September 21, 2014

Should college athletes be paid?

I was surprised to hear the news yesterday that the Chicago district of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern football players qualify as employees of the university and can unionize.

The NLRB cited the players’ time commitment to their sport and the fact that their scholarships were tied directly to their performance on the field as reasons for granting them union rights.

Northwestern issued a statement shortly after the ruling saying they would appeal to the full NLRB in Washington, D.C.

Depending on what side of the fence you are standing on, you get one story or the other.  And I see both sides, to a certain extent.

The NCAA reportedly has a surplus of more than $600-million.  They’re getting rich off of the massive television contracts and licensing deals.  What’s the plan for all of that money.  The rich just get richer.

But what about the free education.  The more I listen to student athletes, the more I hear the lack of appreciation for the value of their scholarship.

I heard Stephen Bardo on the Big Ten Network say yesterday that he paid off his scholarship 12-games into his freshman season.  Really?  That’s a joke.  Bardo averaged 3.7 points and 2.7 assists a game in his freshman season.  I don’t think Bardo quite got everything paid back in his freshman season.

What does yesterday’s ruling mean?  Well it gives the student athlete some momentum in their attempt to get paid to play college athletics.

I’m not against athletes getting something back, but how much?  And who gets paid?  Is it just players from sports that produce revenue?  Who is footing the bill?  Is this the NCAA, or will it fall on the University’s?  If the latter is the case, then look out consumer, because the trickle down is coming your way.  If fans are asked to play more, then they may have to make a choice.  Do I support college football, or the NFL, because I can’t afford them both?

This could take years to sort out and it likely will.  It’s interesting.  I used to be on the side of the NCAA, 100%.  But part of me is starting to come around to the side of the student athlete.  This will be interesting to watch.  With all of the greed, which side will I be on 6-months or even a year from now?