A group of college football players at Northwestern recently won the right to unionize and negotiate for better working conditions, health insurance, scholarship terms, and other forms of pay and benefits. Essentially, the athletes were deemed to be “employees.” This makes sense, of course, as they are under the university’s control, provide a service to the university, produce millions of dollars in revenue for the university, and receive benefits, including tuition and books, in return. (The fact that they’re paid in goods and services, instead of cash, shouldn’t turn them into non-employees.) According to this ESPN report, however, the Big Ten’s Jim Delany says that if the schools actually have to pay their athletes, the conference will dissolve and it will also bring an end to the traditional Rose Bowl matchup between the Big Ten and Pac Twelve champions. Really, Jim?
First, I don’t know where Jim has been, but I seem to remember that the Big Ten made a money grab and joined the
and therefore terminated the traditional Big-Ten-champion v. Pac-Twelve-champion
matchup several years ago. In fact, I remember Texas
winning a Rose Bowl one year. And after
that, I think TCU got in there and won a Rose Bowl of its own. I’ll admit that it’s tough for me to keep up with
all of the money-grubbing conference “realignments,” but I don’t think that
Texas or TCU were, or are, members of either the Big Ten or Pac Ten or Pac Twelve.
Second, players are already being paid in the form of tuition, books, and other limited benefits. The Northwestern players just wanted better working conditions, fewer hours on the gridiron to free up more time for their studies, maybe some optional textbooks in addition to the required ones, better health insurance, and maybe some money. The colleges already pay coaches many millions per year, often making them the highest paid employees in their states. Will the system really collapse if the players get a bigger piece of the multi-billion dollar college athletics pie?
The best part about this is that Delany wasn’t just ranting to some reporter. Rather, he was testifying under oath in court, making it safe to assume that he really believes what he’s saying.
Anyway, back in the real world, today’s pro-student movement has already brought about some positive changes in college athletics.
has just announced that it will now grant four-year scholarships, instead of the
one-year renewable scholarships that it was using, to student athletes in the revenue
producing sports. Under such a four-year scholarship system, the seventeen- and eighteen-year-old
student athletes who don’t perform up to expectations can’t be forced off the
team and out of school by the millionaires that are running the programs.
The times they are a changin’. And my guess is that, despite Jim Delany’s hysteria, the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl will survive.