SBD/February 20, 2014/Colleges

CAPA Attorneys Making Strides In Unionization Effort, But Challenges Remain

If the College Athletes Players Association hearing at the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday "were a football game, it could be said that CAPA tied it up on Wednesday after trailing big heading into the day," according to Seth Gruen of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Attorneys for Northwestern Univ. and CAPA "quibbled Wednesday, at times, each objecting by the sentence." It was "all in attempt to fit what is a broad issue in the very narrow scope of labor law." CAPA attorneys "adeptly were able to prove that while Northwestern abides by the governing bylaws of the NCAA, the university has elected to be part of that institution." Gruen: "Unfortunately for CAPA, that may not matter." If NU "withdrew from the NCAA, the university wouldn’t have to adhere to its regulations" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/20). In Chicago, Alejandra Cancino notes the NU attorneys "questioned the credentials" of Southern Utah Univ. economics professor David Berri, who was "the second witness called to testify" by CAPA. Berri said that NU "'exploits' some of its football players because their economic value is greater than their 'wages,' defined as the scholarships and room and board stipends offered by the university." He noted that between '01-12, NU's football revenue totaled $235M and its expenses totaled $159M. NU in the afternoon "called its first witness to the stand: an expert in compliance with NCAA rules." NU Associate AD/Compliance Brian Baptiste said that the football roster "has about 112 students, most of whom are on athletic scholarships that are worth about $60,000 a year, including room and board" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/20). Berri said that even if NU’s football team "formed a union, it would be unable to negotiate changes in existing NCAA rules that restrict student-athlete’s pay, merchandise sales or ability to create trust funds to cover long-term injuries" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/20).

NEXT UP?'s Dennis Dodd noted if the "unionization movement in college sports spreads, one expert has a roadmap for where it might head next." Notre Dame finance professor Richard Sheehan said, "I think there are two types of institutions -- places like Rice or Duke." He said that players at those schools "would be less concerned about impacting their NFL draft status." Rice and Duke are "two of about a dozen private institutions" in FBS (, 2/19).
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