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Old April 24th, 2014, 11:50 AM
AR AR is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 2,597
Default Unions for College Sports?

Northwestern University football players will vote tomorrow on whether they should unionize. But according to press reports, the results are subject to all sorts of reviews and appeals, so there will be no final answer tomorrow.

First, full disclosure: Northwestern is my alma mommy, where I spent four years earning my undergraduate degree back when the earth was cooling. Like many students, I often attended football and basketball games, but never took them seriously. As the only private school in the Big 10 back then, NU was always at a severe disadvantage in sports, because 1) they couldn't offer as many free rides to jocks as state schools could, and 2) as a school noted more for academics than athletics, they actually enforced some academic requirements on players, narrowing the available field of athletes considerably. Therefore, the teams were generally doormats.

In fact, we had a standard cheer that would echo throughout the student section when the opposition scored one of its frequent touchdowns: "So you scored a touchdown; what's the fuss? In a coupla years you'll be workin' for us!!" Tacky? You bet. True? In many respects, yes.

But even at an athletically challenged Division I school, cash from the athletic program was always--and obviously still is--a big line item. This was brought home to me vividly a number of years ago when they changed the name of the stadium. In our day it was Dyche Stadium (making it the butt of endless one-line jokes). But apparently the Dyche family's contract ran out and the naming rights passed to another family, the Ryans. So now it's Ryan Field. It's just business.

And now, the perennial also-rans of the Big 10 are the focus of a long overdue rebellion against the NCAA and the money machine that has subverted the mission of so many colleges and universities. I don't know whether unions are the answer or not, but I'm convinced that something has to be done to curb the poisonous mixture of higher education with what is in most respects professional sports. When the highest-paid employee of many states is now a football coach at a state school, something's really out of whack.

The vocal protests of these coaches and schools they work for that they're just an adjunct to academics has become a laughingstock even to those who support college athletics bigtime. Some famous college coach (whose name and school I didn't bother to remember) said on Colbert's show last night that his goal is to have his good players "stay with me for two years." But if academics is really the focus, why wouldn't he want them to stay for four years and earn a degree? Sometimes the truth comes out inadvertently.

Our son Matt went to NYU and played baseball there. He was a good player, had a wonderful time, and after he graduated they invited him back as a coach, a part-time job that he enjoyed for eight seasons. For most of that time, he always had a pilot's uniform and a baseball uniform in the trunk during baseball season as he made time for his vocation and his avocation. Like many good schools, sports at NYU is a place for true student athletes: students first, athletes second (or maybe third), and no athletic scholarships. That's the way it should be, he's always said, and so do I.

Northwestern is fighting hard to thwart the unionization effort, saying that it could mean the end of Division I sports at the university.

My response: so what?
The most dangerous man in society is the man who has nothing left to lose. -- Saul Bellow

Last edited by AR; April 24th, 2014 at 12:17 PM.
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