Another day, another key college sports figure whose ox will be gored by unionization predictably speaks out against it.
Via Dana O’Neil of ESPN.com, NCAA president Mark Emmert blasted on Sunday the efforts of Northwestern football players to form a union.
“To be perfectly frank, the notion of using a union employee model to address the challenges that do exist in intercollegiate athletics is something that strikes most people as a grossly inappropriate solution to the problems,” Emmert said Sunday. “It would blow up everything about the collegiate model of athletics.”
(And, of course, blowing up “everything about the collegiate model of athletics” would impact the NFL. Which is why we mention this dynamic from time to time.)
So how does Emmert know that “most people” view unionized employees as “grossly inappropriate”? Has he conducted polling? Has he gone door to door?
It’s a predictable, obvious response by a guy who likes things the way they are and doesn’t want them to change. Especially if the changes could be sweeping and, ultimately, incredibly expensive for programs making incredible amounts of money.
The good news is that Emmert realizes change of some sort is coming to college sports.
“There’s some things that need to get fixed,” Emmert said. “They’re working very aggressively to do that.”
With the potential for one school after another to face union votes if/when the very preliminary determination that college football players are “employees” survives inevitable layers of legal challenges, changes will be necessary to keep unions out. Some think the presence of a union at Northwestern automatically will mean the presence of unions at every other college football program. It’s a program-by-program effort; and for many (maybe most, maybe all) public universities, unionization may never be an option.
Regardless, the changes made by the NCAA to make unionization less appealing at private universities would benefit players at public universities. And if the NCAA ultimately gives players the protections and benefits they’d be seeking via unionization, the mission will be accomplished without the actual need for unionization to happen.
That’s really the bottom line here. Players currently have no real rights and benefits beyond the far-from-retail cost of an education, so they are treated accordingly. If the NCAA gives the players real rights and benefits, they’ll have no need to unionize. Which will make the effort to unionize an overwhelming success.