Kain Colter

Pac-12 calls for sweeping change, greater urgency in “Big Five” reform

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The Associated Press obtained a letter sent from Pac-12 university presidents to their colleagues in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC pushing a greater sense of urgency in making sweeping changes to the NCAA model to give more autonomy to “Big Five” schools.

Spurred by Northwestern’s unionization vote, the Pac-12 presidents want to get out of in front of the concerns raised by Kain Colter and the NLRB. The letter, in part, reads:

it is clear from the recent statements of any number of individuals that, while they may share or view that labor unions are not the answer, the time has come for a meaningful response both to the student-athletes’ grievances and the need to reassert the academic primacy of our mission.

The complete list of proposals in the letter are in the AP story, but a few jumped out:

— Decrease the demands placed on the athlete in-season, correspondingly increase the time available for studies and campus life, by preventing the abuse of organized “voluntary” practices to circumvent the limit of 20 hours per week and more realistically assess the time away from campus and other commitments during the season.

— Similarly decrease time demands out of season by reducing out-of-season competition and practices, and by considering shorter seasons in specific sports.

— Further strengthen the Academic Progress Rate requirements for postseason play.

— Liberalize the current rules limiting the ability of student-athletes to transfer between institutions.

The first two there would seem to be designed to provide student-athletes with more time both in and out of season for studying, though perhaps those “voluntary” workouts are so ingrained in college football’s culture that curbing them would be difficult. The same goes for weight training, conditioning, film study, etc. — unless someone is monitoring what a player does 24/7, it’ll be impossible to tell that player to not focus on football outside of practice.

In short: Players still may find a way to spend 40-60 hours a week on football, even if there’s a mandate against it.

Strengthening the APR requirements for postseason play could get interesting — Oklahoma State became the first power conference school to lose practice time due to a poor APR. Programs that don’t place as much emphasis on academics may have to … or they could find loopholes and ways to skate by to stay bowl eligible.

The last one would be a much-welcome change. However that liberalization of the transfer rules would manifest itself, it’d likely be for the better.

There’s more in the letter — more money and longer guarantees for scholarships, extended medical care, allowing some form of agent contact — that the Pac-12 presidents are pushing. They hope to receive responses by June 4 and continue to move quickly on these issues.

“We acknowledge the core objectives could prove to be expensive and controversial, but the risks of inaction or moving too slowly are far greater,” the letter reads. “The time for tinkering with the rules and making small adjustments is over.”

Northwestern alums say players being pushed to vote against union

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A meeting of former Northwestern football players Wednesday night brought attention to concerns that current players were being pressured to vote no on an upcoming vote to determine if Northwestern football players will form a union. Some Northwestern alums suggested current players on the football team have been receiving phone calls from alumni pushing them to vote no on the union next week.

The biggest problem right now is a state of confusion over the impact of players at Northwestern forming a union could potentially mean. The NCAA and the university will lead you to think it could be the beginning of the dismantling of many other sports at the division one level, but that could just be an extreme worst-case scenario. The biggest push right now by this players union movement is to have a seat at the table with Northwestern leaders and have their voices heard.

“We want the facts to be the facts,” said Kevin Brown, a former Northwestern football player from the 1980s. Brown did not take stance for or against the union vote, at least not in front of the media attending the meeting Wednesday night, but his message seemed pretty clear. Get out as much information as possible so the players can make an informed decision when they cast their ballot.

Some alumni believe the players should voice their concerns directly to the head coach, Pat Fitzgerald.

“They could have taken these issues straight to Coach Fitz and Northwestern,” former Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa said. “It’s frustrating to see your coach and your school come under fire like this.”

Fitzgerald has been on record speaking against the union idea and he has said he wants his players to think long and hard before voting on unionization. If it were up to Fitzgerald, Northwestern players would vote no. There is no indication Fitzgerald is applying pressure on players to vote no, but he will not shy away from voicing his concerns for the best interest of his players.

“We want to make sure that they have all the information, so that’s a process we’re starting to work through right now,” Fitzgerald said earlier this month. “I’m honored to have that opportunity with our guys and we’ll work through it day by day.”

A regional office of the National Labor Relations Board empowered players to hold such a vote, recognizing the football players as employees of Northwestern University. The players are set to vote on forming a union next week, although there are mixed emotions when it comes to whether or not it is a good idea. Now former quarterback Kain Colter has become the face of the union movement at Northwestern but earlier this month it was his replacement under center, Trevor Siemian who voiced his concerns about the formation of a union. Northwestern is prepared to contest the ruling all the way up to the Supreme Court if necessary, which has been expected from the start.

When it comes time to vote on forming a union, will there be enough votes to take the next step?

Trevor Siemian comes out against union as Northwestern files appeal

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There were a couple of developments on the unionization of Northwestern football players, one of which served as no surprise and the other that may raise more than a couple of eyebrows.

On the latter front, Trevor Siemian, who supplanted Kain Colter as the Wildcats’ starting quarterback, came out Wednesday afternoon decidedly against the push to unionize his team specifically and the sport of college football in general.  According to Siemian, he failed to gather enough information to form an educated opinion of the union push, whose public face has been that of Colter.

Instead of the union, Siemian said, the players should’ve taken any issues they may have had with the current system to NU’s administrators, including head coach Pat Fitzgerald. (How that would’ve helped assuage the players and their issues is unknown.)  In fact, Siemian lauded the university and his experience at the school.

I’ve had an unbelievable experience here, an unbelievable experience. And I think this all began with the best intentions, sure. I feel that way, and a lot of guys on the team feel that way, but given our circumstance here with the way we’re treated, you know, I’m treated far better than I deserve here and introducing a third party or somebody else especially when our main goals when this began is there are issues with the NCAA that we thought we could address and that was one of the ways to do it but nothing has been exhausted from within the school, you know? Myself included, nobody has ever addressed (Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald) or (NU athletics director) Dr. Phillips about these issues, and two of these guys all of us have come here and trusted so much. I’ve known Coach Fitz for five or six years now, and to say I don’t trust you enough to help us out and make these changes I don’t think is the right way to go.”

(Tip O’ the Quote Cap: Marcus Hartman)

A total of 76 Northwestern football players are eligible to vote for or against a union, an election that is scheduled to take place April 25.  In order for the football team to unionize, more than half of the players would need to vote in favor of allowing the College Athletics Players Association to collectively bargain with the university for them.

Surprisingly, Siemian doesn’t see a pro-union landslide in the offing.

I can only speak for myself but I’ll say there’s a significant amount of guys on the team that feel similar to me,” the quarterback said.

In addition to Siemian’s comments, Northwestern, as has been expected, officially filed an appeal of the National Labor Relations Board’s Chicago regional office’s ruling that NU football players are employees.  That appeal, which can be viewed in its entirety HERE, will be heard at an undetermined date in Washington D.C.

College players union movement has NFLPA’s support

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If there is one established union that best understands the desires, demands and points of view of college football players, it is the NFL Players Association. The NFLPA is supporting the players union movement at Northwestern, and likely would lend support to any other players unions that could follow in the footsteps of a successful union push at Northwestern.

DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFLPA, wrote a column for The Huffington Post Tuesday, laying out the reasons the NFLPA supports the movement led by Northwestern’s Kain Colter. Smith notes the opinions expressed by university officials, coaches and NCAA officials is off the mark.

“The response of the NCAA, the university president and people who don’t want to hear Kain and his teammates is essentially, “Shut up and play.” The NCAA sells and wants college athletes to be a team everywhere except in a room where they can talk about the issues they care about,” Smith writes. “The truth is that they do not want a team that demands a response from a system that makes millions from their play.”

There is still some work to be done before Northwestern players officially form the first college players union in the country. A vote is set for later this month where Northwestern players will vote to form an official union. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald is urging his players to vote no, and the university is still on track to challenge the ruling made by the National Labor Relations Board.

Late April date set for Northwestern union vote

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Three weeks from Friday, we should have a much clearer idea as to which immediate direction the movement toward unionizing college sports is headed.

A spokesperson from the National Labor Relations Board confirmed to the Associated Press Wednesday that Northwestern football players are scheduled to vote on forming a union April 25.  Exactly a week ago today, the Chicago regional office of the NLRB ruled that Northwestern football players meet the standards under federal guidelines to be represented by a union.

The petition that triggered the ruling was 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 agreed with CAPA’s argument that the football players are employees of the university.

As expected, Northwestern announced two days later that it would be appealing the ruling.  The university has until April 9 to request a formal review, the Chicago Tribune reported.  The paper went on to write that the vote “could be delayed if the NLRB in Washington accepts the request before April 25, but that’s unlikely.”

A total of 76 Northwestern football players are eligible to vote for or against a union.  If a majority of the players vote for a union, CAPA would then have the legal right to collectively bargain with the university on the behalf of the players.

Such a development, however, would likely be years down the road even with an affirmative union vote as most expect the case to wind its way through the federal court system and ultimately wind up in the lap of the United States Supreme Court.