Northwestern Players Union

This week at the Hub we are taking a diversion from the normal topics related to NCAA Division III college soccer and we will discuss the latest developments in the case of the Northwestern University football team and their desire to form a union.

This situation started back in January with the original news conference by Northwestern player Kain Coulter calling for a players union.  (See College Football Players Call For A Union.)  The latest development was that the National Labor Relations Board ruled the Northwestern University football players can unionize and are employees of the university.  (See Labor Board: Northwestern University Football Players Can Unionize.)

The basic argument by the players is that they work for the University between 20-50 hours per week on football related activities and literally generate millions of dollars for the University.  The student-athletes are also getting paid in the form of athletic scholarships.  Of course the NCAA was “disappointed” by the NLRB ruling and disagreed with the thought that these student-athletes were employees of the University and is sure to file an appeal on the ruling.

However, consider the facts for the “big money” sports of basketball and football at the NCAA Division I level.  The NCAA has a 14 year $11 billion television contract for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball tourney.  That is $785 million per year just for basketball.

And yet there is more.  NCAA television revenue by conference is as follows:

  • ACC- $240 million per year
  • Big East- $40 million per year
  • Big Ten- $236 million per year
  • Big Twelve- $200 million per year

NCAA Division I Men’s basketball and football are big money sports!  They are huge money sports.  This kind of money is turning college coaches, commissioners and others into millionaires while according to Coulter  “We need to eliminate unjust NCAA rules that create physical, academic, and financial hardships for college athletes across the nation”.

The disparities are readily apparent.  If you watch the Men’s Basketball tourney, you’ll see coaches in Armani suits on the sidelines who are signed to million dollar contracts.  The NCAA can sell player jerseys, use them in promotions, and advertise the hell out of them all of this without any of this money going to the players.

The NCAA claims that they have the “student-athletes” best interest at heart, but with graduation rates being low, students having to change majors so they can continue playing sports and students not prepared for life after college sports, how can this be justified? How can the NCAA justify playing basketball games on a Thursday afternoon halfway across the country? Teams will have to take a travel day on Wednesday to miss class, miss class on game day (Thursday) and then Friday as well for either travel or preparing for the next game. Of course they have their own tutors, but it is just another expense in the escalating costs.

Way back when before these sports were such big money sports, it may have been justifiable for the NCAA to say that getting an athletic scholarship is compensation enough, but those days are long gone. The scale of money that the NCAA is generating at the expense of these players is outrageous and needs to be changed. Hopefully, the actions of the Northwestern University football team will be a first step in this direction.

The bottom line is this—These players are “athlete-students”. Meaning they are athletes first and students second. They need to be treated as semi-professional athletes and educated accordingly. The rules under which they are currently participating are arcane and need to be drastically updated.

Questions? Comments? Drop us a line at As always, thanks for reading!

Don’t forget our new book on building your soccer resume is available at the D3 Recruiting Hub Store—just click on the link to your right!


About d3recruitinghub

Soccer coach, trainer, business analyst, & project manager.
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