College football players want to form a union

30 Jan

The idea of recognizing that “student” athletes are really low-paid employees of colleges and apprentices in the billion dollar sports industry would force college administrators, parents, and athletes to face some very hard truths. The NCAA has compiled a probability chart which shows just how few student athletes have a realistic change of even being drafted to play professional sports and then go on to have a successful professional career. See, http://www.collegesportsscholarships.com/percentage-high-school-athletes-ncaa-college.htm
Moi has about as much chance of playing for a professional team as the average kid with dreams of sports stardom.

Jorge Castillo has an intriguing report in the New York Times about historian Taylor Branch’s Atlantic article. In After Leaving Football, a Historian Emerges as an N.C.A.A. Critic, Castillo reports:

The October issue of The Atlantic magazine featured a 14,000-word cover story by Branch titled “The Shame of College Sports.” Its focus was the N.C.A.A., and the thesis Branch presented was that the organization was little more than a sham, exploiting athletes in revenue sports like football and men’s basketball to make hundreds of millions of dollars while expounding the virtues of amateurism. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/26/sports/ncaafootball/historian-taylor-branch-delivers-critical-view-of-ncaa.html?emc=eta1

The problem is literally 1000s of starry eyed kids and in some instance, stage parents who are willing to do whatever for a slim chance and wealth and stardom. Add to this mix the big business system of agents, coaches, and colleges who want to stay on the good side of powerful alumni.

Brad Wolverton reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education article, NCAA to Consider Sweeping Changes in Athlete Aid and Eligibility Rules.

Billion-dollar TV deals and multimillion-dollar compensation packages for coaches have led to growing calls for paying athletes. While Mark A. Emmert, the NCAA’s president, refuses to go there, he supports the idea of giving athletes more money for travel and other incidentals, moving closer to covering their full cost of attendance. Median college costs at public universities exceed an athlete’s scholarship coverage by about $4,000, according to a recent USA Today analysis.
http://chronicle.com/article/NCAA-to-Consider-Sweeping/129483/

Contemplated changes seem calculated to take the heat off the college sports industry.

It probably is not an accident that the same time proposed changes were publicized, the NCCA is promoting graduate statistics, probably to bolster the idea that the “student” athlete reigns supreme. Collin Eaton is reporting in the Chronicle of Higher Education article, Athletes Continue to Graduate at Record Levels, NCAA Says.

Over all, more than two-thirds of the NCAA’s roughly 5,000 Division I teams reported graduation-success rates of 80 percent or higher, while fewer than 4 percent of teams reported rates of 50 percent or lower.
The NCAA uses its own formula to calculate the graduation-success rates of Division I athletes. The figures are different from the graduation rates calculated by the U.S. Department of Education. The NCAA statistics, unlike the federal ones, do not penalize institutions when athletes transfer to other colleges, as long as they depart in good academic standing. [Emphasis Added]
• Table: College Athletes’ Graduation Rates 2011
http://chronicle.com/article/Athletes-Continue-to-Graduate/129529/

Excuse moi for being a tad bit cynical. Were these kids helped or “helped?” Wink. Wink. If you know what moi means. Are these kids taking the classes and are they in the college majors which will give them a chance at life after competitive big money sports?

Most kids will never appear at the Final Four or Superbowl. For kids who possess extraordinary talent and desire to achieve at the top level of sports, of course nurture their talent and their desire. But, society and their families owe it to these kids to be honest about their chances and the fact that they need to prepare for a variety of outcomes.

Brad Wolverton reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education article, College Football Players Seek to Form a Labor Union:

College athletes on Tuesday took a bold step toward gaining more bargaining power in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, by attempting to form a labor union for big-time football and basketball players.
Calling the NCAA a “dictatorship” that stamps on athletes’ rights and fails to provide adequate long-term health care or educational assistance, football players at Northwestern University petitioned the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board to be recognized as employees.
The move, organized by Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA linebacker and founder of the National College Players Association, was prompted by concerns raised by Kain Colter, a Northwestern quarterback who was active in player protests this past season….
NCAA Response
The NCAA, whose colleges have recently discussed giving athletes more rights and better health and safety benefits, defended its amateurism principles. In a statement, the association said that athletes are “not employees within any definition of the National Labor Relations Act” and had no right to organize.
“This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education,” its statement said. “Student-athletes are not employees, and their participation in college sports is voluntary. We stand for all student-athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize.”
Jim Phillips, Northwestern’s vice president for athletics and recreation, said in a written statement that the university teaches its students to be leaders and independent thinkers, and that Tuesday’s action “demonstrates that they are doing so.”
He added that Northwestern believes that its athletes are not employees but that the “health and academic issues being raised by our student-athletes and others are important ones that deserve further consideration.”
Representatives of the United Steelworkers union, who is backing the proposal, said at the news conference that their lawyers stand behind it. They believe that college players will be deemed employees and that their scholarships represent payment in return for services.
Experts’ Views
But some labor-relations experts said that players would have difficulty making that case.
“I would be very, very surprised if they won,” said Ronald G. Ehrenberg, a professor of industrial and labor relations and economics at Cornell University. “If they do win, it would potentially lead to an explosion of changes in higher education….” http://chronicle.com/article/College-Football-Players-Seek/144271/

Maybe it’s time to look at athletes as apprentices for the sports business. The question then becomes how to adequately compensate fodder for the big business, big money sports machine? Most of the kids who are part of the process will never see a payoff in sports. Maybe the compensation should be an education trust fund for college athletes so that when they are perhaps more mature and more realistic about career prospects, they have the resources for a real education.

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