N'western union would not bargain for 'things prohibited by NCAA'

A union representing Northwestern would not collectively bargain “for things that are prohibited by NCAA rules” according to a brief filed Monday to the National Labor Relations Board.

College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) argues in that post-hearing brief that players should be considered employees for cases of establishing a union. That assertion was played out publicly during NLRB hearings regarding Northwestern in late January and early February in Chicago. The latest information is contained the brief obtained by CBSSports.com. The board is expected to rule on CAPA’s request within 30 days.

In the 63-page document, CAPA cites numerous past court examples that support its case. It uses the January testimony of Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter to reiterate how college football at the school is a full-time job.

Northwestern’s counter argument was that the players were students first and that the school does not fit the definition of an employer.

The state fact that bargaining wouldn’t conflict with current NCAA rules seems to quell some fears – for now -- that the players could one day bargain for compensation. The so-called “pay for play” model is a non-starter with NCAA types as well as a majority of ADs and presidents throughout the country.

Instead, CAPA says it could negotiate for additional medical coverage and an enhanced Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund. Players were turned into employees long ago, according to Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association (NCPA) that helped organize CAPA.

“Players are asserting their rights under labor law,” Huma told CBSSports.com in late January.

As governance restructuring takes shape, the NCAA seems to be on track to paying players some sort of amount above the cost of a scholarship. It is also involved in several high profile lawsuits where compensation is being south. In the Ed O’Bannon suit, plaintiffs are seeking access to schools’ television revenue. Also in that suit the plaintiffs are seeking rights to their likenesses that could conceivably sold for a fee to a media company.

The CAPA case seems to be more about players’ union rights rather than a big payday at the end of the rainbow.

“ … this case is not about how much money Northwestern makes from football, or whether Northwestern is a good employer, or whether the compensation provided to the Players is fair,” the brief states. “Nor is it about the quality of the education that the Players receive at Northwestern.

Indeed, the Players view Northwestern as a good employer. They appreciate that they receive an excellent education and they take pride in the academic success they achieve while performing what amounts to a full-time job for Northwestern’s football program.

But an employee is an employee, whether his compensation is generous or parsimonious, whether he has excellent or tenuous job security, and whether his employer is enlightened or unreasonable. If the employee provides services for and at the direction of the employer and is compensated for doing so, the employee is an employee …”

The brief states that the full cost of attendance annually for a Northwestern football player is approximately $63,000. The brief also says that Northwestern players living off campus each receive an annual $14,000 stipend from which charges for training table meals is deducted.

That would figure out to be more than $1,000 per month. But as you can see her in the case laid out by former Alabama All-American Barrett Jones, sometimes that money doesn’t go far.  

CAPA asserts that Northwestern is “supervised by a professional coaching staff,” and that collective bargaining would not interfere with the school’s academic decision-making.  

Colter testified how players are accountable to the program for the majority of the year. The brief says a typical day in training camps lasts from 8 am to 10 pm.

CAPA also suggests that walk-ons could be included in the union “if the [NLRB] finds that to be appropriate.”

The brief attempts to shoot down arguments from Northwestern that unionization would negatively impact non-revenue sports and NCAA football as a whole.

It also states that players could collectively bargain for four-year scholarships. A Northwestern compliance official’s testimony is quoted stated the specifics of how a scholarship could be revoked (academics, quitting the team, conduct, etc.)

Officials have told CBSSports.com that a final resolution on CAPA’s case could take a year. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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