Senior Columnist

Finance professor: Rice or Duke may be next unionization target

If the unionization movement in college sports spreads, one expert has a roadmap for where it might head next.

“I think there are two types of institutions – places like Rice or Duke,” said Notre Dame finance professor Richard Sheehan told

Players at those schools, Sheehan said, would be less concerned about impacting their NFL draft status in the wake of former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter testifying Tuesday in favor of players' rights. Northwestern players are petitioning the National Labor Relations Board to unionize. Private schools were originally targeted by the College Athletes Players Association because of labor complications with public institutions.

“I think there are a couple of things to keep in mind to look at from athletic perspective,” Sheehan said. “Look at Northwestern from a benefit-cost perspective. Northwestern athletes by and large aren't going to have hopes of playing in the pros. Plus, they're really bright.

“At Notre Dame [they're] thinking of having of a pro career. They're less likely to make trouble because it was would hurt their draft status.”

These are generalities of course. And it should be pointed out that Colter is currently training for the draft. He is considered a late-round to free-agent prospect according to's draft ratings.

Rice and Duke are two of about a dozen private institutions in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Included among those dozen are football powers Notre Dame, USC, Miami and (lately) Stanford. Duke is tied with Tulsa for fewest draft picks (one each) among those private schools in the last five years. Rice has the third-fewest among that group with six draftees.

“Different schools have different egos,” Sheehan said. “The egos are such that at Notre Dame [unionization] is probably pretty far down on that list.”

Colter made a compelling case for his experience at Northwestern being an employee/employer relationship. At one point he compared his workload to that of Navy SEALS.

Sheehan added that he doesn't think Northwestern will prevail in its unioniziation effort. But he said previously that Colter may have viewed as a Curt Flood-type case in that his goal would be achieved long after he leaves the game. The case could last a year before it is finally resolved. Testimony by others in Chicago continues this week.

“Twenty years from now we may have a conversation and say, ‘What took so long?' “ Sheehan said.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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