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NCAA can afford a Union

By: Emiliano Vazquez-Parrales, Section Editor for Student Voices (

This month The Northwestern players began their testimony to the Chicago Regional National Labor Relations Board in the hopes of gaining union status for college athletes.  They want additional multi-year scholarships for players as well as medical coverage for concussions and other long-term health concerns.

Former NU quarterback Kain Colter is leading the charge for the players union arguing that players work the equivalence of full-time jobs in preparation for the football season (50-60 hour a week for training camp), as well as during the actual season (40-50 hours weekly).  The University also greatly benefits financially from its football program, often times making double the amount a season than what was expensed for the program itself, not just through ticket sales but also through promotional revenue.  Colter testifies that the University is profiting off the players hard work while the players see very little of that money.

My stance on this issue is divided because I see reasonable arguments from both sides.  I agree that the players need to unionize because the NCAA is a multi-billion dollar organization that has gotten to that point because it hasn’t had to provide players with many benefits other than scholarships.  It could be argued that scholarships are a type of payment but not all players receive the same scholarships because money is generally allocated based on player performance.  In addition, not all these players aspire to be professional athletes but still suffer long-term injuries, which the University can certainly afford to pay for considering the amount of promotional money that is made off athletic programs.  A union of players can also be seen as being more representative of the players as opposed to the universities who hold the interest of their respective institutions above that of the their players.  It’s not that they don’t care for the players at all, but it is just politics.

At the same time, one could make an argument for the universities that they are providing a top-notch education for these athletes allocating additional collegiate resources that are widely not available to other students.  In addition to scholarships, players also receive room and board, as well as meal plans, additional tutoring, promotion and additional assistance with post-college planning, not to mention access to elite training facilities.  All that is not cheap and it is special treatment for these players.

I think that the best way to resolve this is to just let the athletes unionize and give them what they want.  The NCAA has held too much control over the athletes anyway and it’s time that the athletes had a say in the allocation of monies and use of their images.  I’m not saying to actually pay them to play but the health issues and rights to their own images is a major problem within the NCAA and on top of that it isn’t like they cannot afford it.  Every time I turn on the television some major college sporting event is bringing in millions of dollars in tickets and advertising revenue, and most of that should go to ensuring the well being of these scholar-athletes.


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