The Northwestern athletic football program has come a long way since its establishment into the NCAA. With a history of record breaking losing streaks and mediocre seasons, the Wildcats have been through more lows than highs. It will be unclear if it will be another low or high for the players after voting whether to be represented by the College Athletic Players Association. The future is uncertain not because of the heavy scrutiny being flung at them in all directions, but because their votes were immediately impounded and the results will not be known for some time.
The university is challenging a decision made by the Regional Labor Relations Board that recognizes the student-athletes as employees and allows them to unionize. The National Labor Relations Board, which precedes the RLRB, elected to hear the universities appeal. This would make the votes from the players unofficial until the appeal is heard. If no decision is made by the NLRB later in the year, the case would then go into the court systems which would have no set time table.
The players votes were monitored by NLRB officials and were quickly confiscated and put under lock until the appeal is heard. NCAA president Mark Emmeret previously stated that the issues the Northwestern players are pushing for are those that are either already in place or in motion to be in place. One of the issues that are not being addressed is the lack of fair representation of the players in the NCAA committee’s table. An appropriate representative that have a genuine interest of the student-athletes has not been established and players would usually have to rely on the judgement of the committee with no say. Having an active member in the NCAA committee that would appropriate represent student-athletes is not currently in discussions and players currently have to rely on current members to reform the system for them.
Former quarterback and union supporter Kain Coulter has many times stated that the formation of the CAPA was no due to financial payout. There are many other issues Coulter and the CAPA would like to address before any sort of payment is discussed. Academic freedom has been ignored many times in support of a heavier practice schedule and travel. Student-athletes have had trouble juggling school their sport of choice and sufficient time for classes and studies. Education must be a priority for the school and the students as the integrity of their academic standards have been put into question recently.
While the NCAA does have insurance policies in place for athletes who get injured on the field, the CAPA would move for guaranteed coverage for all sports-related medical expenses. These would cover not only current athletes in college, but also former players who are no longer playing, but still have lingering injuries or disabilities. The ability to pursue commercial scholarships will also be on the table for the college students who are currently disallowed in doing so.
President of the proposed CAPA, Ramogi Hums, genuinely believes the college athletes’ employee status will be recognize nationwide and confirmed by the federal government. While it will be a long way for the process to meet in court, the players have set in motion what could be one of the most historic events in the history of college sports and the NCAA.
Commentary by Hector Carrion