Over the last couple weeks there's been much ado about Northwester's football team being allowed to unionize. I have heard arguments from many people who, for whatever reason, are bitter about the football team making strides to protect themselves. It's interesting, because certainly the Washington Post's Sally Jenkins has been around sports long enough to understand what the players go through year in and year out and what's in their control and what's not, yet she took the view that Northwestern's players were not being smart and didn't know what they got themselves into.
See, this isn't really about pay. Despite what so many people say, it's really not. It IS, though, about the NCAA's convoluted rules and an organization trying desperately to make itself relevant in an environment where they lack any real power. Let's be real, the conferences rule the world of college sports. Especially in basketball and football. But besides that fact, there are some things being said by media and others who I thought would be smart enough to do their homework.
First of all, the players are asking for a stipend to cover basic costs not covered by their scholarships. We're talking $2,000-$4,000 dollars here. Why? Because the NCAA caps dollar amounts of what can be provided via a "full scholarship" and even though it may be "full," it may really not be full. In addition, there are a lot of kids who go to school far from home. They might not have money to buy plane tickets home, or have money for their parents to come to a game. The NCAA does not allow anyone to buy tickets or transportation costs for the player or the family. So, that couple thousand dollars comes in handy. Not just for that, but what about basic necessities - toothpaste, clothing, etc. If you look at the BIG10, for example, they made $86 million dollars as a conference last year. I am pretty sure they can spare $4,000 per scholarship player.
Secondly, there are many who said they are dumb because that scholarships will now be taxed. Well, actually, no, it won't. The IRS says scholarships that pay for tuition towards a degree are not taxable. And what's really interesting is that room and board already IS TAXABLE. I know, my child just got a full ride and that was the first thing I looked up. So, again, last time I checked, the IRS as instructed by Congress and the President set tax policy....not the NCAA. That's a scare tactic. One that the NCAA pushed, is my guess. I am sure the lawyers working with the college players association are well aware of tax law and policy.
Third, if you played college sports, you understand the time commitment involved. There is no offseason! Everyone gives high-fives and cheers for their teams, but they don't really understand that time commitment. This isn't complaining, it's just a fact. When I look at my son's schedule for his freshman year, I know I couldn't do it. But it's good for him. Being on a tight time schedule leaves less time for nonsense in my opinion. These kids have no times for work-study or part-time jobs and that's the whole point. Football is their work-study and part-time job. Yes, they are blessed to get scholarships and not have to pay for college, but it's not like they haven't worked hard to get there. DI, DII and even DIII athletes all put in time and energy to get where they are.
And last, this movement by the players goes beyond scholarships and pay and whether or not they are employees who make their universities a lot of money. It's about their rights. Healthcare, concussion treatment, transfer rules (because coaches can leave anytime they like, but the kids can't) and being punished by sanctions they have nothing to do with. The bottom line is that the players deserve a voice. The movement started by the Northwestern players helps them gain a voice. Whether or not they unionize is another story. Hopefully the NCAA hears what they have to say and changes some of the way they do business.
And for those of you who have followed my son the last four years, he will be playing at the next level for former Ohio State defensive coordinator, Coach Withers at James Madison University in Virginia. It's great program and growing quickly. We couldn't be more proud!! Looking forward to writing more about college football along with the Steelers this fall!