Thursday, January 30, 2014

Guard the Post: The first step in the next stage of college sports has arrived

It has been over four months since Northwestern football players wore "#APU" wristbands, joining players from Georgia and Georgia Tech. APU stands for "All Players United" and is a movement inspired by vocal current athletes and the National College Players Association President Ramogi Huma. This was the first large scale, nationwide statement on National Television by student-athletes demanding to be heard. Everyone asked, "What is next?" Well, here we are.
Today, Huma filed a petition to the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago on behalf of an undisclosed amount of Northwestern Football players.  The NCPA, academics, and other advisory groups can only do so much. The group that can truly change the current state of college athletics is the athletes. Read Kevin Rossi's post here for more on the Northwestern unionization application. This is the first step in what will without a doubt be a long fight between athletes and the NCAA, but this step was immense.

"One small step for.." Okay, moving on now.

Huma and the NCPA, an advocacy group created in 2001, are always looking for ways to publically display the current dismal state of college sport.
If I am correct, that covers the Legislative branch, the Judicial Branch, and the Media, the unofficial "4th Estate", all we need now is the Executive branch. Mr. Obama, what is your opinion?

This issue, though it will require negotiations and major decision makers changing their opinions, is going to be pushed forward by a major change in mindset about what college athletes are. What is compensation? "Participation is voluntary!" Why can't student-athletes organize and plead for their rights?

I'll take these one at a time. Compensation is defined as "something given or received as an equivalent for services, debt, loss, injury, suffering, lack, etc." College athletes perform a service, lose countless hours in the class room; it is estimated that there are over 12,500 injuries in college sports per year, 25% of which are serious; many athletes suffer for years after their time in college with brain issues as a result of concussion or other hampering injuries for which they receive no financial support after their scholarship is revoked. Also, the NCAA claims that student-athletes cannot receive compensation because they are amateurs, yet they claim that they are already receiving compensation in the form of a scholarship. Pick one, please.

Sure, NCAA, hide behind the fact that college sport is "voluntary", but keep advertising to and recruiting talent from low income areas and allow skirting of academic requirements to maintain athletic eligibility. Setting standards low is proving that academics is NOT your first priority. In fact, just today the home page of was a photo of Amanda Kessel, ice hockey star from the University of Minnesota, who is traveling to Sochi to represent Team USA in the Olympic games. Congratulations and good luck, by the way. "Putting school on hold," on the home page. Smooth. I have no issue with athletes going for their dreams, but when the NCAA is a tax exempt organization because they are an entity "committed to academics", they shouldn't be advertising one of their star athletes putting school on hold.
Yesterday, Donald Remy, the NCAA's Chief Legal Officer, was quoted as saying, "We are confident the National Labor Relations Board will find in our favor, as there is no right to organize student-athletes." Yet, interestingly enough, it was the NCAA that implemented Student-Athlete Advisory Committee's (SAAC) at the institution, conference, and national level, specifically an Association-wide SAAC created in 1989 that meets annually at the NCAA convention. Though I do ask a lot of the NCAA, I think requesting consistency amongst their actions and statements is not that much.

Kevin Murray is a Pre-Junior Sport Management Major at Drexel University, originally from Havertown, PA. He worked in the Drexel Sport Management Department as a Research Assistant focusing on the Penn State scandal, equity in collegiate sports, and Title IX.  He completed his first co-op last spring with Drexel Athletics External Relations Department, where he still works part-time. He is currently a Resident Assistant in University Crossings, a member of the Undergraduate Student Government Association, and Vice President of SMTSU.  You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kevinj_murray.

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