“Student-athletes” or “Employees”: the Potential Unionization of Division I College Football.

College football players are currently regarded by the NCAA as “student-athletes” and at most Division I programs, they are given stipends and scholarships for their participation; however, the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) would prefer for the football players to be regarded as “employees.” In a recent NLRB Chicago Regional Board hearing, CAPA argued that Division I college football players participate in a full-time, high revenue generating activity ($235 million for Northwestern between 2003-2012), without such things as health care or potential payment. However, Northwestern argues that the football players are students who choose to participate in intercollegiate athletics in addition to their educational endeavors and nothing more. The NLRB Chief’s decision to find college football players “employees” could lead to the potential overhaul of the NCAA, as current rules such as a ban on compensation for student athletes and current transfer rules, would be viewed as unfair. The NLRB Chicago Region decision has created much fanfare and Northwestern has vowed to appeal to the National Labor Relations Board in Washington.

Northwestern University, N.L.R.B. No. 13-RC-121359 (2014); Alejandra Cancino, Northwestern, CAPA file closing arguments with NLRB, Chicagotribune.com (March 19, 2014), http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-northwestern-football-filings-0319-biz-20140319,0,2341913.story; see Dennis Dodd, N’Western union would not bargain for ‘things prohibited by NCAA’, Cbssports.com (March 18, 2014, 4:04 P.M.), http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/writer/dennis-dodd/24490495/northwestern-union-would-not-bargain-for-things-prohibited-by-ncaa; see Alejandra Cancino, Northwestern football union hearings continue, Chicagotribune.com (February 19, 2014), http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-02-19/business/chi-northwestern-football-union-hearings-20140219_1_football-revenue-ncaa-rules-friday; see also Michael Bird, How the college football union could end the NCAA’s dumbest rule, sbnation.com (March 5, 2014, 9:00 A.M.), http://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2014/3/5/5472210/college-football-union-ncaa-transfers-rule.

(Development authored by John Leddy)