By Christopher B. Daly
As I have long maintained, the NCAA does not advance any educational purpose on college campuses (and, in fact, with its insane training regimens and travel requirements, intercollegiate athletic competition often works at cross-purposes to educational activities like attending class, reading, writing, thinking, etc.)
Now comes word that the NLRB (an agency that rarely makes news in this atomized, freelance economy) has ruled that college football players at Northwestern should have the right to organize into a union like the NFL Players Union. And why not? Those players are on college campuses essentially to provide entertainment to the other students. They are provide a service, and most of them are students in name only. They should certainly have the right to bargain collectively. After all, they bring in big money by putting on a show that is worthy of televising.
(In fact, they should probably be bargaining with the NFL, since they work in what amounts to the NFL’s minor league or farm system.)
From today’s NYTimes:
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. The ruling applies only to scholarship football players at Northwestern, but the precedent could extend to other Division I scholarship football players at similar private universities. (Collective bargaining at public universities is governed by state law, not the N.L.R.B.)
“It’s another brick being taken out of the castle the N.C.A.A. has constructed,” said the ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, a former college basketball player. “It’s not going to stand forever, and we’re getting closer and closer to it tumbling.”
One response to “Abolish the NCAA: unionize!”
Two underreported aspect of this controversy are:
1. The NCAA, NBA and NFL piously seek to prevent athletes younger than 20 from turning pro, because of the value of a college education, never mind the endless scandals about athletes taking only guts or not attending class at all.
There is no hue and cry, however, about baseball, hockey, soccer and tennis players routinely turning pro after high school–in fact, the NCAA allows athletes to be “amateur” in one sport, while being paid in another (John Elway was a Yankee minor leaguer one summer; a recent Heisman Trophy winning quarterback had previously played minor league baseball). Why, other than money, not have collegiate sports be toned-down to allow students to be students and set up minor leagues for those seeking to be professional athletes?
2. For all the self-righteous bleating about the value of athletic scholarships to open doors for the needy, it is commonplace for colleges to revoke scholarships for players who do not perform as well as expected or where a new coach wants to bring in players he recruited (the current Harvard coach, when he arrived, refused to let certain returning varsity lettermen even try out). Meanwhile, the “student-athlete” whose coach quits, or who decides he wants to pursue a degree his college does not offer, however, loses a year of eligibility.