Roy Exum: Northwestern Players Vote

Friday, April 25, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

The National Labor Relations Board, 0-1 this week after the United Auto Workers cancelled a hearing one hour before it was to begin in Chattanooga, has another chance for a last-minute finish today. In what will be under a more harsh light, the Northwestern University football team is expected to vote on whether to become a union Friday morning.

Yesterday afternoon there remained a chance the NLRB may opt to hear an appeal that was filed earlier this month by the university that would either postpone or nullify a February decision by Peter Sung Ohr, a regional director of the NLRB. In February Ohr shockingly ruled that Northwestern's football players on athletic scholarships are university employees, setting the stage for today’s election at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The university quickly countered, and has ever since maintained that the regional director “mischaracterized, slanted and ignored relevant facts,” mainly in the form that the university’s primary commitment is to educate student, which happens to include scholarship athletes.

The union counter-filed what in NLRB lingo is called “A Request for Review,” stating Ohr’s ruling was “meticulously and carefully reasoned,” that the university’s claims were wrong and that some accusations should be discounted due to NLRB rules. But as of Thursday afternoon, it appeared there would be a vote at the privately-owned university today and insiders are predicting the Wildcats squad will vote “no,” although no media will be allowed to watch the proceedings due to the university’s “private” ownership.

If the NLRB does make a last-minute decision to hear the appeal before today’s vote, the vote could still be taken but the results would be held until after the eventual hearing, which could take months. Such a delay would further clutter the college athletic landscape and already there is more happening than the common eye can see, this due to the billions of dollars that are now involved in NCAA sports.

The biggest reason the vote is expected to flounder is because the subject has exploded, growing much larger than approximately 75 boys between 18 and 20 years old would have ever dreamed. Every college and its fan base across the country is intently watching and many experts are predicting if the Wildcats do align with the Steelworkers union, intercollegiate athletics as we know it will never be the same.

Secondly, the team’s head coach, Pat Fitzgerald, has mounted an all-out crusade against the idea. In an email to his players, he wrote to the players, “Understand that by voting to have a union, you would be transferring your trust from those you know — me, your coaches and the administrators here — to what you don’t know — a third party who may or may not have the team’s best interests in mind.”

And then there are the now-shaken players. Trevor Siemian, a quarterback, says he has changed his mind since signing a union card in January, admitting to the New York Times he should have studied the issue more fully. "This all began with the best of intentions,” he said., while running back Vendric Mark told CNN he would vote against it. “I just hope the NCAA does understand some things do need to change," he said, "but we do not need a third party to come in between us and the coaches."

Everybody realizes that “change” within the NCAA is inevitable. Just last week an absurd rule limiting meals for athletes was struck away and a very real threat the nation’s five biggest conferences might break away and form their own athletic body is forcing the NCAA into granting more authority to the big, rich, and powerful.

Members of the five power conferences -- Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pacific 12 – are demanding more options in the way they handle scholarship athletes and “a cost of living” format could replace “tuition only” quicker than you may think.

Other changes will occur. In just over a month former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon will present a lawsuit against the NCAA that is quite serious. O'Bannon is suing on behalf of current football and men's basketball players to remove a compensation cap that prohibits them from sharing in the millions that the NCAA makes off of their likenesses. (Think Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel and the thousands of jerseys that have been sold bearing his name and number.)

Many lawyers believe O’Bannon will win. Manziel, who cut his A&M career short just this spring, has reportedly already signed a $100 million contract with sports apparel giant Nike so there is no question certain college athletes are marketable. The University of Alabama just signed a 10-year contract with Learfield Sports that will pay the Crimson Tide $160 million over the next 10 years for “multimedia rights.” Is All-American quarterback A.J. McCarron, who led the team to two national titles, a reason for that?

But then listen to Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer, who is paid $4.2 million a year to coach in the same Big Ten where Northwestern is a member: “Students should get more than what they get," Meyer told the university’s student newspaper, “The Lantern.”

"But it gets so complicated,” Urban admitted. “To say they should go out and get their own shoe contracts and things ... I start hearing that and I'm like, 'Whoa. What could that do for this great sport? And really, what would that do for college athletics as a whole?’”

It’s beginning to look like we are about to find out. And it could be sooner than you think.

royexum@aol.com



Roy Exum: Quick! Arm Our Guards

When I learned last Wednesday that Chattanooga’s leading hospital, in a ridiculous attempt to be more “family friendly,” planned to disarm its security guards. I was aghast but decided to wait for the proper “incident” to illustrate how stupid members of our “free thought society” can sometimes be. It took exactly one week. A bit after midnight on Thursday morning a gunman appeared ... (click for more)

Always Read The Fine Print - And Response (3)

So, Chief Dodd retired before 25 years of service and is angry that he's being charged a five percent fee for surviving spouse benefits, even though that change was enacted prior to his retiring? Well, welcome to the real world, Mr. Dodd. Always read the fine print. City employees were also once able to carry their health insurance with them if they retired earlier than 25 years, ... (click for more)

County Schools Have Plan To Put Security Cameras At Every School

The Hamilton County Schools have a plan to put security cameras in every school, Supt. Rick Smith told the County School Board Thursday night. He said the money would come from the $2,201,000 the schools received last year from the sale of the old Ooltewah Elementary School property. The proposal must get approval from the School Board at the December meeting, then from the ... (click for more)

Lookout Mountain, Ga., Raises Sewer Rates; Joins In Kudzu Fight

The Lookout Mountain, Ga., City Council on Thursday night approved an increase in sewer charges. The council approved ordinance 281 increasing sewer rates to $6 per 100 cubic feet of water from the previous rate of $4.77.  The new increase will be in effect in January 2015.    City Manager Brad Haven said the town will be replacing the flow meter for ... (click for more)

Notre Dame Cruises To Another Playoff Victory, 48-7

The Notre Dame football express continues to roll on down the track and it appears the Fighting Irish are just picking up a little bit more steam. Facing a 10-2 McMinn Central in the quarterfinal round of the TSSAA Class 3-A football playoffs at spacious Finley Stadium Friday night, Notre Dame did what they've been doing all year -- scoring early and often while limiting the ... (click for more)

Irish QB Darras Dazzles Chargers With Passing Show

Film sessions all week didn’t do McMinn Central much good in Friday’s TSSAA Class 3A quarterfinal playoff game against hard-charging Notre Dame. “We knew they were a good ball team from what we saw on film,” Chargers coach Josh Goodin said. “But the films didn’t do them justice. We couldn’t matchup with them.” It was obvious from the start. The third-ranked Irish ... (click for more)