SBD/May 9, 2014/Colleges

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  • Baylor President Ken Starr Warns Of Drastic Implications If Players Allowed To Unionize

    Starr warned that unionization would lead to uncertainty and instability

    Baylor President Ken Starr on Thursday said that if the College Athletes Players Association wins the NLRB unionization case, it "could create significant discrepancies between public and private schools," as athletes "could be able to bargain over lowering academic standards or creating exemptions for student conduct policies as 'terms of employment,' creating different ranks of students," according to Ben Kamisar of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Starr, speaking in front of lawmakers, warned unionization would lead to "uncertainty and instability." Starr said that students "should have a bigger voice, but he declined to elaborate on what that could mean absent unionization" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/9). USA TODAY's Steve Berkowitz writes a Congressional hearing on Thursday "became a platform for Congressional criticism of the NCAA and Division I schools' approach to addressing athlete concerns that triggered the effort to unionize scholarship football players at Northwestern." Stanford AD Bernard Muir, who was one of five witnesses, said that if his school's athletes "were allowed to unionize, the school 'might opt not to compete at the level we are competing in.'" Muir: "If (Stanford's athletes) are deemed employees, we will opt for a different model. I just know that from our board of trustees, our president, our provost, the Stanford culture, it just wouldn't be appropriate to deem student-athletes as employees" (USA TODAY, 5/9).

    A FORMER ATHLETE'S TAKE: UConn AD Warde Manuel: "I don't see our student-athletes as employees. I never saw myself as an employee of the University of Michigan when I played football there. All the things we do outside of sports for our athletes who are students on our campus for 20 to 21 hours a day, I don't see them as employees. So if that's what allows you to create a union, I don't see unionization as necessary. If they are an employee what does that mean financially? Would their scholarship be taxed? Would their tutorial services, food costs, be taxed? I don't know all the details. I feel our student-athletes do have a voice in our department with the advisory council and the way the administration and I interact with them. If being a part of a union allows them to have a voice, they already have a voice in a lot of things we do here." Manuel said of possible implications from unionization, "It could cause departments to look at the number of programs they have and can support. In that sense, it's a math problem" (HARTFORD COURANT, 5/9).

    THE FACE OF CHANGE: CBSSPORTS.com's Dennis Dodd wrote Ed O'Bannon is the "face of the most important piece of litigation, perhaps, in NCAA history." A month from Friday, the "landmark O'Bannon v. NCAA lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial," and at stake is "only the future of the NCAA." O'Bannon is "comfortable being the face of the litigation," as if "nothing else, it gives him a platform on the state of college athletics." It "would be hard to find a more suitable front man for seismic change in the system." If O'Bannon "wasn't trying to sue the NCAA back to the Paleozoic Era, he'd be perfect for one of those going-pro-in-something-other-than-sports commercials" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/8).

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  • Big Ten Basketball Tourney's Move East Could Affect Attendance, Alienate Midwest Fans

    Moving the Big Ten men's basketball tournament to the East Coast “takes it out of the heart of its historical Midwest territory, and that comes with certain risks,” according to Anthony Schoettle of the INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. Some fans “might be OK with the conference keeping a second house on the East Coast as long as Big Ten officials don’t forget where the collegiate conference was born.” It will be “interesting to see what the move to D.C. -- and possibly other East Coast venues -- does for event attendance.” Schoettle: “I wouldn’t expect people from the East Coast now somehow connected to the Big Ten to attend the tournament." He added, "I wouldn’t expect Midwestern Big Ten fans to flock east in big numbers for the basketball tournament -- or other Big Ten sporting events. I’m not sure there’s much upside in the Big Ten’s push East for Indianapolis.” Competition to host the Big Ten’s biggest sporting events “just got a lot tougher,” and Indianapolis will “have to fight harder to stay in the rotation.” It is only a matter of time before Big Ten officials “look at East Coast venues for the Big Ten Football Championship.” Angry fans “can’t just blame” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany. Most schools are “eager to increase their exposure and gain access to East Coast money” and have “gone along with the plan with few complaints.” Most conference sponsors also “seem to be on board.” But if the plan “alienates the conference’s core fan base, dilutes its brand and/or hurts its biggest championship events, it could backfire horribly” (IBJ.com, 5/7).

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