By Daly Dose of Hoops Contributor Jason Schott of BrooklynFans.com - @JESchott19
There was a major ruling on Wednesday that could change college sports as we know it, and a lot of people would say for the better. A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern University football players can form a union and that would give them the right to collective bargaining.
Peter Ohr is the regional NLRB director that made the decision in a landmark 24-page ruling. According to The New York Times, Ohr "ruled that Northwestern's scholarship football players should be eligible to form a union based on a number of factors, including the time they devote to football, (as many as 50 hours some weeks), the control exerted by coaches and their scholarships, which Orr deemed a contract for compensation."
At East Regional practice day at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, that was a topic of discussion at the press conferences. Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg and UConn's Kevin Ollie basically declined to comment, but the other two coaches here, Michigan State's Tom Izzo and Virginia's Tony Bennett, had differing opinions on the matter.
Longtime Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo, who makes $3 million per season, was contemptuous of the idea, and dismissed it by saying, "I do get a little bit amazed on - I think sometimes we take rights to a whole new level. And as I said to my media, I just hope my 13-year old right now isn't negotiating his phone and his bedtime. So when I get back I'm going to have the union boss sitting there telling me what to do."
Izzo backtracked a little bit when he continued, "Maybe that's the way it's headed. I don't mean to make fun of it, because I don't know either way. I don't know enough about it. It is way too complicated for me. But I will say this: I'm for safety. I'm for student - I'm not as much for student rights as I'm for student welfare. I think there's a process in rights. And you earn that. We always want to speed the process up, as I said to my guys, there's a reason you got to be 36 to be president, you know, and that's the way I look at that.
"So I wish I could give you a good answer. If you call me at the end of the year when I read up on it, study up on it, probably spend morning, noon, and night thinking about it, I will, but that doggone Virginia team has occupied all my time, to be honest," said Izzo.
The thing that stands out in Izzo's comments is that while he attempted to plead ignorance, he said the standard line from the higher-ups in college athletics, that it's "complicated." To the general public, it is hypocrisy of the highest order that Izzo and other big-time coaches, plus the athletic directors, rake in millions from the TV contracts for football and basketball games, but they are unwilling to think of a way to compensate the players. Form a blue-ribbon panel and try something. If the original model doesn't work, it can always be changed. If the players get anything to start, it is more than they are making now.
Virginia Head Coach Tony Bennett said on the matter, "So look, the NCAA as a player it's been great to me. I know there's a lot of things going. I can remember doing a speech in front of my class as a freshman when I was a college student, explaining why I think college athletes should get a stipend to the class. I remember the class looking at me at the time like, you're crazy, what are you talking about? And I tried to explain. But it's a wonderful game. The players do a lot for the game. Hopefully there's going to be some good things coming, but as far as the specifics on that, I really truly would be the wrong guy to ask. I would need to study it a little better and give you a more sound answer to that."