Sports and Scores
 
College Football
Scoreboard|Standings|Teams|Leaders|Polls

Union ruling comes at bad time for NCAA

(AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File)

By TIM DAHLBERG

AP Sports Writer

(AP) -- They're battling in courtrooms, and could one day meet over a bargaining table. About the only things the two sides in the debate over big-time college athletics agree on is that things are changing.

Schools bringing in hundreds of millions in television contracts. Coaches making kind of salaries that the late UCLA legend John Wooden wouldn't recognize. Athletes insisting on rights, if not outright cash.

And now a union for football players at Northwestern that would previously have been unthinkable in college sports.

A ruling that the Northwestern football team can bargain with the school as employees represented by a union may not by itself change the way amateur sports operate. But it figures to put more pressure on the NCAA and the major conferences to give something back to the players to justify the billions of dollars the players bring in - and never see.

"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," The NCAA said in a statement.

There's huge money at stake - nearly $18 billion alone just in television rights for the NCAA basketball tournament and bowl games. Already fighting a flurry of antitrust lawsuits challenging its control of college athletics, the NCAA can't afford too many more defeats.

"This is a colossal victory for student athletes coming on the heels of their recent victories," said Marc Edelman, an associate professor of law at City University of New York who specializes in sports and antitrust law. "It seems not only the tide of public sentiment but also the tide of legal rulings has finally turned in the direction of college athletes and against the NCAA."

For the NCAA, the timing of a National Labor Relations Board opinion allowing a union at Northwestern couldn't have been worse. In the middle of a tournament that earns schools close to $1 billion a year, it is being taken to task not only for not paying players, but for not ensuring their health and future welfare.

Add in revelations like Florida coach Billy Donovan's new $3.7 million-a-year contract and the $18,000 bonus that Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith got for one of the school's wrestlers winning an NCAA title, and some are frustrated with the NCAA's contention that everything it does is done for the benefit of athletes who play for the glory of their school.

"Fifty years ago the NCAA invented the term student-athlete to try and make sure this day never came," said former UCLA linebacker Ramogi Huma, the designated president of Northwestern's would-be football players' union. "Northwestern players who stood up for their rights took a giant step for justice. It's going to set a precedent for college players across the nation to do the same."

The players currently at Northwestern may have already graduated by the time the team gets a chance to bargain - if it ever does.

According to federal law, Northwestern football players have 30 days from Wednesday's decision to vote on whether to authorize the College Athletes Players Association, or CAPA, to represent them. But Northwestern is expected to appeal the landmark ruling to the National Labor Relations Board by an April 9 deadline, potentially stalling the union vote. The NCAA is also likely to continue to fight the description of college athletes as employees.

"We frequently hear from student-athletes, across all sports, that they participate to enhance their overall college experience and for the love of their sport, not to be paid," the NCAA said in a statement.

It was that love of the sport that drew outgoing Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter - as well as a scholarship worth up to about $75,000 annually. But Colter, backed by lawyers with the United Steelworkers union, began the union push after growing disenchanted with the time demands placed on him in football that forced him to drop his plans to go to medical school.

Colter also worried about the long-term health risks of football long after players have left school. Players have said they want more research into concussions and other traumatic injuries and insurance and guarantees that they will be covered for medical issues later in life. They also want money for continuing education and for schools to offer four-year scholarship deals instead of year-to-year pacts.

"If we are making sacrifices like we are, we should have these basic protections taken care of," Colter told ESPN. "With the sacrifices we make athletically, medically and with our bodies, we need to be taken care of."

One day that could mean money, over and above the $2,000 extra annual stipend that NCAA president Mark Emmert proposed but failed to get implemented over the objections of small-budget schools. There's plenty to go around, with a $10.6 billion contract for television rights to the NCAA basketball tournament and a recent $7.2 billion deal for football bowl games.

The NLRB ruling described how the life of a Northwestern football player is far more regimented than that of a typical student, down to requirements about what they can eat and whether they can live off campus or purchase a car. At times, players put 50 or 60 hours a week into football, the ruling said, qualifying them to be treated as employees of the university and eligible for a union.

By itself, the ruling could be little more than an irritant to private universities and the NCAA. But combined with the antitrust lawsuits - one filed just last week by a prominent attorney called the organization an "unlawful cartel" - they present a clear challenge to the unique way college sports operates.

The model of coaches and administrators making millions while the athletes providing the labor are paid in room and board and books is one that could be difficult to defend in court.

One of those suits, filed by former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon, is scheduled for trial June 9 in California and is being carefully watched by those on both sides of the issue. O'Bannon, who led his team to the national championship in 1995, sued after seeing his likeness in a video game licensed by the NCAA without his permission.

"It's never been about monetary gain," O'Bannon told The Associated Press earlier this week. "It's all about changing the rules and making sure the players, both present and former, are represented as well."

Updated March 27, 2014

? © 2014 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

Audio On Demand

Michael Irvin with Dale a…

Michael Irvin with Dale and Holley

The playmaker, Hall of Famer Michael Irvin checks in and helps us set the stage for Broncos and Patriots this Sunday in Foxboro.

Kyle Arrington previews Pats-Broncos 10-31-14

Kyle Arrington, filing in for Devin MCcourty, previews Pats-Broncos

Adam Schefter, ESPN: Previews Patriots-Broncos 10-31-14

Adam Schefter, ESPN Insider, joins the guys to talk Pats-Broncos, Brady-Manning and the rest of the NFL.

We Hate Dwyane Wade - Ope…

We Hate Dwyane Wade - Opening Night 10-28-14

Its time to start the season for the Celtics! We talk about the things we like about the Celtics and the things we dont like very much. Plus Sam feels like a jerk for laughing at Julius Randle.

We Hate Dwyane Wade - Ranking the Best/Worst in the NBA

Jackie MacMullan, ESPN Boston, Celtics will struggle to make the playoffs. 10-23-14

Jackie MacMullan joins MFB for the first time this season. She discusses the rejection of NBA lottery reform, Rajon Rondo, and the Celtics chances this season.

The Hot Stove Show Is Bac…

The Hot Stove Show Is Back!

Mut, Rob Bradford and Alex Speier are back and talking not only Red Sox, but MLB Hot Stove. They talk with Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, and take some phone calls about some of the Red Sox potential moves.

Ben Cherington kicks off the Hot Stove Season

Mut, Rob Bradford, and Alex Speier talk with Red Sox GM Ben Cherington. Ben addresses some questions regarding Will Middlebrooks, Rusney Castillo, as well as Yoenis Cespedes' future with the club.

Joe Castiglione wraps up the 2014 Red Sox Season with a Poem

Joe Castiglione does his annual wrap-up of the season by reading the poem by Bart Giamatti.

NESN's Jack Edwards with …

NESN's Jack Edwards with Dale and Holley

We discuss the Bruins blown 2 goal lead against the Wild at the Garden and where they go from here with the great Jack Edwards of NESN.

Andy Brickley - "In the 6 losses, the mistakes are all the same." 10-29-14

NESN's Andy Brickley joined the show following Boston's 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild. Brick talked about Patrice Bergeron's line getting beat a lot, the Bruins' lack of focus in their 6 losses, and the big blow to the defense with Torey Krug's injury.

Joe McDonald, ESPN Boston, reacts to the Chara Injury 10-24-14

Joe McDonald joins the guys to talk to about the Chara injury and how the Bruins will move forward without him.

Goodbye Nesn hello lap da…

Goodbye Nesn hello lap dance 10-31-14

Happy birthday Kirk!!!!

Headlines, Headlines, Headlines: Ebola nurse 10-31-14

The top stories of the day as recounted by Kirk Minihane.

Halloween on D&C 10-31-14

The guys got dressed up for Kirk's 40th.

Happy Birthday Kirk Minih…

Happy Birthday Kirk Minihane 10-31-13

MFB and the callers wish a very Happy 40th Birthday to Kirk Minihane

Adam Schefter, ESPN: Previews Patriots-Broncos 10-31-14

Adam Schefter, ESPN Insider, joins the guys to talk Pats-Broncos, Brady-Manning and the rest of the NFL.

Three For All- Dont Eat Poop 10-31-14

Three For All, Ebola Scare

Brady-Manning 16: Final t…

Brady-Manning 16: Final thoughts and analysis with Tom E. Curran

Dale, Steve DeOssie and Tom E Curran of CSNNE put the final touches on a week of discussion about the upcoming showdown in Foxboro vs. the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

Michael Irvin: Pats have the corners to attack the Broncos like Seattle did

The playmaker, Hall of Famer Michael Irvin checks in and helps us set the stage for Broncos and Patriots this Sunday in Foxboro.

Get well soon Bob Neumier

We send out well wishes to our friend and colleague Bob 'Neumy' Neumier

10 Years since the Red So…

10 Years since the Red Sox began their comeback and eventual World Series Championship

Mikey, Villani and Lenny are talking about the 2004 Red Sox on the anniversary of Game 4 of the ALCS with Dave Roberts steal abd Bill Mueller driving him in and what it was like to witness.

The Patriots record during the regular season and Super Bowl

Mikey, Mut and Lenny are talking about the Patriots and how they have stacked up through the years and what got them to the three championships and five Super Bowl appearances in the Brady-Belichick era.

Bill Belichick and the Patriots Draft History

Mikey and Mut take a call from someone who wants to criticize Belichick the GM and his history of drafting players and making moves in the draft.

SoccerCast - Brad Feldman…

SoccerCast - Brad Feldman/Playoffs Preview

The playoffs are here and we are ready! Brad Feldman joins the show to talk about the Revs vs the Crew. We also talk about the newest addition to the MLS.

We Hate Dwyane Wade - Opening Night 10-28-14

Its time to start the season for the Celtics! We talk about the things we like about the Celtics and the things we dont like very much. Plus Sam feels like a jerk for laughing at Julius Randle.

College Puckcast: BC’s injury scare, Jack Eichel’s hot start 10-28-14

WEEI.com’s Scott McLaughlin is joined by Joe Meloni of College Hockey News on the first episode of the College Puckcast. They talk about the wrist injury that will sideline Boston College defenseman Steve Santini until at least January, as well as the good start for Boston University and its star freshman, Jack Eichel. Other topics include fast starts for Vermont and UMass-Lowell and slow starts for Providence and Northeastern.

Goodbye Nesn hello lap da…

Halloween on D&C 10-31-14

Halloween on D&C 10-31-14

The guys got dressed up for Kirk's 40th.

More from this show

John Buccigross on the Wo…

John Buccigross on the World Series 10-30-14

John Buccigross discussed the World Series with the guys. Also, does he cry at movies?

More from this show

Mike Klis of the Denver P…

Mike Klis of the Denver Post Previews Pats-Broncos

Mike Klis discusses Brady vs. Manning, Welker and Belichick, and the rest of the Pats-Broncos story lines.

More from this show

Headlines, Headlines, Hea…

Headlines, Headlines, Headlines: Did Charlie Baker lie? 10-30-14

The top stories of the day as recounted by Kirk Minihane.

More from this show

Weei Writers