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.

Texas Tech lands commitment from 6-foot-11 offensive lineman

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It’s been a day full of massive news in college football. After word broke that Alabama has offered a 6-foot-7 offensive lineman entering his freshman year of high school, Texas Tech did the Tide one better.

On Sunday, the Red Raiders landed the commitment of 6-foot-11, 345-pound offensive lineman Trevor Roberson.

A 3-star member of the Class of 2019, Roberson also reported offers from Arkansas, Baylor, Oklahoma State and others. He is the sixth member of Kliff Kingsbury‘s 2019 class, and the fourth player to pledge in the past week.

“The crowd was huge, first off. The crowd was amazing,” Roberson told 247Sports of a visit to see the Red Raiders’ loss to Oklahoma State last season. “If there were empty seats, you couldn’t see them. It was tremendous. My favorite part was seeing the players, I love watching those guys play. It’s truly amazing to see how, for me personally, these college athletes started from the same position I did, and you see where they are now. They have a lot of heart. Texas Tech is an amazing school and an amazing program, and I’ve always felt that way about them.”

Roberson hails from Wellington, Texas, a Panhandle town between Amarillo and Norman, Okla. Wellington claims just 2,100 residents, so Roberson may be the biggest thing to come out of his hometown — literally and figuratively.

 

6-foot-7, 370-pound ninth grader claims an Alabama offer

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This is literally some big news: Kiyaunta Goodwin tweeted Sunday that he had been offered a scholarship by Alabama. Normally, we wouldn’t write about a player reporting a single scholarship offer, but this one is different.

Goodwin stands six feet and seven inches, and tips the scale at 370 pounds. He also recently completed eighth grade.

The Louisville native has already been offered by the Bluegrass State’s triumvirate of Kentucky, Louisville and Western Kentucky and took unofficial visits to Georgia, Ohio State and Michigan ahead of last weekend’s Tuscaloosa trek.

While doctors say Goodwin could end up topping seven feet tall, the plan, for now, is to keep him in cleats.

Said former Louisville football player and Goodwin’s trainer Chris Vaughn to Bleacher Report earlier this year: “I’ve been blessed to work with a lot of kids who are genetically blessed, but he’s different. He’s the 1 percent of the 1 percent. I’ve talked with coaches who have told me he’s going to be the No. 1 player in the country and the No. 1 draft pick.”

Urban Meyer calls LSU QB Joe Burrow a ‘Buckeye forever’

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The majority of players that end up transferring from one school to another probably leave on mostly positive terms with their previous school. In the case of quarterback Joe Burrow, there appear to be absolutely no bitter hostilities left at the table at Ohio State as far as Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer is concerned.

Speaking to the media at a job fair recently at Ohio State, Meyer gave a glowing review of the conversations he had with Burrow and his family before Burrow made his decision to transfer to LSU.

“It was a situation that his last two weeks of spring were excellent,” Meyer said, according to 247 Sports. “I just talked to him the other day and his family, I saw his dad. He’s great. He’s a Buckeye forever and he’s going to go do the best he can at LSU and wish him well and I understand.”

Burrow was officially added to the LSU program last month. Burrow is expected to compete right away for the starting job with the Tigers after undergoing surgery for a broken hand last year. In Columbus, Meyer just named Dwayne Haskins as the starting quarterback for Ohio State this season.

Mike Leach goes on defense over tweet including edited Obama speech

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Washington State head coach Mike Leach remains one of the most intriguing coaches to follow on Twitter simply because you never know what to expect to pop up on his timeline. On Sunday evening, Leach shared a video of former President Barack Obama in an attempt to open a dialogue about government. The biggest problem with that was the fact the video had been heavily edited to omit major portions of the speech Obama was giving, and the trimmed down quotes pulled together offer a different meaning.

The tweet in question, which remains standing on Leach’s timeline as of Monday morning (UPDATE: The tweet has been removed from Leach’s account);

As quickly as Leach started receiving blowback from people on Twitter for sharing an edited video clip that fits a political narrative that contrasts the fuller context of the speech, Leach went on a tweet and retweet frenzy defending his attempt to spark a conversation.

The video may not be false, but it has been documented to be missing large portions of the original speech the doctored video used as a source.

Whether the video was doctored or not never seemed to be something Leach was concern3d about, as he was more focused on the lines that were recited. Whatever the reasoning for sharing the video, Leach sure found a way to keep busy on Twitter as he defended his original tweet.

Whether you agree or disagree with Leach and his political views, there is no questioning he is up for a discussion at any time.

UPDATE: Wouldn’t you know it, but literally seconds after this post was originally published, Leach tweeted a link to the full Obama speech.

UPDATE NO. 2: The controversial tweet has now been removed from Leach’s account.