Fletcher: NLRB ruling creates transparency

Just this past week the National Labor Relations Board made a ruling that will change the landscape of college football for years to come.

Northwestern University, a Big Ten Conference school, got a zowie of a penalty when they were told football players at the school really aren’t students but are “employees.” The ruling now entitles those employees to collective bargaining, meaning they now can form a union.

The NLRB ruled since athletic scholarships are valued, in this case, at somewhat north of $61,000 per year and these scholar athletes were working at playing football during the season 40 to 60 hours each week, they were in reality more employees than students. The law judge’s ruling now means the players are entitled to bargain wages, hours, and working conditions as a collective unit.

I think it’s great.

I never believed these huge NFL farm programs were anything but feeders for professional sports anyway. Baseball has the decency to have farm clubs – football does not. Many college and university players, upon graduation, leave directly for the National Football League or Canadian Football League.

When you pick up a program at one of the college football games, you often will see what each “field of study” the players are majoring in. Many of these majors will have obscure titles that require further investigation as to what it actually entails. I believe such listings often are shams done with a wink and a nod.

Thanks to the NLRB ruling, the pastime of tailgating before kickoff on a nice autumn Saturday afternoon is about to change. These football players who until now have been compensated with tax-free scholarships in excess of the median income of most U.S. families, now will be able to be paid outright for their services. Just think what a cracker-jack quarterback or wide receiver might be paid.

College athletic programs will become more transparent and citizens will start to amortize the cost of huge stadiums and will, for the first time, see what the programs actually cost taxpayers and alumni.

I worry whether small colleges will even be able to compete in this new era. Football might have to be dropped from these college’s athletic programs and if so, one wonders on the subsequent fallout on Title IX athletic programs.

Indeed, there could be considerable fallout impacting all collegiate sport programs, as one program is impacted by another. It could be that all athletic scholarships could be affected.

After this ruling I don’t see how the expense of college athletics can go anywhere but up.

This fact alone will mean changes to the programs. It will be most interesting to see how the invisible hand of economics will change the landscape of collegiate sports.

How about this for a cheer next year at Northwestern?

“Go Local 56 – show those guys some of your tricks!”