Play ball!

Or whatever they say at the beginning of a football game.

You read it here first: unionization is coming to minor league football.

That's right, a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that NCAA football players, this time the Northwestern team, are university employees, and are consequently entitled to form a union to bargain collectively for wages, hours, and working conditions.

You heard that right: wages, and that could mean big money.

 According to reporting by CNN: 

Figures filed by Northwestern University show that the Big Ten Conference football program had revenue of $30.1 million in 2012-13. It had expenses of $21.7 million, leaving it a profit of $8.4 million.

But that is only a fraction of the money generated by college athletics. Federal reports filed by the 244 major college football programs show combined revenue of $3.6 billion in the 2012-13 school year, and a combined profit of $1.3 billion. Men's basketball at those schools produced another $1.1 billion in revenue, and a profit of $334.9 million.

 How does this translate to the players?

Here's one way to think about it. In the United States major league athletes take home bring home half or more of the total revenues the teams get, more in baseball, basktball, and hockey, a little less in football. What's a fair share for the workers who enable the so-called universities to realize annual profits in the billions?

Or think of it another way: There are seventy NCAA football coaches who make more than a million dollars a year, not counting endorsements (which happen to be illegal for NCAA athletes).

Or one more perspective, also from CNN:  The average annual scholarship shortfall that athletes have to pay themselves to attend school is $3,285.

Yes, these workers, whom the NCAA calls without a hint of embarrassment “student-athletes”, and who are compensated by nothing more than a scholarship that is very unlikely to lead to a degree, wind up subsidizing their employers for the privilege of playing big-time sports.

 This is far from the end of the story. The case will go up to the full NLRB, and then undoubtedly through the federal courts, but this is a major step toward justice for NCAA workers.

2 thoughts on “Play ball!

  1. The sports talk shows here have been almost wall to wall about this.  Of course, they are coming at if from primarily the football side, primarily, and more specifically, SEC football.  Football is huge down here – the high school I teach at went 7-3 this year. 8 boys were offered Div 1 football scholarships,  I wonder if there are that many offered in all of VT.  (Only one, though, is going to a ‘major’ (Purdue, if you can call it that)).

    Football is a HUGE profit center for SEC schools.  I imagine even Vandy rakes in considerable dough.  The OSU, Penn State and other Big 10s, Pac 10 teams, ND, Florida ST, U of Miami, are cash-printing programs.  

    I wonder, though, how many other Div 1 schools (and then Div 2 and 3) are seriously in the black on a consistent basis?  A Troy State, a Ball State, a Kent State, etc.

    More schools probably make money on basketball – more games, lower overhead (fewer coaches and players), but other than perhaps KY basketball, not near to the extent that ‘powerhouse’ football does.  

    I would imagine that many Div 1 hockey programs run in the black.  

    But, now, name other college athletic programs that are profitable for schools.  Title IX requires colleges to offer athletic scholarships to female athletes, and I can’t imagine that many are run at a profit.  As a for instance, many schools stopped their wrestling programs in the last couple of decades – not only did they cut 10-15 scholarships for wrestling – not a big fan draw- but this allowed them to cut scholarships for female sports as well.  My alma mater, Cornell, all of the sudden has one of the top wrestling programs in the country, because they don’t give athletic scholarships.

    And let’s look at the realities of the various sports for the participants- Div 1 football is essentially a full time job, i can’t imagine that a scholarship golfer spends more than 10-12 hours a week on his/her game.   Football often leads to lifetime physical problems, not so for any other sport.

    So – the same ‘pay’ for all student-ahletes?  Do they share in the licensing fees – does the royalty for Johnny Football’s jerseys go into a pool for everyone?  Is that fair?  I can easily envision a signing day down here where a booster shows up to buy 10,000 or so t-shirts for a top Div 1 prospect if the money is going to end up in  the kids’ pocket.  

    Do you let the team keep the licensing fees for its own players?  Let’s compare Alabama or Auburn’s licensing revenue to UVMs.  Recruits will want to know what the royalty share was and will be.

    We’re begging the larger question – isn’t “college athletics” just a joke?  The kids at my school that are going Div 1 are going to struggle to stay eligible, even with tutors and gut majors.  None of them are good enough to ever play pro ball, either.  They’ll go through college, get a gut degree, if any.  And free tickets to alum dinners, maybe.

    Let’s face it, college athletics – and high school athletics, too – have become  symptoms of how dumbed-down this culture has become.  “One and done” in basketball, “two and done” in football make a mockery of the “student-athlete” meme.  The purpose of the university or college should be first and foremost and always always education.

    Roooooooooooooooll Tide!  

    NCAA football and basketball are the minor leagues of the pro game, too bad they will never ever be divorced from the colleges and universities.  

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