College football seems to be moving toward paying players, whether it wants to or not. Apart from the debate at the NCAA level regarding enhanced benefits for college football players, the Northwestern program currently is facing an effort to unionize.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly addressed that specific wrinkle during a Wednesday appearance on The Dan Patrick Show.
“I haven’t given it a lot of thought, other than I’ve really followed the NCAA’s pieces of legislation that have been more towards trying to provide more for the student athlete and that seems to be what Northwestern is saying by wanting to unionize,” Kelly said. “So I think we’re in a climate where I think the NCAA is looking at some of the things Northwestern is talking about, in particular being more student-athlete oriented and student-athlete friendly so I think we’re in that culture anyway in terms of what’s happening right now, in terms of legislation that’s coming out. I think we’re in that entire mindset of looking for things to help the student athletes. I think it’s all going to come together in the right form and fashion, and we’ll see how that goes over the next year.”
So does Coach Kelly think it’s inevitable that players will get more, whether it’s a stipend or some form of payment?
“I do. I do,” Kelly said. “Whether it’s cost of attendance or some form which allows the student-athlete who cannot work and has a hard time. Now, we all know the value of a degree is incredible and what the student-athlete gets there, no one is minimizing that. But if there’s an opportunity for the student-athlete to fly home when he does get an opportunity to break and see his family or have a little money in the bank that he can go to the movies or get some food, go out to eat. I think everyone is looking to make that happen in some fashion.”
He’s right, but hard questions remain. Do all football players get the same amount, or do the stars (or at least the starters) get more? Will benefits be provided to all student-athletes, regardless of the revenue generated by each program?
Each answer will lead to more questions, with a consensus impossible as to all of the key issues. Regardless, change is coming — even if change will result in a potentially endless cycle of reform and adjustments and refinements.
And change, in whatever form, will affect the NFL.