NewYorkTimes – CHICAGO — A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled Wednesday that a group of Northwestern football players were employees of the university and have the right to form a union and bargain collectively. For decades, the major college sports have functioned on the bedrock principle of the student-athlete, with players receiving scholarships to pay for their education in exchange for their hours of practicing and competing for their university. But Peter Ohr, the regional N.L.R.B. director, tore down that familiar construct in a 24-page decision. He ruled that Northwestern’s scholarship football players should be eligible to form a union based on a number of factors, including the time they devote to football (as many as 50 hours some weeks), the control exerted by coaches and their scholarships, which Mr. Ohr deemed a contract for compensation. “It cannot be said that the employer’s scholarship players are ‘primarily students,’ ” the decision said. The ruling comes at a time when the N.C.A.A. and its largest conferences are generating billions of dollars, primarily from football and men’s basketball. The television contract for the new college football playoff system is worth $7.3 billion over 10 years, and the current deal to broadcast the men’s basketball tournament is worth $10.8 billion over 14 years. The decision could give momentum to those who believe the N.C.A.A. should modify its rules on how athletes are compensated.
Kansas star center Joel Embiid announced yesterday that he will enter the NBA draft instead of returning to school for a second season, becoming the first of the major freshman stars to elect to do so. Andrew Wiggins by most accounts will do the same, as will a number of other young big-name NCAA Players. Duke Forward Jabari Parker remains the most likely of them all to return to school, and while it’s debatable these days whether or not returning to college is a good decision, from how I see it there’s little doubt playing a second season will look stupid in the future.
With the National Labor Relations Board’s recent decision to allow the Northwestern football team to unionize, it seems only a matter of time before somebody at the NCAA lays out a system that allows for big-time student athletes to receive financial compensation. Or if it’s not the NCAA perhaps it’ll be some other entity. Regardless of how it happens, the move towards paying players is a long time coming, the idea of these employees of the university being “student ath-o-letes” is quickly crumbling, and it’s looking very likely that things are going to change.
Which begs the question — how dumb will kids who go back to school look in the future? Positive contributions to their “game” by college coaching aside, once it has become publicly accepted that the college students who generate billions of dollars for these institutions should get some of that money, it’s hard not to believe players who chose not to get drafted will look foolish. They may end up the black Confederate soldiers of college sports history.
“Wait…you WANTED to go back to school? But why play for free when you could get paid and improve your game with professional coaches? I don’t get it.”
Seems to me that one day these guys may end up looking like traitors to their profession. Blinded and brainwashed by older people into believing working for free is somehow better than working for pay. Hopefully Jabari and any other potential draft pick thinks long and hard before going back to school and winding up on the wrong side of history.