While not immediately, the course of collegiate athletics is in the midst of what will ultimately be monumental changes. Whether that’s good or bad for sports in general and football specifically remains to be seen.
In a historic ruling Wednesday afternoon, the Chicago regional office of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern football players meet the standards under federal guidelines to form a union. The initial petition was filed by the National College Players Association on behalf of former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter and the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA), and had the backing of the United Steelworkers union.
The NLRB ruled essentially what CAPA had argued in stating its case: football players are employees of the university.
“Players receiving scholarships to perform football-related services for the Employer under a contract for hire in return for compensation are subject to the Employer’s control and are therefore employees,” an excerpt of the NLRB’s ruling read.
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.” This ruling does, though, have the potential to open up the possibility of salaries or other financial streams — endorsements, revenue sharing from merchandise sale, etc. — on down the road.
It should be noted that this decision, 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.
Northwestern is expected to issue a statement on the decision in the very near future, at which point the university will likely announce an appeal.
Prior to the start of the 2015 season, most prognosticators had the SEC West coming down to either Alabama or Auburn. Five weeks into the season, neither of those teams sit at the top of the divisional heap.
With Kyle Allen triggering the offense and John Chavis orchestrating a virtuoso defensive performance, No. 14 Texas A&M had little trouble dispatching No. 21 Mississippi State in a 30-17 win that, for whatever reason, seemed much easier than the score makes it look. The 5-0 Aggies carried a 24-10 lead into halftime, and the 3-2 Bulldogs could only get as close as 10 points, 27-17, early in the fourth quarter on a Dak Prescott touchdown run.
As was the case in the first half, the true sophomore Allen was a big reason for the Aggies success.
Allen accounted for a career-high 385 yards of total offense, 322 passing and 63 rushing. The passing yardage is second only to the 358 he put up in last Saturday’s win over Arkansas, while the rushing yards are the most of his young career.
Tra Carson added 109 yards rushing and a touchdown to supplement the passing game.
The Bulldogs were able to move the ball in the second half — 233 yards in the last two quarters, compared to 173 in the first two — but could never mount much of a scoring threat outside of Prescott’s run that capped a 10-play, 68-yard drive. Prescott finished with more than 300 yards of offense, 210 passing and 96 rushing.
With the win. A&M moves to 2-0 in SEC play. LSU, also at 2-0, is the only other undefeated team in league play in the West. After a bye weekend, A&M will have its hands full the next two games as it hosts Alabama and travel to Oxford to face Ole Miss.
It is typically unwise to go overboard with reactions based on any one week of the college football schedule, but something learned on Saturday in the SEC is the No. 25 Florida Gators (5-0, 3-0 SEC) just might be the team to beat in the SEC East Division. The Gators were not in need of last-minute heroics the way they were a week ago. With No. 3 Ole Miss rolling into Gainesville, the Gators stomped and drowned the Rebels in The Swamp the way Florida teams of years past used to do their opponents, 38-10.
The offense was locked in. Quarterback Will Grier, flu and all, completed 24 of his 29 passing attempts for 271 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. Kelvin Taylor picked up 83 yards on the ground and Demarcus Robinson had eight catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. The Gators offense played the game without a single turnover and they had the edge in time of possession.
The defense incredible. There was nothing Ole Miss could do about the outcome of the game because for the first time in years it was the Florida Gators setting the tone from the start and following through until the clock expired in the fourth quarter. By the time the Rebels reached the end zone, which they had done plenty of times leading up to this game, the Gators were already ahead 38-3 in the fourth quarter. Chad Kelly had 259 passing yards and a touchdown and he was also the leading rusher for Ole Miss with 40 yards. Turnovers doomed Ole Miss, with four turnovers leading to 20 points for the Gators.
Jim McElwain has Florida heading in the right direction, and it’s been a long time coming for the program. Now we will see if McElwain can keep this momentum going. Next week Florida visits Missouri, who has represented the SEC East in the SEC Championship Game each of the past two seasons. After that is the annual rivalry game with Georgia in Jacksonville. These next two weeks will help Florida prove itself as the new top threat in the SEC East. Right now, at this point in time, there should be no arguing that is the case after Missouri has lost to Kentucky and Georgia went down in flames at home against Alabama.
Florida may not be back as a national title contender, but they are certainly more than capable of making a run back to the top of the SEC East and getting back to Atlanta. This division is Florida’s to lose.
Ole Miss will get a chance to regroup and put up 60 points next week at home against New Mexico State before a road game at Memphis.