Thursday, March 27, 2014

NCAA and the "Student-Athlete"

This is big news for college athletics:

Northwestern ruling could 'rattle the universe of universities'

Northwestern University football players on scholarship are employees of the school and therefore entitled to hold an election to decide whether to unionize, an official of the National Labor Relations Board ruled Wednesday.
The stunning decision, coming after a push by former quarterback Kain Colter, backed by organized labor, has the potential to shake up the world of big-time college sports.

Seems to me the world of big-time college sports could use some shaking up.  I went to UNC-Chapel Hill back when basketball was king and football was a mere afterthought. Now football is king everywhere, and it doesn't seem to have done much for most of the schools or many of the "student-athletes."

The NCAA is a cartel that enriches a few elite schools at the expense of everyone else and siphons labor from the players who risk their bodies and futures to enrich coaches and athletic departments.  The ensuing corruption seems endemic to the system, and hit particularly close to home in the past few years:
Tuesday night’s episode of “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” includes a look at NCAA academic requirements for student athletes – and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of the schools they spotlight.
The segment, reported by Bernard Goldberg and produced by Josh Fine, looks at how lower admission standards, coupled with higher graduation requirements, have required many top schools to commit to learning specialists to ensure student athletes can keep up. Goldberg interviews Mary Willingham, a UNC whistle-blower who formerly worked with athletes. Willingham has claimed to have data showing that 60 percent of 183 athletes at UNC, specially tested over an eight-year period, could not read at the high school level and that another 10 percent could not read above the third-grade level. Goldberg also interviews two football players from the university – Michael McAdoo and Bryan Bishop.
If schools that have traditionally prided themselves on their academic reputations can succumb to the corruption of big-money sports, nobody is immune.

It'll be interesting to see the effect unionization will have on college football and basketball programs. Will it signal the end of universities serving as the "minor leagues" for those sports? And if so, is that a bad thing? In the short-term, at least players will have some protections if they get injured "on the job."  

One final note. It is amazing, reading the Chicago Tribune article, how the same arguments being used by Northwestern to fight unionization efforts of the student-athletes are nearly identical to the arguments used by the University of Iowa to fight unionization by graduate teaching and research assistants back in the mid 1990s.

Read more here:

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