  14. irishdodger says: Feb 20, 2014 9:05 AM

    Economists come with an agenda & it’s not difficult to see where this one comes from. As soon as he threw out the word “worker”, I smelled a Marxist.

  15. thraiderskin says: Feb 20, 2014 10:37 AM

    Think how impractical a player union would be in CFB. The membership would be in a constant state of change and what was agreed to in one year, might not be agreeable/fair to the next group coming in. So would there be a CBA fight every year? The sheer number of turnover in CFB makes unionization not realistic. Even if we ignore the severe implications on title 9, you can not unionize a temporary “work” force.

  16. thraiderskin says: Feb 20, 2014 10:47 AM

    One more thing, CFB is a great opportunity for these kids, not a right. Unions once had a place in this country, but with the advancement of laws and regulations, not to mention watch dog groups, they are nothing more than antiquated. Even the existence of the internet and social media takes the bite out of what a union could ever do for you. CFB isn’t perfect, but going this route is not only destructive to CFB, but also to the universities. If this charade helps usher in positive change, great, but if this is actually about unionizing a college sport, shame on you all who support it.

  17. dmcgrann says: Feb 20, 2014 11:26 AM

    I live in an “open shop” state. Furthermore, it’s illegal under state law for any governmental entities to enter into collective bargaining agreements with unions representing public employees. Someone might make the argument that state-supported schools are not governmental entities, but they sure act that way when they sue ex-coaches (see WVU vs. RichRod), conferences to negate exit fees (Maryland), or the NCAA to reverse sanctions (Penn State).

    Try to balance that one out.

  18. guinsrule says: Feb 20, 2014 1:49 PM

    So what if the profits from college football fund women’s sports or educational projects. That’s irrelevant to the argument that the players are underpaid. Either they’re underpaid or they’re not. If you’re boss cut your salary in half and gave the other half to charity, you wouldn’t be happy about it.

  19. normtide says: Feb 20, 2014 2:33 PM

    Nothing has been cut, in fact the perks around these athletes are increasing. Once they start being actually paid, they will be taxed for all these perks, such as housing, access to state of the art training facilities, travel, etc. . This isn’t a black and white issue. And I still fail to see exploitation. Technically, playing football is a recreation and learning is the primary function of attending a university. Playing a sport is not required. If you don’t like the the set up, don’t play. Then you can be exploited by working a job and all your income going to pay for your education.

  20. novasportsfan says: Feb 26, 2014 2:14 PM

    I guess getting an education, room and board, books isn’t pay. These STUDENT/athletes have a gift and are getting a top rate education in exchange for their gift. So if they want to form a union let them pay to got to college and not get a scholarship. It is the same thing as getting paid just in a different way. A lot of these kids wouldn’t get an education and better themselves if they didn’t have a gift. Get over yourselves.

  21. normtide says: Feb 26, 2014 3:07 PM

    Excellent post nova. I think at least they will have to pay taxes on the housing and many other perks they receive. I’ll say again, DON’T MESS UP YOUR OWN GOOD THING.

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