Skip to content

NLRB rules in favor of Northwestern football players hoping to unionize

Mar 26, 2014, 4:56 PM EDT

NCAA_Logo AP

With the NCAA tournament in full swing, an issue that has the potential to significantly impact the future of college athletics shifted to the back burner. With the National Collegiate Players Association aiming to gain greater rights for college athletes, a petition was filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Chicago with the hope that the organization would rule that the Northwestern football program meets the standards needed to form a union.

Wednesday afternoon the regional office of the NLRB made its decision, ruling in favor of the players and declaring them to be “employees” as opposed to “student-athletes.” While this ruling would only impact the players at Northwestern at present time, it could set a precedent for scholarship athletes at other universities (private institutions more so than public).

And it should be noted that the ruling refers to scholarship athletes as the ones being able to form a union, as their grant-in-aid represents a form of compensation according to NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr.

The walk-ons also appear to be permitted a greater amount of flexibility by the football coaches when it comes to missing portions of practices and workouts during the football season if they conflict with their class schedule. In this regard, it is noted that both scholarship players who testified, [former Northwestern QB Kain] Colter and [Northwestern OL Patrick] Ward, testified that they did not enroll in classes that conflicted with their football commitments. This distinction is not surprising given that the players are compelled by the terms of their “tender” to remain on the team and participate in all its activities in order to maintain their scholarship.

Predictably, the NCAA has issued a statement disagreeing with the NLRB’s decision, and Northwestern has plans to appeal the decision to the NLRB’s national office.

“Over the last three years, our member colleges and universities have worked to re-evaluate the current rules,” it was stated in the NCAA’s release. “While improvements need to be made, we do not need to completely throw away a system that has helped literally millions of students over the past decade alone attend college. We want student athletes – 99 percent of whom will never make it to the professional leagues – focused on what matters most – finding success in the classroom, on the field and in life.”

While opponents have jumped to state that the arguments against “amateurism” focus on getting student-athletes paid, the NCPA’s goals focus more on medical assistance for athletes and scholarships that meet the full cost of attendance. Will Wednesday’s ruling help the NCPA make greater advances in these areas? That remains to be seen.

The question for college basketball is whether or not some of its student-athletes would look to make a similar move. At present time, while the decisions could potentially impact all sports football appears to be driving the bus. Will that change? Wednesday’s ruling opens the door, but it remains to be seen which program(s) will be next to challenge the current model of “amateurism.”

Latest Posts
  1. Three-star guard Myles Powell trims list to eight

    Jul 30, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour/Getty Images Kelly Kline/Under Armour/Getty Images

    Powell’s recruiting profile has risen thanks to the way he’s played throughout the summer.

  2. Power forward becomes Iowa’s second 2016 commitment

    Jul 30, 2015, 6:56 PM EDT

    Fran McCaffery AP

    With Jarrod Uthoff and Adam Woodbury being seniors, having two front court commits in 2016 is good news for the Hawkeyes.

  3. Italy trip comes at good time for young Stanford team

    Jul 30, 2015, 5:40 PM EDT

    Johnny Dawkins AP

    The Cardinal need to account for the loss of their top three scorers (and top two rebounders) from last season’s NIT champion team.

  4. Valparaiso star center receives extra year of eligibility

    Jul 30, 2015, 2:37 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The Crusaders are getting back the league’s defensive player of the year.

  5. Throwback Thursday: Donnie Tyndall’s only NCAA tournament win (VIDEO)

    Jul 30, 2015, 1:25 PM EDT

    Murray St Morehead St Basketball AP

    Tyndall’s one NCAA tournament win sure was memorable.

  6. Steady improvement turning Alize Johnson into valued Division I prospect

    Jul 30, 2015, 12:03 PM EDT

    Alize Johnson Alize Johnson

    The cousin of former Pitt forward Chevon Troutman has developed into a quality recruit himself.

  7. Report: SMU’s Larry Brown up against ‘lack of coach control’ charge

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:40 PM EDT

    Larry Brown AP

    According to the report SMU met with the NCAA Committee on Infractions last month.

  8. BYU lands third 2016 commitment in 6-foot-6 guard/forward

    Jul 29, 2015, 10:35 PM EDT

    Connor Harding, Zach Hillman AP

    Harding won’t join the program until 2018 however, as he’ll be taking his two-year LDS mission beforehand.

  9. Marquette coaches discuss daily ‘noon ball’ tradition (VIDEO)

    Jul 29, 2015, 8:50 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Director of player personnel Travis Diener is pegged as the best player in the games, with he and assistant Chris Carrawell trading some good-natured shots at each other.

  10. ACL tear sidelines San Diego State guard Matt Shrigley

    Jul 29, 2015, 8:17 PM EDT

    Matt Shrigley, Grayson Allen AP

    Only Aqeel Quinn, who’s out of eligibility, made more three-pointers for the Aztecs last season than Shrigley.

  11. Four-star power forward names his top three schools

    Jul 29, 2015, 6:42 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/adidas Kelly Kline/adidas

    All three programs made Davis a focal point in Las Vegas last weekend.

  12. Las Vegas Leftovers: Some notes that didn’t make the recaps

    Jul 29, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/adidas Kelly Kline/adidas

    Notes on Vance Jackson, Brendan Bailey and Javonte Smart included.

  13. Isaiah Zierdan one-ups Roosevelt Jones’ trick shot (VIDEO)

    Jul 29, 2015, 3:17 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    I’m OK with this becoming a thing all August.

  14. Another Division I coach loses their job in the wake of the Donnie Tyndall scandal

    Jul 29, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT

    Southeastern Louisiana Southeastern Louisiana

    Tyson Waterman is the latest victim in the fallout from the Southern Miss scandal.

  15. Is Jamal Murray considering skipping classes to play for Team Canada?

    Jul 29, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    150521calipari Getty Images

    That’s now two of Kentucky’s elite freshmen with concerns looming.

  16. Bruce Pearl on his time at Tennessee: ‘I ran a clean program’

    Jul 29, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    150729 brucepearl Getty Images

    Bruce Pearl was fired by Tennessee for lying about a barbecue.

  17. Five-star 2017 center cuts list … to 13?

    Jul 29, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    4_3726139

    See which schools are still in play for one of the top rising juniors