It will be hard for me to watch tonight’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game—which I will no doubt do despite my many criticisms of the NCAA and the current state of collegiate athletics—without thinking about the recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB—not be confused with NRBQ) saying that football players at Northwestern University should be seen as employees, and therefore have the right to unionize.
“The effort to create more of a voice for college athletes in revenue-generating sports is a major issue that’s existed for a while,” former UMass hoops player (and student) and current College Athetes Players Association (CAPA) board member Luke Bonner told the Advocate a few weeks ago. “There’s no voice or vote from the players who drive this multi-billion dollar industry.”
But while it’s one thing to level criticisms at the NCAA, it’s another to figure out where to go from here. If the current state of college sports needs to be changed, what should it be changed to? Not surprisingly, it gets complicated quickly.
UMass professor of sports management Glenn Wong recently wrote a great piece at Bleacher Report: A Sports Lawyer Explains What an NCAA Players Union Would Look Like. And Brian Phillips likewise wrote a nice piece over at Grantland: The Northwestern Decision, An Explainer. Both use the question and answer format to delve a bit deeper into the issues.
I’m not at all sure what I’d like college sports to look like ten years from now. But I’m absolutely certain that its current state needs to be thoroughly reexamined. This is a conversation that is long overdue.