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AR April 24th, 2014 11:50 AM

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?

venice April 24th, 2014 02:10 PM

In 1971, the SCOTUS ruled in the landmark antitrust case with Spencer Hawyard that created the 1st "hardship draft", that allowed enrty into the NBA draft before a players graduation class...opened the floodgates for the greatest hypocrisy in college sports...I was in college at the time, when the expectation was you played sports as a way of obtaining a college education and if your parents drove you to freshman orientation in Sept 1969, they had May 1973 circled on their calendar to see you graduate and parents made clear to the college coaches that grades :mad:trumped:mad:playing that time, freshmans were ineligible to play varsity (remember the famed UCLA Bruins Lew Alcindor led freshman JV squad the defeated the defending national champions varsity in a preseason scrimmage)

I hope this case exposes the absolute greed and hypocrisy that exists between NBA owners, College Presidents, College coaches on down to middle school sports programs...everyone benefits $$$ except the college players and very few players actually earn a degree within 6 years..too much $$$ to be made by exploiting the players

Bobby Knight has many critics...say what you want, but he made sure his players graduated on least Major League Baseball is honest when they sign a prospect out of high school and send them to the farm leagues...

My college roommate played 1970 on any given day, he was at practice more then in class..I can only guess things are worse today

AR...Northwestern these days has a pretty good football team and still manages to have a high graduation rate for it's athletes within 5 years as compared to the SEC should take comfort in that

Truck Cruiser April 25th, 2014 09:21 AM

Many of these collage football players would never see the inside of a university if it wasn't for a sports scholarship! Yes, these players are subjecting their bodies to injuries and most will never play pro ball, however, they are receiving a FREE education which can be used to find a good job when they graduate.

NCAA has, in my opinion, some really stupid rules which prohibit these players from making money while playing sports. While the collage might be paid for with the scholarship, there are living expenses that every student has and many of these players come from very poor families that can not help the student financially. Players have been suspended for University boosters giving jobs to the family members of students, where is the sense in that?

There needs to be a happy medium here and it is my hope that these lawsuit's will force the NCAA to loosen some of their Draconian laws and allow these players to make enough money to live decently while they are in school.

venice April 25th, 2014 12:13 PM

Truck Cruiser...if you play Division 1 big time sports in most cases you are not receiving an education, free or otherwise...your academic course load is set by the athletic department so if you wanted to major in physics which had a 3 hour lab on Tuesday afternoon between 3-6 and you are on a football scholarship,guess where you will be

If you are on scholarship and suffer an injury, by NCAA regulations the coach cannot pull your scholarship, but he can put pressure on you to give it up to use for an inb ound athlete

Big time college sports is a cold hearted cut throat business, of which 19 year olders are a commidity and it's the exception, rather then the rule that they receive a quality education...

There are a few major college programs that are the exception to the rule but a parent really has to do homework to find them...If the NCAA was serious, they would put back in the freshman ineligible rule, which gives an 18 year old time to adjust in college...they would only give the coach the same amount of aid grants inbound equal to graduation rates within 5 years...the summer between 1st & 2nd year would be for summer school to earn at least 9 core credits (and pay them a stipend for "B" or better), so they could take a reduce course load during the academic year and meaning to the term "work/study"...ban booster clubs entirely and tie in classroom performance to a coaches bonus contract

Full disclosure, I am old and old school...I was in college during the 60's where one could follow the great UCLA basketball teams for 3 years and know the names of the starting 5 and athletes actually graduated and the Ivy League (with no scholarships in athletics) produced Bill Bradley & Calvin Hill....

IMHO there are four types of athletes who actually have a shot at receiving a real degree and play division 1 sports and accomplish both within 5 years..1) play division 1 minor (non generating revenue) sports, golf, swimming, track etc...of course the irony is tv contracts for football/basketball covers the cost to sponsor those teams...2) if you are a football player go to a conference and college campus (that is known for the area of study you want to major in) where basketball is "king"...your conference will allow you to play against top competition without the pressure of the spotlight...3) attend a military academy (where they require all cadets to have a balance between academic,military and sports)...4) have parents who have the strength and conviction and do the research to guide their gifted 17-18 year old child to a college where their education is the primary objective...

I both love and "cringe" every year during March madness...I always google the graduation rates of the "Final Four" teams and factor in by NCAA regulations provide for a significant number of exemptions (in football it's 31), which means the actual graduation rate is much a parent, am I sending my Son to receive an education or to play ball for 1 year and go pro

AR April 25th, 2014 04:09 PM

And just a footnote to Venice's excellent and completely accurate post:

Not everyone should go to college, and not everyone does. This doesn't mean that there shouldn't be post-high school training opportunities for just about everybody who has an aptitude. There are trade schools and other forms of training that provide many people with the skills needed to live a very decent life.

But Truck Cruiser's premise that an athletic scholarship represents the only way for some people to go to college, while certainly true on the face of it, isn't necessarily a good thing. If the person is unqualified for the academic work AND the added time drain of the sports program (a rare combination of brains, commitment, and athletic skill), it's not the right place for them. Even if the school winks at the academics, pushes them through and gives them a diploma, it's a pyrrhic victory for the kid at best. Assuming they don't make the NBA or the NFL (a good bet), their lack of qualifications will quickly become apparent in the working world, degree or no degree.

A number of years ago an old Northwestern classmate of mine made a documentary film called "Hoop Dreams." It's still available. I recommend it to anybody who believes that big college sports is a charming endeavor. For many, it's just heartbreak.

venice April 25th, 2014 06:08 PM

A few weeks ago there was a big news story in Louisiana, that LSU football coach Les Miles offered to hold a scholarship for a QB prospect that is currently in 8th grade in Texas....Much to my chagrin that is not uncommon in terms of recruiting around these parts

It tells me that the system is corrupt starting in middle school

venice April 26th, 2014 07:17 AM

The collective bargaining agreements for all professional sports should mandate an athlete must be 21 years old before they can be signed to a contract

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