March 27, 2014

College football players can unionize?

You may have heard that the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern football players could form a union. SB Nation's Patrick Vint explains why this decision is stupid:

In order to find that the Northwestern players could form a union, [NLRB Region 13 director Peter Sung] Ohr had to find that the players were employees of the University. An "employee'" is a person who [1] is under contract of hire to [2] perform services for another, [3] subject to the employer's control, and [4] in return for payment.

Almost nobody (this author included) thought the players could meet this standard. To do so, they would have to show that they were hired, controlled, and paid by Northwestern. From inside the system, finding that players are being hired by coaches and paid in scholarship money feels absurd.

Ohr, though, is not in the system. Ohr's opinion reads like that of someone who has not watched college football for one minute of his life, was told the basic premise for the sport's existence and amateurism rules, and rejected all the inherent contradictions.

Be sure to read the whole thing at the link above. For me, the answer is simple: The players are already being paid via scholarships -- scholarships that, at the most elite colleges, can run over $40K per year. A "salary" of that magnitude for a non-college graduate is pretty damn good.

If college athletics want to better compensate their players (as many players desire), then lift the bans on various forms of compensation players can get: Let 'em get cars, apartments, and get paid for their autographs, etc.

Posted by Hube at March 27, 2014 04:47 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

If they are employees, doesn't that make their scholarships taxable income?

Posted by: Rhymes With Right at March 27, 2014 06:46 PM

College football monstrously exploits it's players for billions of dollars.

I know Washington a has tossed abused the 'billions' in billions of dollars to the point that it has seemed to have lost all meaning, but I'll remind you in the real world, it is still a gigantic sum of money.

In this case they should unionize, at the very least.

Posted by: Captain Qwert Jr at March 28, 2014 04:19 AM

CQ: "Monstrously?" And where does all this money go? Does it not support the university?

Bottom line: The players' compensation is a scholarship and associated bennies. If you wish to see players compensated better, allow them to accept cash, donations, cars, compensation for likeness/autographs/whatever within certain limits.

Posted by: Hube at March 28, 2014 08:12 AM

Hube - the NCAA which is the main income recipeint from college football and basketball (the only 2 sports that generate income) makes billions of dollars a year off the university names, players and coaches 'likenesses', etc. They, like the NFL, are a non-profit organization. For example, when the universities are invited to football bowl games the universities for the most part lose money because they have to pay into the NCAA, they have to purhcase a minimum number of tickets and have to pay their own transportation. Very few colleges make any money from the bowl games, with the exception of the national championship and one or two other games. its ends up costing some schools over a million dollars to attend a bolw game, yet the 'host' of the game make millions. For example, the exec director of the Orange Bowl has a salary of nearly $2mil to do nothing but host one game a year. so yes, the NCAA does exploit this. IMO the NCAA is the second most corrupt sports organization after the IOC

Posted by: Arthur at March 28, 2014 12:04 PM

So, Art, should the players unionize? Will that solve the corruption issue? Or, should colleges get a backbone and take on the NCAA a bit more?

Posted by: Hube at March 28, 2014 12:29 PM

I agree with Hube. If they want to be compensated, allow them to accept cash, cars and autographs and the such. Getting unionized is just plain stupid. They're already being paid via their scholarships.

Posted by: Carl at March 28, 2014 01:48 PM

The players shouldnt unionize due to many issues, one being the tax implications. imagine getting $30k worth of scholarships and other financial obligations and being 1099'd for that, since the scholarships would then be considered wages. The other issue is that big college sports rest on the shoulders of a select few. Nearly every pro sports team has at least one if not more superstars on it. in college athletics you have a handful for and entire sport. So imagine the discrepancy between a scholarshiped football player and a scholarship womens swimmer. The likely hood that the football player can make extra income as a paid spokesmen, guest speaker, etc is much higher that the female swimmer, yet they are both receiving the same scholarship wages. its sounds fair in the scholarship regards but when the football player is receiving a w-2 job and a free car for a no show job at a local boosters car dealership and the swimmer is working at the campus food court for $9/hour the discrepancy is much wider.

and unless colleges start to withdraw their affiliation with the conference they are in (they wont becuase they receive compensation from them) and they withdraw from the ncaa (they wont because that is like the bravo channel starting their own cable provider just for themselves) colleges will stay this way.

Posted by: Arthur at March 28, 2014 01:52 PM

Hmm, but so what if there's only a few stars on a college football team? Why not let the free market work and allow them to get whatever compensation in addition to their scholarships? Sports scholarships aren't equal, and never were. Popular sports aren't equally popular either.

Posted by: Hube at March 28, 2014 01:59 PM

That is exactly what they should allow. but the unionization of all athletics will create a disparity and probably cause many lower level programs to have to disband or become club activities. students should receive compensation for their likeness on computer games, jersey sales, etc. i dont know anyone who played on a lower level sport with a full ride (me included) who wasnt happy just to have the scholarship. however, if i was on ESPN everyweek and saw my uniform and likeness on NCAA Football 2014, and saw my jersey being the 5th largest selling jersey in the country, they i would want something for that. that would be free market. however the ncaa is an oligarchy

Posted by: arthur at March 28, 2014 02:05 PM

There are always going to be a few stars on the team. You can't change that. There are always going to be people who outperform other people. Again, nothing new. It's not "equal" and never has been.

Posted by: Carl at March 28, 2014 02:05 PM

Hube, this isn't a case of fry cooks demanding equal pay with doctors, or insane UAW members indulging in their never-ending vendetta against Henry Ford's ghost.

The players are being denied the immense market value of their services by a bizarre syndicate of private and government entities. If they have to unionize to get it, they should.

Posted by: Captain Qwert Jr at March 28, 2014 02:19 PM

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