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Unionization & Paying Players: Strong says “Look at Both Sides”

By NATE GRIFFIN, Sportsradio 610
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Photo courtesy Nate Griffin/SportsRadio 610

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HOUSTON (CBS-Houston) – The much anticipated vote on whether or not Northwestern will be the catalyst which helps to change college athletics forever happens on Friday. CAPA, also known as the College Athletes Players Association won their case with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in March allowing them the right to form a union.

Northwestern football players, led by former Northwestern quarterback, Kain Colter, won their fight which allowed them to be viewed and treated as employees rather than student-athletes.

Northwestern issued a statement voicing their disappointment in the ruling by the National Labor Relations Board and will appeal. But, in the meantime, or at least for one more day, Northwestern football players have the right to form a union.

Thing is, Northwestern head football coach Pat Fitzgerald recently met with members of the current team and suggested to them, as has been reported previously and stated by Dave Eanet, the Voice of Northwestern Football, “the union is not the way to go.”

Also according to published reports, current quarterback Trevor Siemian and running back Venric Mark support Fitzgerald and have publicly said they will not vote favorably.

Regardless, while Friday could be a landmark day for college athletes nationally, the initiative to organize the union has already begun reform of NCAA mandated rules that have been in place for decades.

But, this leads to a more complex question and that’s the issue of remuneration, or more simply put, paying players.

TO PAY OR NOT TO PAY

The subject of paying collegiate players is in its infancy. However, it’s a controversial subject that gets people heated from the mere thought that a young person who gets to attend college, get an education, free meals, free room, and board, should want to get paid for their talents.

Some, looking from the outside, might see a college athlete’s life as somewhat glamorous until they fully understand the backgrounds of some of the athletes, the many sacrifices it took to get there, the amount of practices involved, the time needed to develop young athletes into collegiate players, the many hours of study hall, and nights when many of the young people might not have gotten enough to eat.

However, college athletes not getting enough to eat is no longer an issue as the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved a proposal in early April to expand the meal allowance for all athletes. The proposal would allow Division I schools to provide unlimited meals and snacks to all athletes, including walk-ons. The NCAA board of directors is set to approve the proposal on April 24th.

Now! What will be the NCAA’s decision on paying players? We all know that it’s coming. Yet, after asking Texas Head Football Coach Charlie Strong about the matter on Wednesday during the Touchdown Club of Houston luncheon, his response was a bit tempered.

“They have a scholarship right now and we can always say we can give them more,” says Strong. “College football generates a lot of revenue. But, when you talk about just paying players now, you got to look at both sides because you got to look at the females and the male.”

Female sports include basketball, tennis, lacrosse, track and field, cross country, swimming and diving, rowing, softball, and soccer to name a few.

“Now, with the females, they work, they practice, they have their sports that they’re involved with also,” said Strong. “So, now we’re talking about, you got to pay both sides. Some universities survive by paying their athletes and giving them more than what they already get.”

Some get just enough, but there are some who don’t. In today’s generation of Millennials, the needs are so much greater than they were 10, 15, 20, or 30 years ago. But, there’s also the little issue of water seeking its level regarding the highest revenue generating sport.

“You think about it,” said Strong. “You get a scholarship check – a lot of them get the Pell(Grant) – a lot of them get a special needs fund. But, you can always give them more, but how much more? I don’t know how much more we can give them. But, you have to look at both sides of it also because when you talk about that question, we only look at the football side of it. But, there are other athletes involved also.”

Strong is correct and that is why this is going to be an ongoing conversation for quite some time until it is resolved – it’s just a question of when.

Follow me for the latest on twitter @coloranalyst.

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