Allen B. West

Why unionization of college ball is a major foul

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I had to sit back and ponder the regional labor relations panel decision to allow the college football players at Northwestern University to unionize. My first inclination was to analyze where this lawsuit was filed. Northwestern University is in Evanston, a suburb of Chicago. And we all know that Saul Alinsky, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, David Axelrod, Rahm Emmanuel, Jesse Jackson (Sr and Jr), and a host of other progressive socialists come from that area — well, no surprise.

Last night on “On the Record” with Greta Van Susteren, four pro-football athletes all agreed with the decision that college football players can unionize. One even made the slip of the tongue and referred to student-athletes as “employees.” I have to disagree with all of them.

The decision would allow players to demand things like more concussion testing, medical care after they graduate, guaranteed scholarships and even a portion of the multimillion-dollar profits that most Division I NCAA schools make off sports.

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The purpose of going to college is to earn an advanced education. Those who have additional skill and talent in athletics are awarded scholarships to compensate their tuition in exchange for their abilities in the arena of chosen sport. What we are moving towards is a system of “sports mercenaries” who will become employees of the school that can pay the most. Furthermore, we are sending a horrible message that deemphasizes the honor of a quality education. What do you think will be the objective of young kids now? Go to college for an education, or just hang out to play ball and get paid?

Now, I do believe these student-athletes should receive a stipend while they are in their respective sports season. It should be focused on covering their incidental costs. Remember, they already get full room and board, and if it’s still like when I was in college, cafeterias serve pretty darn good food. The NCAA should formulate a standard stipend percentage relative to each sport and at each Division level. I can promise you that if this passes for football, then other sports will follow suit.

This idea came from outgoing Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, who is now at the NFL combine. As CNN reported, Colter testified at the hearing that he loved his experience as an athlete at Northwestern, but the picture he painted was a dim one for believers of the idea that student-athletes are students first. “We are first and foremost an athlete,” Colter testified. “Everything we do is scheduled around football. … It’s truly a job.”

However, counter to Colter’s assertion three other former Northwestern players — Doug Bartels, Patrick Ward and John Henry Pace — took the stand in defense of their alma mater, all saying they were able to succeed academically despite the demanding hours. “I think our former students were very good spokesmen for the really terrific educational opportunities they had at Northwestern,” university spokesman Alan Cubbage said. “They spoke very well on the priority in academics, not just at the university but in the football program itself.”

As well, there should be some compromise on what a kid receives for the commercial use of his or her image while they are in college. I also believe that these student-athletes should not be allowed to drop out of college and enter any professional draft unless they have achieved an Associates Degree.

“Comprehensive reform will always be elusive unless players have a seat at the table, just like the NFL, just like the NBA,” said Ramogi Huma, president of the College Athletes Players Association, which is representing the players. I could not disagree more with Mr. Huma’s statement. This is what will happen. If college football players are allowed to unionize, they will have to pay dues — someone has to pay for these mouthpieces. The demand for pay will mean that the new cost will be transferred to the consumer. Are the players paid by the university or the NCAA –guess what will happen to college tuition? What happens when you no longer have free tickets for the “regular schlubs” — the college student? What happens when we start to see ticket prices increase to cover the new compensation of athletes?

If players are then employees of the university, can they stay as long as they want? Who says they have to graduate and move on — after all, they are no longer “student-athletes,” they’re employees. What happens when the Coach benches a player for disciplinary reasons? Will the player then go to his union to adjudicate? Or will it be written into their collective bargaining contract that the coach cannot bench or discipline a player without union approval — don’t tell me that cannot happen — look at the teachers unions.

Unionization of college ball is one heck of a bad idea and I pray the NCAA will go on the offense before they get steamrolled — just waiting for President Obama to weigh in. The unions are looking to increase their membership, wherever they can. What do you think, are college athletes students or employees?

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