College Football Insider

Vanderbilt consults lawyers on player unionization

The Northwestern player union has at least one major-conference private school preparing for the big-picture ramifications.

Vanderbilt athletics has consulted with its lawyers about the dynamics of a union, what it might mean for the school and how to best serve students, AD David Williams told

In other words, time to prepare in case more schools are targeted.

“We're in very close contact with (lawyers) to help us understand what all this means and what we should or shouldn't be doing,” Williams said. “First thing we did.”

The College Athletes Players Association, led by Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, won a petition to the National Labor Relations Board to become employees of the school instead of student-athletes. The school is appealing the ruling, which makes collective bargaining before the 2014 unlikely.

Private schools are considered easier targets, at least through the NLRB, which rules on private employers. Public universities are governed by state law.

But Williams said he'd feel equally concerned about unionization if he ran a public athletic department.

“If privates are going to have to deal with this, the publics will also,” he said. “It's hard to fathom only privates schools would be part of it.”

The difficulty with the complex issue of unionization in college football is one question creates four more, Williams said.

He's not sure which schools will be targeted by CAPA. Duke or Rice could be candidates, according to colleague Dennis Dodd.

“If you have employees, the concept is to try to make sure you are treating them fine,” Williams said. “Our position is trying to prepare ourselves for whatever the landscape is, most importantly to hope we're doing a positive and the right thing as it relates to our student-athletes -- whether employees or not."

Jeremy Fowler is a national college football insider with Fowler joined CBS in 2012 after covering the Minnesota Vikings for the St. Paul Pioneer Press for two seasons and covering the Florida Gators for the Orlando Sentinel for two years. Fowler is also a contributor to the CBS Sports Network.
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