Kain Colter

NLRB ruling gives Northwestern players first labor union win

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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.

LOOK: Virginia unveils new uniforms

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - NOVEMBER 26:  A general view of the game between the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Virginia Cavaliers at Scott Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
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For those who pay attention to the uniform game within the game of college football — which seems like just about everyone these days — a distinct pattern has emerged of late: new coach, new uniforms. This offseason alone we’ve seen it at Rutgers (new coach Chris Ash), Central Florida (new coach Scott Frost), Virginia Tech (new coach Justin Fuente) and, now, Virginia. Nothing gives the fan base something new to rally around quite like giving them something new to look at, particularly when a new staff takes over for an underperforming one. When the product on the field still appears like the old one, you might as well make it look different, at least.

The Cavaliers broke out new uniforms on Saturday that blend the program’s past with its present.

Here, head coach Bronco Mendenhall explains the thesis behind the change. I’ll let you decide whether this is the typical Nike brand-speak coming out a new mouth or convicting symbolism that will yield a tangible difference on the field.

Next, some new looks at the new look, courtesy of Virginia athletics:

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Virginia’s new staff and new uniforms will see the field for the first time Saturday against Richmond.

Miss. State DL Nick James arrested for fourth time as a Bulldog

COLUMBIA , MO - NOVEMBER 5:  Quarterback Drew Lock #3 of the Missouri Tigers rolls out as he looks to pass as he is pursued by Nick James #88 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the first quarter at Memorial Stadium on November 5, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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A familiar headline splashed across SEC-land on Sunday: Mississippi State defensive tackle Nick James was arrested early Sunday morning.

It’s his fourth arrest in the past three years.

James was arrested previously for driving without insurance in 2013, disorderly conduct and driving with a suspended license in 2014, and public intoxication in February of last year.

The latest arrest came at 1:36 Sunday morning for public intoxication, according to the Starkville Daily News.

The Bulldogs released a statement saying Dan Mullen “is aware of an incident involving Nick James that occurred last night, and he is currently getting more information on it.”

A senior, James saw action in all 13 games last season with 10 starts. He has posted 43 tackles, three TFLs and one forced fumble in 34 career appearances. James was penciled in to start along the Bulldogs’ defensive front this season.

Mississippi State will already be without five-star signee Jeffery Simmons for punching a woman in a parking lot fight before his arrival on campus.

Western Michigan dismisses pair accused of alleged stick-up

KALAMAZOO, MI - SEPTEMBER 4: Western Michigan Broncos fans get fired up before the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Waldo Stadium on September 4, 2015 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Western Michigan has dismissed a pair of players accused of sticking up a female WMU student after committing an on-campus robbery, the program announced Sunday. The players, linebacker Ron George and wide receiver Bryson White, were both freshmen.

The pair are accused of holding the student up with a semi-automatic firearm and a knife. It is not clear which player is accused of holding which weapon. “He had the gun to the back of my head and he slammed the back of my head with the gun,” the woman said.

The woman says the players stole “hundreds of dollars, along with a stereo speaker.”

“I’m so scared. I couldn’t sleep last night,” the woman told WWMT-TV. “I haven’t ate anything since. I’m so scared. I don’t want to live here anymore.”

“This has been a difficult time for our University, community and football family,” head coach P.J. Fleck said in a statement. “With this action we are moving forward and we are focusing our attention on Northwestern.”

George was a three-star signee out of Pittsburgh. White was a walk-on from Ohio.

Western Michigan visits Northwestern Saturday (noon ET, ESPNU).

Texas Tech boss Kirby Hocutt becomes latest million-dollar AD

LUBBOCK, TX - JANUARY 16: Texas Tech Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt answers questions from the media after being named the chairman of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee on January 16, 2016 at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
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It’s been a good year for Kirby Hocutt. His basketball team returned to the NCAA Tournament, then made a nice rebound hire in Chris Beard when Tubby Smith bolted for Memphis. His baseball team won its first-ever game at the College World Series, then held onto head coach Tim Tadlock when Texas came calling. His football program is positioned for a solid year, with rare stability at the defensive coordinator position and perhaps the most talented quarterback in school history in Patrick Mahomes. He reached a new level of professional currency when he was named chairman of the College Football Playoff selection committee.

That last bit has led to a handsome new contract that pushes his salary to north of $1 million a year.

As detailed by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Hocutt has inked a seven-year contract that pays him a sum of $7.525 million. He’ll earn $1 million in the first year and net raises of $25,000 each year, plus bonuses that could reach as much as $225,000 each year. All told, theoretically, Hocutt could earn $1.4 million by the final year of his contract.

“I couldn’t feel more fortunate to have the support that I’ve enjoyed and continue to enjoy at Texas Tech University,” Hocutt told the paper. “The leadership continues to be tremendous. I couldn’t be more excited about President Schovanec. The support he provides, that Chancellor (Robert) Duncan provides, I couldn’t be more fortunate as an athletics director.”

Salaries for athletics directors aren’t as easy to track as coaches but, according to the most recent data on file, Hocutt appears to be one of just eight active ADs to earn seven figures — and more than the ADs at both Texas and Texas A&M.

In addition to Tech’s success in the big three sports — the Red Raiders were the only Big 12 program to reach the postseason in football and men’s basketball while also reaching the College World Series — 11 of the school’s 14 other programs also reached the postseason, including Big 12 titles in soccer, men’s tennis and baseball.