The arguments have been made and the hearings have concluded. The potentially landmark decision on whether or not student-athletes should be identified as employees of a university is expected to come in a matter of weeks, with the ruling likely to determine the fate of the college players union movement.
On Monday the hearings in Chicago came to a close with representatives for Northwestern University contesting the argument that student-athletes should be considered employees, a label that would allow for the formation of a players union. The school closed the hearings by offering testimony from three former football players siding with the university;s side of the legal battle. Former Northwestern offensive lineman Doug Bartels, long snapper John Henry Pace and offensive tackle Patrick Ward all testified it was the coaching staff at Northwestern that aided them in achieving their academic goals while satisfying their football requirements. Bartels earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and is enrolled in a medical college. Pace is an engineer designing the latest Ford Mustang. Ward is a structural engineer at Boeing and was the only one of the three former players on a scholarship at Northwestern when he played according to the Chicago Sun Times.
The testimony of the former players was critical in nullifying the stance presented by Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, who last week said in the labor hearings his path to achieving his ultimate academic goals are inhibited by his role with the football program. Colter is the head player representative of the College Athletes Players Association, recently formed by members of Northwestern’s football team. If successful in these early stages of the legal battle, CAPA will be able to open doors for athletes around the country to have their voices heard on a number of issues within their respective sport, although Colter and other current Northwestern players are unlikely to benefit from it any time soon because this will be a drawn out process. The first major step is now behind them, and a ruling awaits.
Now a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board will review the information gathered in the hearings over the past week to determine if players should be considered employees. That decision is expected to be made within the next four to six weeks.