Editorial: Unionizing athletics far-fetched

Feb. 20, 2014 @ 11:31 PM

Forming a union among college athletes is an idea more than past due. It is also an idea that should have absolutely no chance of becoming reality.

Greedy, whining participants believe they should be paid for their services. They say they are workers. The National Labor Relations Board opened a hearing this week to make a potentially landmark determination.

The idea of paid play is not new. Unionizing may not be either, but this is a serious attempt led by a group of Northwestern football players.

College athletics long ago boarded the train and left the true amateur platform station where it was created. We acknowledge that aspect, lament the fiscal arms races of major universities’ athletics programs and don’t see the burdensome NCAA ever gaining control.

Only universities can do that, and the biggest and mightiest with the wealth of dollars are on a track to separate from the NCAA. At a minimum, they’ll create another division within the “governing” body. If successful, the “big boys” would have one set of rules, the rest another set.

The real change would be making the rules written instead of unwritten.

Problematic to the universities is a one direction attitude. They believe only in gains. Universities seek to fully fund athletics scholarships for students and thereby do better in competition.

If scholarship money were reduced, more emphasis would return to academics. Yes, the talent level would probably go down and so would the television money.

Far-fetched? No, and far less than unionizing. The idea simply goes the alternative route and already exists.

It is called Division III, the place within the NCAA where there are no athletics scholarships. We’ve seen their games. They have competition, excitement and much more in the college experience for their athletes, alumni and fans.

Athletes wanting a union have a right to try. Truth is, they choose to accept scholarships to play major college sports knowing the rigors, knowing that some academic degrees can’t necessarily be pursued due to conflicts in time schedule, and knowing the physical risks with their sport.

College life teaches more than just the books, or offense and defense among the athletes. It teaches choices. And to the best of our knowledge, nobody has ever been forced into major college athletics.