Last week’s ruling by the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago in favor of Northwestern football players and their desire to unionize “radically changes the relationship between student-athletes and their universities,” according to Pac 12 commissioner Larry Scott.
In an interview with ESPN.com, Scott responded to questions related to the groundbreaking ruling last week in Chicago. The ruling said football players at Northwestern are to be recognized by the university as employees due in large part to the amount of time spent preparing and training for football compared to the time available for academics. As a result, the ruling paves the way for a college players union to develop at the private university. The decision has gained the attention of players from other universities, including Miami, and a union spokesman claims calls have been made to inquire about getting started with similar union talks at other undisclosed universities moving forward. Scott, a visionary and a game changer in many respects in the sports world, does not see the positive benefits in the developments continuing to unfold.
“I think we need to redefine what amateurism is as part of an educational or collegiate model,” Scott said in the Q&A with ESPN.com. Scott is not opposed to changing the way the NCAA model operates, but he stops short of suggesting it is time to start paying players and treating them as professional athletes.
“I’ve been an advocate for reform within the NCAA system,” Scott explained. “There is room to do more for student-athletes and health — stronger restrictions on time demand, covering the full cost of attendance. But what amateurism is, it shouldn’t exceed what’s the full cost of actually attending. They should not be paid compensation to play. They shouldn’t be seen as pros. They’re there as amateurs, they’re there as students and athletics are a really important part of what they’re doing, but they are students primarily and we absolutely should do more and I’m going to continue to push for us to do more. It just can’t cross that line of starting to get paid a salary or negotiating through collective bargaining. That’s a pro model, completely different.”
Northwestern has already stated their intention to challenge the NLRB ruling. The ruling currently only applies to private institutions, but if a union does form at Northwestern then it would open the door for so many possibilities across the country. Northwestern players are scheduled to vote on whether or not they will form a union later this month.