Column: It’s about time college athletics got a makeover, ya feel me?

Samuel Gordon

It’s about damn time.

For decades, college athletes have been getting the short end of the stick.

While scholarships cover the cost of tuition and room and board, athletes are typically broke like the rest of college students — despite helping generate millions of dollars for their respective colleges and conferences.

That could soon change, though.

The National Labor Relations Board ruled Wednesday that players on the Northwestern football team can unionize if they see fit. It’s major step in the right direction.

Those around college sports know that these athletes work like professionals.

Now that Northwestern players can unionize, they can start collective bargaining while taking the next steps toward getting paid.

NLRB Regional Director Peter Sung Ohr wrote in his decision that Northwestern players “fall squarely within the [National Labor Relations] Act’s broad definition of ‘employee.’”

He’s right. These players are employees of these massive programs, and it’s time they’re treated like it.

Still, this thing is far from over.

Northwestern officials said in a statement released after the ruling that they plan to appeal the decision.

“Northwestern believes strongly that our student-athletes are not employees, but students,” the statement read.

“We believe that participation in athletic events is part of the overall educational experience for those students, not a separate activity,” the statement continued.

That’s easy for administrators to say when their school gets a cut of the $300 million dollars that the Big Ten Conference makes on a yearly basis.

On top of that, the NCAA has lucrative long-term television deals worth billions. In 2012, the NCAA made more than $800 million.

There will be high-ranking officials who have a problem with Ohr’s decision. It threatens the status quo — the same status quo that’s helped turn the NCAA into a juggernaut.

The NCAA’s current business model has employees essentially working for free, while it garners hundreds of millions of dollars its real employees never see.

Now, though, young people are starting to ask the right questions. They’re becoming more progressive.

This decision doesn’t yet have widespread implications, but this could be the major breakthrough that propels college athletes toward compensation.

Former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, who helped spearhead this movement, tweeted in jubilation Wednesday.

“This is a HUGE win for ALL college athletes!”

Bravo, Northwestern.


Ya feel me?