Last updated: March 28. 2014 2:02PM - 860 Views
By - erinsmith@civitasmedia.com - 910-862-4163



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Strike another victory for pampered athletes everywhere, thanks to a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board.


It seems that board ruled that college-level athletes are workers and have the right to unionize. It was sparked because football players at Northwestern University felt they were entitled to some type of compensation since they are responsible for bringing dollars into the school through their performance on the playing field.


Never mind the fact that many of the players receive their education free or at greatly reduced costs thanks to their athletic scholarships. Nor should we fail to mention all of the additional perks received from the school, the alumni association, the boosters club, and professional agents and scouts such as free or reduced air fare to professional work outs and training camps, automobiles to drive while in college, places to live off campus, assistance with completing class work and the list goes on.


Apparently these athletes are so coddled they feel that they deserve something more than the education they are receiving for practically nothing. As if getting a $40,000 to $100,000 per year — or more — education paid for in full by someone else isn’t enough, they now want a cut of the revenues that are being generated for the schools and athletic conferences due to the sports they choose to play.


For colleges, sports are big money. They generate revenue for the school through ticket sales and television rights, among other things. There are lucrative contracts with clothing and uniform manufacturers as well as companies that sell power bars and power drinks. Student athletics is no more about how well little Johnny or little Suzy can perform on a given day on the playing field. It is no longer about coming home with the biggest trophy. It’s about generating dollars, millions of dollars, and if your athletic program isn’t doing that, well, there is something wrong that needs to be fixed.


It used to be that college athletes were classified as amateurs and, as such, are restricted as to the types of perks they could accept — and they certainly were not eligible to be reimbursed for their playing time by the school or any of its representatives. If you don’t like that, then enter the professional draft for your sport of choice. If you are chosen for a professional team, you will be paid handsomely to play the game you claim to love.


Webster’s Dictionary defines an amateur as “a person who engages in an activity, esp a sport, as a pastime rather than professionally or for gain.” There once was a time when college athletes were happy just to be able to participate in their favorite sport at the collegiate level and profiting from it financially was never first on their mind.


The very definition of what it means to be an amateur athlete seems to be about to change forever, thanks to the NLRB..


Colleges have been known to devise elaborate schemes to keep key players eligible to play from season to season including offering courses that require one or two assignments be turned in for an entire semester, leaving the athlete plenty of free time to “train.”


The recent UNC scandal is a good case in point. After athletes from the school’s football program bragged on social media about not attending classes, having someone else completing their assignments and accepting perks from a an NFL team’s scout, the school came under investigation by the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Office.


The results of an independent investigation found that the one professor in the African-American studies program devised courses for athletes that required little to no preparation and very few if any challenging assignments. Some courses were found to have existed only on paper after a thorough review by former Gov. Jim Martin. The school escaped with little more than a slap on the wrist, the guilty professor retired, and the athletic director resigned in disgrace. No one on the academic side of things even batted an eye nor received a punishment.


Yes, college athletics means big dollars for schools. Yes, players are a key piece to the puzzle that is college athletics. The athletes knew when they agreed to play sports at a particular school what the rules required. The athletes knew they would not be paid a salary. After all, their salary is the scholarship or scholarships that pay for their education. Something that many college athletes sadly neglect.


I don’t agree with idea of player’s unions for college athletes nor having college athletes become nothing more than glorified professional athletes at a time when they need to be focused on their education.


Erin Smith is a staff writer for the Bladen Journal. She may be reached by telephone at 910-862-4163 or by email at erinsmith@civitasmedia.com.

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