Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Last week, the Northwestern football players won the right to unionize when regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago, Peter Sung Ohr, ruled that players are employees, not just students.
This is a complex issue, and a short column cannot cover all the positives and negatives. I believe the NLRB ruling is troubling.
Athletes looking to unionize and get stipends, as well as antitrust lawsuits, all keep moving athletes further from the real reason they attend colleges and universities—to earn an education.
One thing you must keep in mind: Not all schools earn billions from athletics. Of the 350 Division I schools, many different economic classes exist
A $2,000 stipend doesn't sound like a lot of money if you are in one of the major conferences (SEC, ACC, Pac-12, Big-12, Big Ten), but it is a significant amount for struggling conferences like the SWAC, Jackson State's conference.
JSU is suing Grambling not just to be a pain in the you-know-what, but because the Tigers' athletic program counts on every home football game (especially homecoming) to survive.
Conference USA, of which Southern Miss is a member, is better off economically than the SWAC, but not as well off as the major conferences. C-USA is like the middle class—not doing too badly as is, but more financial strain could send them into ruin.
To pay for the extras that college athletes want, such as stipends, would universities increase tuition? The cost of attending college is already pushing college students into debt at record levels.
Paying every athlete the $2,000 stipend would place a major burden on conferences such as the SWAC. Schools such as JSU would eventually have to end their athletic programs. Conferences like C-USA might be better off for a while, but eventually would have to cut programs and possibly shut down athletics as well.
But the most troubling part is that the whole system is moving away from education and toward a minor-league system with education as an afterthought. Fault lies with universities, the NCAA and fans (that's a whole another issue).
Universities and colleges should just close down their athletic programs. Let the NFL and NBA open their own farm system, like MLB's minor leagues, or use some type of European soccer system for training and recruiting athletes.
It feels like everyone has forgotten that college is for an education, not just for playing sports.