CNN has published a round-up of reactions ahead of tomorrow’s vote of Northwestern football players.  What’s telling is how little negative reaction is about the players, and how much it is about retaining power and revenue. Almost everyone agrees that athletes could be better served.  And yet, in opponents arguments against unionization, they suggest that there must be some other avenue for reform.  What mechanism do they provide for helping the players? The answer, my friend, is tumbleweeds in the wind. [Reactions below the fold] None of those who oppose unionization have proposed a realistic way for athletes’ grievances to be addressed. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald doesn’t have any suggestions:

“I just hope the NCAA does understand some things do need to change,” Mark told reporters after a spring practice on April 19, “but we do not need a third party to come in between us and the coaches.”

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s reaction is not much better:

“Students should get more than what they get,” Meyer told the Ohio State student newspaper, The Lantern. “But it gets so complicated. … [T]o say they should go out and get their own shoe contracts and things … I start hearing that and I’m like, ‘Whoa. What could that do for this great sport? And really, what would that do for college athletics as a whole?”

For one, Coach Meyer, it might cut into your relationship with shoe companies.  And then how would you live on the mere $4.4 million you get from Ohio State every year? The official NCAA response is similar:

NCAA President Mark Emmert: “To be perfectly frank, the notion of using a union employee model to address the challenges that do exist in intercollegiate athletics is something that strikes most people as a grossly inappropriate solution to the problems,” Emmert said. “It would blow up everything about the collegiate model of athletics.”

Yes, the NCAA has no vested interest in defending its cash flow, like its $10.1 billion men’s basketball TV contract. My favorite is that of Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, according to CNN:

On his Facebook page, Alexander called the NLRB decision supporting the athletes’ right to unionize “absurd.” … “Imagine a university’s basketball players striking before a Sweet 16 game demanding shorter practices, bigger dorm rooms, better food and no classes before 11 a.m.” The senator said the decision “will destroy intercollegiate athletics as we know it.”

What’s striking, but not really surprising, about Alexander and Meyer and Emmert’s positions is the complete disregard for the athletes themselves.  They’re not worried about athletes’ lives or working conditions, only about whether  the networks and universities and coaches get their revenue. At least this episode has brought out in greater relief where people really stand.

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