NCPANow.org http://www.ncpanow.org/rss NCPANow.org News Feed Wed, 21 May 2014 09:00:00 +0000 AMPS en hourly 1 NCAA agrees to historic $209M settlement over scholarship shortages http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/ncaa-agrees-to-historic-209m-settlement-over-scholarship-shortages Sat, 04 Feb 2017 09:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/ncaa-agrees-to-historic-209m-settlement-over-scholarship-shortages The NCAA and 11 major athletic conferences announced Friday night that they have agreed to pay $208.7 million to settle a federal class-action lawsuit filed by former college athletes who claimed the value of their scholarships was illegally capped.

The settlement still must be approved by a judge and it does not close the antitrust case. The NCAA said in a statement the association and conferences "will continue to vigorously oppose the remaining portion of the lawsuit seeking pay for play."

The settlement will be fully funded by NCAA reserves, the association said. No school or conference will be required to contribute.

The average settlement payout is estimated to be nearly $6,800, USA Today reported, citing documents filed Friday night in U.S. District Court in Oakland, California. 
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

 

The original antitrust lawsuit was filed in 2014 by former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston. The case was later combined with other lawsuits and covers Division I men's and women's basketball players and FBS football players who competed from 2009 to 2010 through 2016 to 2017 and did not receive a cost-of-attendance stipend.

In January 2015, the five wealthiest college conferences -- the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference -- passed NCAA legislation that allowed schools to increase the value of an athletic scholarship by several thousand dollars to the federally determined actual cost of attending a college or university.

Cost of attendance includes expenses beyond tuition, room and board, books and fees.

Each member of the class will receive approximately $6,000, said Steve Berman, lead attorney in the case.

"This is a historic settlement for student-athletes and there is more to come as the second part of the case seeks injunctive relief that will force the NCAA to pay student-athletes a fair share," Berman told AP in a text message Friday night.

The NCAA said in its statement that the agreement maintains cost of attendance as "an appropriate dividing line between collegiate and professional sports." The statement also said the NCAA and conferences "only settled this case because the terms are consistent with Division I financial aid rules."

Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association, said the settlement lays the groundwork for a full challenge to the NCAA's capping of player compensation at the cost-of-attendance value of a scholarship.

Huma is an unpaid adviser to plaintiffs in the lawsuit and, working with antitrust lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, recruited the lead plaintiff, Clemson football player Martin Jenkins, in a separate lawsuit that argues for the lifting of the NCAA's current restrictions on what universities can offer players.

"This [is] another clear indication that college athletes cannot be denied equal protection under the law," Huma told ESPN. "It gives momentum to the Jenkins' case which can be a real game-changer financially for current and future college athletes."

The NCAA and college sports have been facing numerous legal challenges simultaneously in recent years.

Last year, a judge approved a $75 million class-action concussion case against the NCAA.

Also in 2016, the Supreme Court declined to hear the NCAA's appeal of the Ed O'Bannon case, leaving in place lower court rulings that found amateurism rules for big-time college sports violated federal antitrust law but prohibited payments to student-athletes.

In 2014, a U.S. district judge decided the NCAA's use of names, images and likenesses of college athletes without compensation violated antitrust law. Judge Claudia Wilken ruled schools could -- but were not required to -- pay football and men's basketball players up to $5,000 per year. The money would go into a trust and be available to the athletes after leaving college. Wilken also ruled schools could increase the value of the athletic scholarship to meet the federal cost of attendance figure for each institution.

In 2015, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Wilken's ruling on the payments of $5,000 but upheld the antitrust violation.

The NCAA and Division I football conferences are also currently facing dozens of new lawsuits by former players seeking damages for the mishandling of concussions.

ESPN's Tom Farrey and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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NLRB counsel: Football players at private FBS schools are employees http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/nlrb-counsel-football-players-at-private-fbs-schools-are-employees Thu, 02 Feb 2017 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/nlrb-counsel-football-players-at-private-fbs-schools-are-employees Football players at private universities who compete at the NCAA's highest level are employees and entitled to protection from unfair labor practices, the National Labor Relations Board's general counsel stated this week.

Richard Griffin, the NLRB's general counsel, sent a memo Tuesday to the board's regional directors stating that Football Bowl Subdivision football players are employees under the National Labor Relations Act because "they perform services for their college and the NCAA, subject to their control, in return for compensation." While this opinion does not carry the weight of the full board, it could open the door for future labor complaints on behalf of football players at the 17 FBS private universities.

"I think it's significant and an invitation to players that if they want to file unfair labor practices to protect their rights, the NLRB regional offices will accept the charges," said John Adam, the attorney in a Northwestern football case that raised this issue. "It's not the end of it, obviously. Ultimately, the board will decide if a charge is filed and the courts get a chance to review it."

According to Griffin, the memo was sent to clarify the unanswered question about whether Northwestern football players are employees. In 2015, the NLRB's five-member board ruled that Northwestern players could not try to unionize because doing so would create chaos for public and private universities. The NLRB only governs private employers and their employees, and has no power over public universities. 

But the NLRB punted on the question about whether the Northwestern players are employees who have the right to be protected from retaliation.

"Scholarship football players should be protected [by the NLRA] when they act concertedly to speak out about aspects of their terms and conditions of employment," Griffin wrote. "This includes, for example, any actions to: advocate for greater protections against concussive head trauma and unsafe practice methods, reform NCAA rules so that football players can share in the profit derived from their talents, or self-organize, regardless of whether the Board ultimately certifies the bargaining unit."

The NCAA pushed back on the relevance of the general counsel's memo, which was first reported by Inside Higher Education.

"The general counsel's memo and personal opinion do not reflect a binding position of the NLRB," NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in a statement. "As we have stated before and he was obligated to acknowledge, the NLRB previously decided that it would not exercise jurisdiction regarding the employment context of student-athletes and their schools. The general counsel's memo does not change that decision and does not allow student-athletes to unionize. Students who participate in college athletics are students, not employees.

"Recently, a United States Court of Appeals confirmed that fact. Any distinction by sport or division misunderstands the student-athlete experience. We, along with our member schools, will continue to provide the best support possible for all college athletes."

Federal courts have shied away from identifying NCAA athletes as employees. In January, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed an Indiana federal court's dismissal of a case by University of Pennsylvania track and field athletes, who claimed they were entitled to compensation as employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The majority opinion concluded that college athletes have no more right to ask whether they might be employees than inmates who are in prisons

Griffin acknowledged his memo can't and shouldn't resolve "divisive" questions about whether football players should be treated differently than "equally committed" athletes in non-revenue sports. Griffin said he wants the NLRB's prosecutorial position known so private universities comply with their obligations. Without a full investigation of future complaints, "we cannot conclusively determine the employee status of other kinds of student athletes in cases that may arise in the future," Griffin wrote.

Last year, in response to a complaint from a California labor lawyer that Northwestern was guilty of unfair labor practices, the NLRB issued an advice memo for Northwestern over some of its policies. The NLRB dismissed the charges after Northwestern changed rules for players related to social media, media interviews and discussing health and safety issues

In this week's memo, Griffin concluded that a scholarship for football players equates to compensation for playing. "The players' compensation is clearly tied to their status and performance as football players, since they risk the loss of their scholarships if they quit the team or are removed because they violate their school's or the NCAA's rules," he wrote.

Griffin cited a 2016 NCAA study showing football players report a median of 42 hours per week on football-related activities during the season, more than any other sport. The five major NCAA conferences passed legislation last month they say will lighten the time demands for athletes. Griffin identified several ways he believes schools control scholarship football players that resemble an employment relationship:

  • Daily itineraries that regulate players' hourly tasks.
  • Players need to retain certain grades while football activities interfere with classes.
  • Coaches can penalize players, "including firing them from the football team resulting in the loss of their scholarships."
  • Football players are required to seek permission before living off campus, applying for outside employment, driving personal vehicles, traveling off campus and posting items on the internet.

What the opinion can't say is the makeup of the general counsel and board members for the NLRB moving forward. The four-year term of Griffin, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, expires in November.

Three of the five sitting board members are from the Democratic majority. They have staggered five-year terms and President Donald Trump will eventually appoint the majority of the board.

"If it's a school or team rule, you might not need testimony from players," Adam said. "But that's obviously the easiest way to do it."

College Athletes Players Association director Ramogi Huma, who helped organize the Northwestern union attempt, said the memo shows athletes have rights they can assert.

"They can reach out to us. There's options at this point," Huma said. "One hurdle is that most players have no idea whether or not their school is violating labor law. But it doesn't hurt to ask. It doesn't hurt to reach out and see if they're being treated fairly under the labor law."

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Analysis: Oregon football workouts sent players to hospital. Who will stand up for them? http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/analysis-oregon-football-workouts-sent-players-to-hospital-who-will-stand-up-for-them Tue, 17 Jan 2017 17:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/analysis-oregon-football-workouts-sent-players-to-hospital-who-will-stand-up-for-them As three Oregon football players remained hospitalized Tuesday morning, a disquieting thought struck Ramogi Huma, the president of the National College Players Association. “Had they received a few bucks for signing an autograph,” Huma said, “the NCAA would have launched an investigation.” But the physical endangerment of three players, a direct result of following orders from coaches, would result in no action from college sports’ governing body – no investigation, no rebuke, no infractions penalty. 

The three players – Doug Brenner, Sam Poutasi and Cam McCormick – checked into PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend in Springfield, Ore. late last week, as the Oregonian first reported Monday. They arrived after an arduous, offseason team workout left them with symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a condition that causes muscles to break down and the resultant fluid to leak into the bloodstream. By Tuesday morning, the players had been upgraded from fair to good condition while being monitored for possible kidney damage.

The ordeal underscored the vulnerability college athletes face in an unbalanced power dynamic. The stakes extend beyond the typical debates. As Northwestern football players pursued the option to unionize in 2014 and 2015, the majority of headlines focused on the third-rail topic of whether such action would lead to student-athletes being defined as employees and receiving compensation beyond scholarships.

The people at the fore of the movement had other priorities, starting with the jarring lack of recourse for players subject to medical mistreatment from coaches or schools. The NCAA either cannot or does not force schools to abide by its medical guidelines, which cover everything from lightning safety to immunizations. No organization exists to pressure schools regarding potential medical neglect.

“That was my primary motivation when trying to help launch that movement,” Huma said.

Annually, the NCAA publishes a Sports Medicine Handbook. The 2014-15 version ran 140 pages long. In the section entitled “Preseason Preparation,” the NCAA instructs schools that conditioning should be “phased in gradually” during “transitional periods,” such as January when players are returning from winter break.

The Oregonian reported that the players went to the hospital after performing an hour of “military-style” up-downs and push-ups. The NCAA has rules pertaining to practice time, but none regarding its own set of best medical practices.

“The current structure does not enforce health and safety mandates,” Huma said. “The NCAA has plenty of guidelines, but they don’t enforce any of them.”

What happens when a school puts players at risk through unduly harsh practice methods? Iowa recently closed such a case. In 2011, 13 Iowa players were hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis after they endured an intense regimen of squats during a team workout, then returned the following day for another intense session, this time for upper-body muscles, despite players’ complaints of dark-colored urine, a sign of rhabdomyolysis.

Iowa investigated the workout and determined there had been no wrongdoing. The school recommended – but did not require – the football program halt the workout, which it did. Three months after the controversy, Iowa’s strength coach, Chris Doyle, received an award for most valuable assistant coach from Coach Kirk Ferentz.

In 2014, cornerback William Lowe, one of the 13 affected players, filed suit against the school, alleging Iowa had subjected him to unnecessary bodily harm and had failed to properly monitor the workouts. Lowe, who never returned to the team, said in the suit he experienced subsequent weight loss, headaches, high blood pressure and continued lower back pain.

Earlier this month, nearly six years after the workouts, Iowa settled with Lowe for $15,000. None of the other 12 players sued, and none have received payments from the school.

If college athletes could organize, they might have a stronger tool to prevent harm. Huma pointed to the NFL’s concussion protocol. Teams now bear responsibility for pulling potentially concussed players from games. In a new rule instituted this year, the NFL can investigate cases and fine teams for violations.

“That didn’t happen because the NFL woke up one day and decided to do it,” Huma said. “That happened because the NFL Players Association fought for it. The players need a voice that has the players’ best interest as a priority, not as an afterthought.”

The players’ best recourse for assistance now comes from courts, which Huma said poses challenges. He is currently opposing a settlement proposed by a U.S. district judge in Chicago in the class-action concussion lawsuit against the NCAA brought by former Eastern Illinois player Adrian Arrington. The settlement, Huma said, would pay “zero dollars” to former players affected by brain injuries, instead giving players medical monitoring that may be covered by their health insurance.

“The courts don’t want to do anything that forces the NCAA to change what it’s been doing for decades now,” Huma said. “The settlement is a sham, and the court is about to bless it.”

The issue most often debated regarding the welfare of college athletes is whether schools exploit their work. But players have little to no power in solving issues well beyond compensation. Three Oregon football players who remained in the hospital Tuesday could attest.

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NLRB counsel: Northwestern had 'unlawful' limits on players, who are 'employees' http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/nlrb-counsel-northwestern-had-unlawful-limits-on-players-who-are-employees Tue, 11 Oct 2016 09:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/nlrb-counsel-northwestern-had-unlawful-limits-on-players-who-are-employees
  
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The NLRB considers Northwestern football players to be employees. USATSI

In a memo offering advice, the National Labor Relations Board's general counsel concluded some Northwestern University football team rules were "unlawful" and described the players as employees. Northwestern changed the rules in question so the language allows players to more freely post on social media, discuss health issues, and speak with the media.

The decision, which was first reported by ESPN.com, will be analyzed extensively about what it could mean for the 17 private universities in the Football Bowl Subdivision. There could be future challenges over player restrictions imposed by private universities. The NLRB only governs private employers and their employees, and has no power over public universities.

The most relevant part of the Sept. 22, 2016 memo, from NLRB associate general counsel Barry J. Kearney was this footnote: "We assume, for purposes of this memorandum, that Northwestern's scholarship football players are statutory employees."

"The general counsel specifically putting in writing that they would treat Northwestern players as employees is historic." said College Athletes Players Association director Ramogi Huma, who helped organize the unsuccessful attempt by Northwestern football players to form a union. "This is not a small thing."

In August 2015, the NLRB's five-member national board ruled that Northwestern players could not attempt to unionize. The decision ended the case, though the board punted on the question about whether Northwestern players are employees. Instead, the NLRB concluded that it wouldn't assert jurisdiction because doing so would create chaos for public and private universities abiding by different NCAA rules since private-school players would be able to collectively bargain.

Also in August 2015, a labor lawyer named David Rosenfeld alleged Northwestern was guilty of "unfair labor practices" over how it treated football players. The NLRB issued its "advice memorandum" last month in response to Rosenfeld's charge. The NLRB dismissed the charges against Northwestern and the NCAA once Northwestern changed some of its policies.

For instance, Northwestern's team handbook used to say that social media posts by football players may be "regularly monitored" by athletic department and university officials and campus police. Now it says publicly posted information on social media "can be seen by any person with a smart phone or internet access, including individuals within Northwestern University." The university also removed a line stating concern about protecting its image due to social media posts by players.

Said Huma: "The other thing that's important, as we've said from the beginning, is college athletes deserve equal rights under the law to protect themselves. We saw it play out in this incident. Northwestern changed its rules based on the labor rights of its athletes."

Northwestern vice president for university relations Alan Cubbage said the school disputes the NLRB general counsel's "assumption" that football players are employees. Cubbage said Northwestern is committed to ensuring the health and safety of athletes.

"We agree with the NLRB Advice Memorandum's statement that it would not effectuate the policies and purposes of the (National Labor Relations Act) to issue a complaint in this case and that the charges should be dismissed," Cubbage said in a statement.

The question moving forward is what precedent, if any, this decision may have on private universities. Lawyers will inevitably dissect this opinion and consider other challenges to the NLRB related to college sports.

"Technically, it's not the same as when the board rules a decision, but the general counsel can get the ball rolling by the complaints that are made - sort of like a prosecutor," said John Adam, who was the attorney for CAPA in the original Northwestern case. "In our case, the board declined to exercise jurisdiction to organize and collectively bargain. But that doesn't mean they're not employees. I think the only way to interpret this advice memorandum is a building block toward securing legal rights for players, at least in the private sector."

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Apparel deal is big for UCLA, but not for athletes http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/apparel-deal-is-big-for-ucla-but-not-for-athletes Tue, 24 May 2016 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/apparel-deal-is-big-for-ucla-but-not-for-athletes For nearly all UCLA football players, facing Oregon State is a new thing

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How March Madness Athletes Help Fund 'Country Club' Sports http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/how-march-madness-athletes-help-fund-country-club-sports Sat, 02 Apr 2016 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/how-march-madness-athletes-help-fund-country-club-sports Lucrative players contribute much more than just to the bottom line.

The financial contributions of star NCAA basketball players to universities are well-documented. According to a recent report from the National College Players Association, the fair market value of a Louisville basketball player in the 2011-2012 season was more than $1.6 million. Syracuse, Duke, and UNC players were all worth nearly $1 million each.

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College Athletes Rights in the 21st Century http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/college-athletes-rights-in-the-21st-century Thu, 24 Mar 2016 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/college-athletes-rights-in-the-21st-century Civil rights have been defined as “the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality.” During the past 20 years, there has been a growing awareness that the practices that are used by the college sport industry to regulate players in the sports of football and basketball (the economic drivers of the industry) often deny them basic civil rights and liberties, impede their ability to access a meaningful education, subject them to harsh treatment and unsafe workplaces, violate anti-trust law, and artificially suppress their value. This conference is designed to bring scholars, journalists, practitioners, and athletes together for the purpose of envisioning a new model of college sport for the 21st century that places the health, well-being, and welfare of college athletes at the center and provides a democratic avenue for athletes to share in the decision making that shapes the rules governing their lives.

WATCH the College Athletes Rights in the 21st Century panel with Taylor Branch (Pulitzer Prize winning author), Kain Colter (LA Rams, CAPA), Billy Hawkins (University of Georgia), Ramogi Huma (NCPA & CAPA), and Ed O'Bannon  (lead plaintiff in O'Bannon v. NCAA) moderated by ESPN's Kevin Blackistone.


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Is the NCAA failing its college athletes? http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/is-the-ncaa-failing-its-college-athletes Mon, 21 Mar 2016 09:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/is-the-ncaa-failing-its-college-athletes  

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Editor’s Note: Should student athletes be paid?

That’s the question economics correspondent Paul Solman tackled in Making Sen$e’s latest report. The NCAA makes billions of dollars in television deals alone, but college players don’t see a penny of it. Sure, many receive student scholarships, but is that enough?

Paul spoke to Ramogi Huma, the founder of the National College Players Association, which advocates for college athletes across the nation. A former Division I football player himself, Ramogi believes the NCAA needs to offer more protections to college athletes.

Paul Solman: How did you get started in this?

Ramogi Huma: During my first year playing football at UCLA, one of my teammates, an all-American linebacker, was suspended. He was talking about how tough it was to get by. He was on a radio show and said, “I don’t even have groceries. I don’t know what I’m going to do, because my scholarship check hasn’t come in.” Groceries appeared on his doorstep, and his roommate took them in. He ended up inadvertently eating the groceries, and when the NCAA found out, they suspended him. I was a true freshman on campus, and I was also struggling trying to get by — you know, food was tough. I found out that he was suspended, and I see his jersey being sold in the student store, and I thought, this doesn’t make any sense.

Going into my summer workouts, we were told this was voluntary. And we wanted to go, but during that first meeting our NCAA compliance office stood up and said, “Look, if you get injured during these workouts, you’re on your own. Under NCAA rules, UCLA cannot pay for your medical expenses.” So at that point, I decided to talk to some of my teammates. My perspective was that college athletes have more power than this. Why aren’t we channeling this power? Why aren’t we getting together with players from other schools and forcing some change in this area?

Paul Solman: But you didn’t do anything about it then, did you?

Ramogi Huma: Well, within a year I had started a student group on campus. The idea was to get some other players together, to start exposing some of this and to get some changes made. I started that when I was a sophomore, and for a while, I didn’t know what I was doing. Eventually, you reach out to any union you’ve ever heard of. The steel workers responded and heard us out. So that’s why they’ve been supportive ever since. 

Paul Solman: Were you blackballed?

Ramogi Huma: No, I wasn’t blackballed. I had already secured the support of my teammates and had a meeting with our coach. Once he realized we didn’t have any problems with UCLA, our coach Bob Tulido sort of confided that he didn’t agree with some of the things the NCAA did either. He wasn’t going out in front of it, but he wasn’t trying to stop us either. 

Paul Solman: What’s the exploitation you see in the system?

Here’s a professional sports industry in America in football and basketball — a multi-billion dollar industry — where the players don’t have the leverage to try to pursue their protections they need.

Ramogi Huma: Well, we have a system right now in NCAA sports, where there is about $1 billion of revenue coming in every year from recent TV deals. And yet, in NCAA sports, you have players who can be stuck with sports-related medical expenses, injured players who can lose their scholarships, graduation rates hover around 50 percent among the sports who are generating this money, and the NCAA is refusing to adopt the same concussion reforms that the NFL has adopted. So many of these issues are serious issues, and the NCAA is doing nothing, and it’s failing its players. 

Paul Solman: Is the NCAA that unusual as an organization?

Ramogi Huma:
 I think college sports is its own beast in general. But I think what’s unusual is that in this powerful industry, there is no counterforce. The players aren’t organized. If you look at the other professional sports industries in America, those players have a voice, they have their unions. But here’s a professional sports industry in America in football and basketball — a multi-billion dollar industry — where the players don’t have the leverage to try to pursue the protections they need. 

Paul Solman: Well, it’s not professional, it’s amateur.

Ramogi Huma: Well, multibillion dollar TV revenues, multimillion dollar coaches, sponsors’ logos on players’ bodies doesn’t sound like amateur to me. That’s professional, and that’s OK. In America, we celebrate professionalism. But what’s not OK is for all this money to be made and for players to be without protections. 

Paul Solman: How much would players get as employees?

Ramogi Huma: I think people revert to the “play for pay” talk. And the fact is college athletes are already paid. They are paid in the form of scholarships; they provide work, and it’s conditional. But the NCAA restricts players’ value and compensation. What do I mean by compensation? It can mean medical expenses, or it can mean an education trust fund for players who don’t graduate on time, so they can take an extra semester or two when they’re done playing to actually complete their degrees. Compensation can come in many forms.

Paul Solman: What happens to the guys who don’t finish college? 

Ramogi Huma: They put it all on the line with the promise of an education, they give 40 to 50 hours a week to their sport, and they don’t have any support when they don’t finish on time. Those guys are still subject to the same concussion risks, and who knows what’s in their future? These are guys going through life without a degree, without the added bump in terms of salary and things like that. They forgo the most valuable part of their time, not voluntarily, but because the NCAA said so, and the NCAA had the power to strip them of their value while they were in college.

Paul Solman: What do you mean the NCAA has the power to strip them of their value?

Ramogi Huma: Well, the NCAA says you can’t receive endorsement money. If you can’t receive extra money for degree completion from your school, then the NCAA has the power to prevent players from receiving support. And in turn, a lot of players won’t graduate, and they’ll go through life potentially with broken bodies.

Paul Solman: What has happened to your teammates on average?

Ramogi Huma: It’s hard to know. If the NCAA has that information, they don’t make it available. A lot of people are asking, “What about the guys who are out? Did they get their degree? If so, where are they working?” 

A lot of them are pushed into these jock majors, these easy majors. Do these jock majors actually turn into robust paying jobs? Are the jobs below the average salary for a college graduate because of what they majored in? What kind of medical expenses have they faced? And for the people who don’t graduate, where are they?

Paul Solman: But isn’t college a broadening experience for anybody who goes there — particularly kids from less advantaged backgrounds?

Ramogi Huma: I think it definitely can be. I think it’s an avenue to open up potential opportunities that some of these players otherwise wouldn’t have. There’s a lot of potential in it. Our goal is not to blow up the NCAA, it’s to reform it — to keep the good, but to get rid of the bad as much as possible. So I don’t think it’s an either/or equation. We’re trying to get it to a level that is acceptable for players.

Paul Solman: But in order to run their athletic programs, don’t these universities need a lot of revenue?

Ramogi Huma: Actually, that’s one of the biggest myths out there. If you look at Division II where there is no big football and basketball money, the programs actually cost money. They’re operating at net losses, but yet you have almost 300 schools in Division II that have full rosters and players on scholarships. They play schedules, they have championships, and they don’t need big football and basketball revenue. So to pretend that Division I somehow wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for football and basketball revenues is a myth. NCAA Division II and Division III sports are proof, hard core evidence, that you don’t need big football and basketball revenue to sustain intercollegiate sports.

Paul Solman: Are kids from modest or poor backgrounds better off for having gone to college even if they don’t graduate and don’t have their medical expenses covered? 

Ramogi Huma: I think it’s hard to say. If you’re that player who incurs a significant injury that’s going to cripple you for a long time and don’t have the support from your school to pay for those expenses; if you’re a player who gets abused by your coach and are forced to play on serious injuries; or if you’re a player and the coach is hitting his players, punching them and kicking them — like at Rutgers with Coach Mike Rice — it’s hard to say. 

Alternatively, might those players have made progress in a vocational type of an arrangement? Or might they have gone to community college or found a way to get to college without sports? I think it’s tough to know definitively. But the narrative now is that magically you get to go to college, and magically it’ll all be good even if you don’t graduate. I don’t buy into that at all. 

Paul Solman: But a guy like Kevin Ware, the Louisville basketball player who suffered a famously grotesque leg injury during a game, wouldn’t be covered by the school for that injury?

To pretend that Division I somehow wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for football and basketball revenues is a myth. NCAA Division II and Division III sports are proof, hard core evidence, that you don’t need big football and basketball revenue to sustain intercollegiate sports.

Ramogi Huma: There is no rule requiring the school or the NCAA to pay for an injury like that. Even though his injury happened in the NCAA tournament, even though it was on television and even though he was on the richest basketball team in the nation, there is no requirement that the school or the NCAA pay one penny toward those medical expenses. It’s all optional.

Paul Solman: But they did wind up paying.

Ramogi Huma: When questioned about it, Louisville said that they would pay for his medical expenses, but when questioned whether they’d pay if he needed surgery in a few years down the road, their answer was, “No comment.”

Paul Solman: And what happens to the families of young men who have died playing football? Have they been compensated?

Ramogi Huma: The NCAA has a death benefit of $25,000, and each case is different. It has to be a qualifying event. I believe that those events would qualify with the exception of Owen Thomas from Penn who committed suicide and was later found to have CTE. And obviously that’s a big buzzword.

Paul Solman: What is CTE?

Ramogi Huma: CTE is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. It’s the brain disease that has been found in former NFL players and college players who have committed suicide at a young age. It’s a brain disease similar to Alzheimer’s that affects players’ impulse control and anger and can cause depression and a lot of different cognitive problems.

I’ve spoken with some of these families, and they want justice. They want to protect today’s players. They want to see mandatory “return to play” protocols. They want to see a reduction in contact in practices. They want to make sure that they do all they can to prevent this from happening to other players unnecessarily.  

Paul Solman: But you’re not advocating that student athletes get their full share of the revenues that come in from the sports they play?

Ramogi Huma: No, we’re not. We’re not advocating for professional salaries and things like that, but we’re saying that, “Look, some of that value should be given in the form of basic protections, like medical expenses and degree completion.” 

The alternative we already know. It’s going to go to the coaches’ salaries, the athletic directors’ salaries, bloated administrative overhead, facilities, luxury boxes and stadiums. And there’s a critical need for players, but there’s not a critical need for those folks. They’re already taken care of, and that’s fine, but there’s an opportunity with this new money, the new $1 billion per year, for some of that to go towards the issues players face.

Paul Solman: Do you think it will?

Ramogi Huma: I’m optimistic. If I didn’t think it would, I wouldn’t be sitting here fighting for it. But it’s going to be fight. Don’t make a mistake about that, it’s going to be a big fight.

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Louisville's Postseason Ban Turns College Athletes Into Collateral Damage http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/louisvilles-postseason-ban-turns-college-athletes-into-collateral-damage Thu, 11 Feb 2016 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/louisvilles-postseason-ban-turns-college-athletes-into-collateral-damage Less than a year ago, I sat in a gym in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, as Brewster Academy hosted New Hampton in the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) basketball semifinals. I've known the coaches at both schools for most of my life, so I try to catch a few games every year and keep tabs on the emerging talent. 

Of the many future Division I college players in the game, one young man in particular stood out: Donovan Mitchell, an athletic guard who could slash, shoot the ball, and lockdown on defense. He was a thrill to watch and, based on everything I heard, unanimously regarded as a great kid.

Brewster won the game, and went on to win both the NEPSAC championship and the prep school national championship—a storybook finish to Mitchell's impressive prep career. One of the great things about the New England prep hoops scene is getting to see high-level players like future NBAers Mitch McGary and Nerlens Noel play in small gyms one year, then dominate the grand stage of the NCAA tournament the next.

It was glaringly obvious that Mitchell could be one of those guys at his future school, the University of Louisville.

Of course, Mitchell won't be having any impact in this year's March Madness—not after last Friday, when Louisville announced it was self-imposing a postseason ban on the men's basketball team, effective immediately. The decision to sit out both the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) tournament and the NCAA tournament comes during an ongoing investigation into alleged NCAA rule violations committed by the school's basketball program between 2010 and 2014. It effectively pulls the plug on the team's impressive 18-4 start.

This is total bullshit.

Photo by Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

It's not bullshit because of the allegations themselves, nor because Louisville has one of the best teams in the country. No, it's bullshit because it's a crude and wholly unfair form of punishment that basically misses the mark, affecting all of the school's current basketball players, regardless of whether they had anything to do with the supposed violations or not.

Oh, and it's not just Mitchell and his teammates getting a raw deal. It's all of college basketball.

Over the past year, several basketball programs spanning different levels of competition have self-imposed postseason bans due to investigations into NCAA rule violations: Syracuse University, Southern Methodist University, the University of the Pacific, the University of Hawaii, Cal State Northridge, and Missouri. If you're a college basketball player or planning to become one, here's what that means: no matter where you play, you could just as easily be blindsided and pay the price for something that happened in your program years before your arrival on campus.

Can you imagine? It's like getting a fine in the mail because the guy who owned your used car before you was pulled over for speeding.

For a better sense of how absurd this is, consider Kaleb Joseph. A fellow New Hampshire native, he's currently a sophomore guard at Syracuse. Last February, the school self-imposed a postseason ban just weeks before the start of the ACC tournament. The punishment came on the heels of an eight-year NCAA investigation into violations that occurred from 2004-07 and 2010-12.

Joseph was born in 1995. What sense does it make having him pay the price for transgressions that he had nothing to do with, some of which occurred while he was in elementary school?

Kaleb Joseph was on the Pokemon side of puberty when some of Syracuse's NCAA rules violations took place. Photo by Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Look, I get that schools need to take responsibility when rule-breaking occurs within their basketball programs—or at least look like they're doing so. Somebody has to get punished. Thing is, postseason bans turn justice upside-down. They disproportionately hurt the wrong people.

When you're a player, like I once was, college basketball is all about March. The dream of hearing your team's name called on Selection Sunday makes all of the track workouts, strength training, film sessions, and endless practice that much easier to stomach. A breakout performance in the NCAA tournament can springboard any player into the national spotlight and be a nice resume booster for the NBA Draft or that first gig playing pro ball overseas. Taking postseason play away from a team is effectively stealing an entire year of eligibility away from its players. The season no longer really matters. One of their four years, gone, just like that.

As for the coaches? The well-paid buck-stoppers who are, you know, supposed to be ultimately accountable for what happens on their watch? Sure, a postseason ban sucks, but Jim Boeheim has been the head coach at Syracuse since 1976. That's 40 years of running the Orange. Rick Pitino landed his first head-coaching job in 1978. A one-year NCAA tournament hiatus isn't quite as big of a deal to these guys as it is to their players.

Here's the good news: a number of well-meaning college basketball commentators and observers have called out universities for self-imposed postseason bans. Most of these people feel the NCAA shouldn't allow same-season bans, and that schools such as Louisville should only be permitted to punish themselves with bans that take place the following season—better for a team's seniors to finish out their careers, and for other players to transfer schools if they desire to do so.

This sounds nice. Thoughtful, even. But imagine you're a player like Mitchell or Joseph. Having to transfer, or even think about transferring, is still an unreasonable burden. You didn't do anything wrong, and now you have to start all over in a program and at a school that wasn't your first choice?

When coaches, players, or university administrators run afoul of NCAA rules, it's perfectly fair to punish them individually. It's completely unfair to punish players who had nothing to do with the problem, causing a lot of unnecessary damage along the way. Hell, even Pitino acknowledges this. So why have postseason bans at all? They're absurd. Want to punish a player who was directly involved with the violations? Go for it. Want to punish a school? Great. Fine the athletic department or the coach. Put the money toward something worthwhile. Maybe create a general fund that schools can tap into for something positive, like guaranteeing medical coverage for their players. Heck, if the violations are blatant and severe enough, maybe even fire the coach.

But leave players who aren't involved alone.

By allowing innocent players to be punished for past rule-breaking, the NCAA and its member schools have set a dangerous and terrible precedent. Maybe that shouldn't be surprising. After all, this is the same multibillion-dollar industry that claims in federal antitrust court that its primary purpose is education, all while punishing amateurism violations by stripping athletic programs of scholarships, each one a lost opportunity for a potential college athlete to pursue a degree.

Something needs to change. It's up to players and their families to stand up for themselves—to fight back against a lopsided power structure. Without a legitimate players association, they don't even have a say in what the rules are or how they're enforced. That should change, too.

I don't want to see any more stories like Mitchell's, with undeserving players being stripped of the biggest moments of their college basketball careers. I hope I'm not alone. Because if the status quo holds, something being done on a campus today is going to blindside a future college player currently sweating through a middle school practice or starring in a New England prep tournament. Another unassuming athlete who never saw it coming.

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WHAT I PAID TO BE A DIVISION I ATHLETE http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/what-i-paid-to-be-a-division-i-athlete Wed, 27 Jan 2016 03:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/what-i-paid-to-be-a-division-i-athlete

I didn't know it at the time, but I could have done something. I didn't. But, in hindsight, I could have.

When I was an active college basketball player, it took me a while to figure out that something was off. After all, I was lucky enough to have an athletic scholarship at a prestigious university, I thought. Plus, my older brother Matt and sister Becky also received athletic scholarships at prestigious universities for hoops. A blessing, right?

After all, all universities are prestigious. And that should be enough for any athlete, especially the ones who otherwise wouldn't have a chance in hell at setting foot on campus. We take this as good fortune, and we wield. So, when the NCAA didn't believe that one person could eat as much as my brother did at an Outback Steakhouse during one of his official visits—one of the five expenses-paid visits high school seniors are permitted under NCAA rules—my parents didn't contest the claim. They paid the school back for the meal. Who were we to challenge the system that was about to bless my brother with the privilege of playing basketball on national television in front of sold-out arenas?

And, when an NCAA compliance officer threatened my brother could be suspended for part of the season, my family didn't dare dispute it. We were scared, suddenly panicked about Matt's promising future being ruined by a misunderstanding.

As the valedictorian of his high school class, my brother had the audacity to accept a scholarship from a local community organization, a scholarship dedicated every year to the school's valedictorian. Matt used the money to help pay for summer courses prior to starting the fall semester of his freshman year; that is, he used the scholarship he earned in the way in which it was intended to be used. As it happens, the NCAA has since adjusted their policy on this, and allows this first summer session to be covered by athletic scholarships; it is now commonplace for recruits to start courses a few days after their high school graduation. This was not yet the rule, though, and so according to compliance my brother benefitted from his status as a college basketball player. This is totally unacceptable for anyone to do, except for the NCAA and its sponsors.

Disputing the claim didn't even enter our minds. My parents feared Matt could be vilified if it wasn't taken care of immediately. We imagined a press conference at which he would have to publicly apologize to his teammates, the coaches, the university, and the fans for letting them down. Who knows how the whole affair could have affected his draft stock? So, my dad picked up extra refereeing gigs in addition to his day job as a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service; my mom, an elementary school teacher, signed up to teach summer school. They paid it back, and kept all frustrations about the absurdity of the situation within the family.

The absurdity of it was plain to us all even then, but there wasn't much to do about it. Anyway, again: we were all privileged to be in such a situation. And it's not a smart move to cross the NCAA, especially when you have two younger children gearing up to enter into that same system.

It's safe to say that my skepticism of the NCAA started long before I signed a National Letter of Intent to play Big East basketball. But, like pretty much every other college player, I swore I'd make it to the NBA. I was a skilled seven-footer who stayed out of trouble. If I could secure enough playing time to average close to 10 points and more than 5 rebounds per game, I figured I'd at least get a look. Surely, I'd have a shot at being the 15th man on the worst team in the NBA. Or at least help a top-level team overseas. That would still be a damn good payday, and money I'd earn by playing basketball instead of grinding it out in a cubicle or factory.

If any of this were to happen, though, I knew what I'd have to do, or more specifically not do. I couldn't risk challenging the status quo and inviting the label of being a troublemaker. A little rationalization smoothed this out nicely: I mean, I signed up for this at my own free will. Squint enough, dream hard enough, and it suddenly seemed only right that my parents' insurance covered the root canal and crown I needed after getting my front tooth knocked out during a war rebounding drill in practice.

Likewise it wasn't the school's fault that the seven-foot, 270-pound ogre on the other team dove into my legs during a nationally televised game my senior year. So, why should the school be required to pay for my MRIs when my parents had insurance and still claimed me as a dependent? Sure, I always assumed the school was required to cover all medical expenses for athletic-related injuries, but I guess it was my own fault for never asking about that during the recruiting process. And yeah, being out of network with an HMO family insurance policy made things tricky and expensive at times—the coaching staff decides which doctors you see, and these happened to be out of network for me—but at least my parents had insurance in the first place, unlike some of my teammates.

And if I spoke out, how would it reflect on coach? Surely people would spin it into something about my coach's treatment of his players, even though it was not that simple. When the NBA goes through a collective bargaining process, player demands never reflect upon the coaches. They stick to the basic economic realities of the situation. I was coming to know a very different set of economic realities, and very well. Certainly, I knew them well enough to know not to talk about them.

If I did, coach could well bury me at the end of the bench for being selfish. If he did, could I really blame him? After all, I'd be responsible for bringing all of this negative attention to our program. This distraction could topple the delicate habitat of our locker room and affect our team's performance on the court.

And, if we didn't perform, coach might never have been able to leave after my junior year to accept that nearly $3 million-per-year contract to coach at a different university. Oh, and he secured access to a private jet, a nearly $10 million buyout on his new contract, the whole nine. Good for him. He earned it. I probably would have done the same if I were in his position.

Anyway, I'm glad he's doing well, and it was exciting to spend my last year of college eligibility getting to know a new coaching staff.

And what were we earning for all of our hard work? My teammates and I were putting in 40-plus hours a week towards basketball-related activities on top of our academic schedules. But, that's what was needed to be able to do our jobs on the court; it helped teach us time management skills.

And, waking up at 5:00 a.m. to run sprints until total exhaustion and/or vomiting was teaching me a valuable lesson about the real world. Like our coaches said, we didn't have it that bad. They were always helping us keep perspective, reminding us that we could have been digging a ditch somewhere or dodging bullets in Iraq. So in the scheme of things, between the sprints, weight lifting, individual instruction, practice, film sessions, treatment, study hall and class, we had it made. Sure, it all drove me to hate the game I loved my whole life. Sure, laying in bed at night feeling unrelenting aches and pain, I fantasized about quitting the team or at least sleeping through the next day's beating. But, that was never an option. Couldn't risk anyone thinking I was soft.

Anyway, what could I have done about it? I was just a role player on a mediocre college team; my scholarship was contingent on me doing my job on the basketball court. Which also meant working through holidays, submitting to regular drug testing, sacrificing the right to my own name/image/likeness, participating in mandatory marketing initiatives. I could rationalize this, too: subjecting myself to restrictions on self expression came with the territory, and if some of these rules were draconian and weird—restrictions on what you're allowed to post on social media, not being allowed to grow your hair past your eyes unless you make the dean's list, a prohibition of wearing du-rags in public—then I could live with them. I didn't wear du-rags anyway.

And what about the rest of the university administration and alumni network? Would it really have been worth burning those bridges by being so unappreciative for all they have done for me, and all they could do to take care of me when my playing days were long done? Sure, it sucked when my car got towed from the gym all those times our 6 a.m. practices ran longer than expected, and it sucked that the bus didn't run that early in the morning, and there were no permits available to students for the lot by the gym. But I got it. If I was allowed to park there just because I played basketball, that would have been an impermissible extra benefit, and presumably a gateway to a whole mess of things. It was tough to scrape up the money to get my car out of the pound, but on the other hand I didn't have to pay for books.

Photo by Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

And it could always be worse. I know guys in much higher profile programs than mine used food stamps during winter break when the dining halls shut down. I wasn't subjected to anything like that at either of my schools.

I'm just lucky that NCAA rules required me to redshirt during my transfer year. Without that rule, I never would have been able to finish off a master's degree at one of the top Sport Management programs in the country; I also never would have been exposed to courses on college athletics and sports labor law. I probably never would have taken a deeper dive into the system in the first place.

I learned a lot, but even then I still reasoned that there was nothing I could do about it. I was just a college kid, and even if what college athletes—disorganized, pampered, selfish—would be asking for was pretty basic, we'd be taking on the NCAA and its lobbyists, lawyers, consultants and PR team. No chance. The NCAA rakes in billions every year off its Cinderella stories. Ours could be the greatest of all time, but I knew enough to know that Cinderella stories were more of an on-the-court thing.

***

It's none of my business, now. I could pen the most persuasive essay in the history of the written word, or represent college athletes at Congressional hearings in Washington, D.C. where political advisors are brought to tears. It won't change a goddamn thing, because my time has passed.

Yes, the NCAA has reluctantly made some improvements recently, almost all of them the result of a series of lawsuits and as a reaction to the Northwestern football team stepping up in an attempt to unionize. In general, throughout the association's history, intense legal pressure has proven the only legitimate way to get the NCAA to move an inch. That's why the actions of the Northwestern football players were so impressive, they found the courage to take a stand for college athletes everywhere.

So I'm older, and it's not my business, only I'll say this anyway: it's about time college athletes understood how much power they actually have. I'm not one of you, not anymore, but I encourage you to stand up for yourselves. You are the key individuals driving this multibillion-dollar industry, its labor and its product. You deserve a say, a real say, in the policies that stand to affect your lives the most. You deserve to have your best interests represented. You deserve rights, legal standing and representation, just like athletes in every other major sports league in our country. Just like every other citizen in our country, come to think of it.

Change can happen the moment you decide that change must happen. So, do something while you still can.

Why wouldn't you?

Oh, yeah. Probably for the same reasons I never did.

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Power Five passes on tackling big NCAA issues to help athletes http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/power-five-passes-on-tackling-big-ncaa-issues-to-help-athletes Fri, 15 Jan 2016 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/power-five-passes-on-tackling-big-ncaa-issues-to-help-athletes The Power Five conferences slapped themselves on the back in January 2015 for passing cost of attendance. Given the pressing litigation facing the NCAA and its major conferences related to the issue, there was a collective cry of "hallelujah" that extra stipends to players finally got passed.

Cost of attendance was deemed a historic moment to show that big and meaningful things could actually get done by the NCAA. It was considered the first major step on "modernizing the collegiate model." It was supposed to set the tone for the future as the real work began to tackle other big issues.

Instead, NCAA autonomy in Year 2 looked a lot like the old NCAA governance structure and Congress. You know the drill: Table proposals that don't have enough votes to pass and create resolutions promising you'll get to them next year.

In changing how the NCAA governs, the Power Five demanded more flexibility to create legislation for pressing issues. It's funny how things don't seem quite as pressing after the U.S. Ninth Circuit's mostly favorable Ed O'Bannon ruling for the NCAA, or the National Labor Relations Board's decision that Northwestern football players can't try to form a union. It almost feels like the schools hold back some of their cards until they really need to play them.

What major issue did the Power Five address this year with comprehensive reform? They kicked the can down the road on multiple big topics:

  • Find ways to reduce athletic time demands for players, some of whom say they're putting 40 hours a week into their sport.
  • Allow athletes to profit off their own name, image and likeness, even if it's for non-athletic ventures.
  • Require schools to cover medical bills for sports-related injuries while an athlete is in school and for a period after college. 
  • Create enforcement rules and penalties for schools that violate their own concussion protocol.

There is no doubt some of these issues are complex. But with just a few notable exceptions, the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 showed no urgency in the past year to dig into these issues and collectively find solutions.

"I feel like this should be done already," Oklahoma football player Ty Darlington said about no resolution on time demand proposals, according to the NCAA. "This is frustrating for us. What are we doing today that's significant? When I leave here today, what have I done to significantly impact the student-athlete experience? Nothing."

Relatively speaking, there was nothing. Tabling seemingly sensible proposals -- such as one true day off per week and creating certain hours when coaches can't make players practice -- became the convenient thing to do at the NCAA convention.

"The norm is there's always something on the table but rarely it gets off the table," said Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association. "The five major conferences are supposedly united, but I wonder how much unity there really is. They say these are complicated matters. Not for the most part. A lot of these are pretty straight forward. They don't want to put in the money or the effort. It's refreshing to see players like Ty Darlington stand up and say this isn't enough."

Darlington called for more focus on the name, image and likeness debate. "For a lot of us, the peak of my popularity is probably in college," Darlington said, according to USA Today Sports.

The Pac-12 proposal that would have let athletes make money off their own name for non-athletic business ventures -- you know, like any other college student could do -- got tabled. The NCAA put out a statement that said it will continue to grant appropriate waivers consistent with the Pac-12 proposal and that athletes should have similar opportunities as their campus peers for entrepreneurial aspirations.

Translation: No one wants to get into the weeds of actually passing a rule so they'll let the NCAA handle these questions on a case-by-case basis. The logical follow-up question: If the NCAA plans to grant appropriate waivers consistent with the Pac-12 proposal, why can't this be a rule?

The Power Five passed a "rule" giving athletics medical personnel unchallengeable authority on medical decisions. This means an athletic department's administrative structure should ensure that no coach serves as the primary supervisor for any medical provider, nor have hiring or firing authority over that provider. This is, of course, a very good thing.

NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline told the Chronicle of Higher Education's Brad Wolverton that the bylaw is "the most important in the history of the NCAA" and that the "implications of this are profound." Hainline has the best of intentions and here's hoping he's right.

But the fact that this authority structure even needed to be spelled out in 2016 speaks to how some schools continue to struggle with managing concussions. So what happens if a school's trainer doesn't have authority on medical decisions? Nothing. Just like nothing happens if the Power Five's concussion safety committee, which NCAA autonomy created last year, determines that a school violated its own protocol. Can we all at least agree not to call something a rule if there is no enforcement mechanism or penalties that can be attached to a violation?

"Time demands" for players is being dubbed the new buzzword for 2016. Except it was the new buzzword for 2015 -- remember the Big Ten's freshman ineligibility talk? -- and still nothing got done to address whether some college athletes are being hurt academically by spending so much time on their sport.

A new NCAA player survey showed that FBS football players spent 42 hours a week on in-season time commitments to their sport, up from 39 hours a week in 2010. FCS football and Division I baseball players also reported 40 hours or more a week on their sport.

So what did the Power Five do? Pass a resolution promising it will tackle time demands next year. That's right: Administrators need more time to study whether athletes have enough time for academics. The elephant in the room that no one will touch: Midweek, late-night games all across the country for TV purposes. These games surely aren't ideal if the NCAA is being sincere about its educational mission.

To be fair, some athletes supported tapping the brakes on time-demand proposals. Minnesota football player Chris Hawthorne said he opposed delaying a vote because schools shouldn't kick the can down the road and the room was comprised with decision makers, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

"Sometimes players want things that are bad for them," Huma said. "A lot of players wouldn't go to school if they didn't make them. We realize these are highly driven and highly-motivated athletes, and they're also young and sometimes you need to protect them. It's very convenient to say the players want this anyway. Let's poll their academic advisor and see what's best for them academically."

Among Division I male athletes, 81 percent agreed or strongly agreed that their coach cares about whether he earns his degree, and 75 percent felt the same way about their athletic director. That sounds good. Unless you reverse the stat and wonder why 19 percent to 25 percent of Division I male athletes can't say the same about their coach or AD.

"There could be more NCAA resources put into degree completion after a player leaves," Huma said. "Here and there, schools pick and choose the players to complete their degree after they leave school. That should be a matter of policy, not a preference."

The Power Five wanted autonomy to change the direction of the NCAA. Instead, they slept through Year 2 of this new authority. Who needs to make meaningful changes in 2016 when the legal decisions are currently going your way?

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Racial prejudice is driving opposition to paying college athletes. Here’s the evidence. http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/racial-prejudice-is-driving-opposition-to-paying-college-athletes-heres-the-evidence Wed, 30 Dec 2015 09:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/racial-prejudice-is-driving-opposition-to-paying-college-athletes-heres-the-evidence

Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) carries the ball as North Carolina Tar Heels safety Donnie Miles (15) tackles during the second half in the ACC football championship game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 5, 2015. (Joshua S. Kelly/ USA Today)


With the money made from college sports increasing every year, the way colleges treat their athletes has become controversial.

That’s because college sports is a tremendously lucrative business for everyone but the athletes. The National College Athletic Association (NCAA) will receive $7.3 billion from ESPN for the right to broadcast the seven games of the College Football Playoffs (CFP) between 2014 and 2026, and $11 billionfrom CBS and Turner Sports to broadcast “March Madness” over the next 14 years.

Individual colleges also make out well: The University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball team’s trip to the Final Four this year, for example, brought more than $8 million in revenue to the universities of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Each of the “Big 5” conferences will make an estimated $50 million from the college football playoffs this year.

And none of this counts the money made from concessions, merchandise and licensing fees.

Meanwhile, most college athletes are “paid” with scholarships that cover only tuition, room, board, books and fees — although in 2015, the NCAA allowed Division I universities the option of increasing this to pay the full cost of attendance. After adding up the time spent on practice, training and games, college athletes often “work” the equivalent of full-time hours for the universities they play for.

Many pundits call that exploitation

Many pundits argue that it’s exploitation to have players work for such paltry compensation while universities, advertisers and television networks profit from their efforts. As Jay Bilas, an ESPN college basketball analyst and former Duke University basketball star, wrote in the New York Times, “It is not immoral for the NCAA to make money off of athletics. But it is profoundly immoral for the NCAA to restrict athletes from receiving compensation while everyone else profits.”

Taylor Branch wrote in the Atlantic that “the real scandal is not that students (athletes) are getting illegally paid or recruited, it’s that two of the noble principles on which the NCAA justifies its existence — ‘amateurism’ and the ‘student-athlete’ — are cynical hoaxes, legalistic confections propagated by the universities so they can exploit the skills and fame of young athletes.”

Even John Oliver, on HBO’s Last Week Tonight, opined that “there is nothing inherently wrong with a sporting tournament making huge amounts of money — but there is something slightly troubling about a billion-dollar sports enterprise where the athletes are not paid a penny.”

The NCAA has responded that fans don’t want college sports to go pro. As NCAA President Mark Emmert recently put it, “one of the biggest reasons fans like college sports is that they believe the athletes are really students who play for a love of the sport.”

Most blacks want college athletes to be paid. Most whites don’t

There’s evidence that he’s right. In survey after survey, strong national majorities oppose paying college athletes. In March 2015, for example, an HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll found that 65 percent of Americans do not think college athletes in top men’s football and basketball programs should be paid.

But these attitudes vary significantly by race. In every survey to date, blacks are far more likely to support paying college athletes when compared to whites. For instance, in the 2014 Cooperative Congressional Election Study(CCES), 53 percent of African Americans backed paying college athletes–more than doubling the support expressed by whites (22 percent).

Racial divisions on controversial issues, of course, are not new. Even on ostensibly race-neutral policies like welfare, health care, and law enforcement, strong differences in opinion exist between blacks and whites. Decades of research have found (herehere and here) that some of those gaps in opinion come from racial prejudice against blacks. When whites believe that a policy mainly helps blacks, their opinions on that policy are inevitably colored by their feelings towards blacks as a group.

Could some of that gap grow from racism? 

Could racial prejudice also affect attitudes toward paying college athletes? There are good reasons to believe that it could.

According to NCAA data from 2014, blacks constitute the majority of players in college football and basketball, the two sports that most people think of when they think of college athletics. Given this reality, it would be strange if questions about paying college athletes did not conjure up images of young black men in the minds of survey respondents.

To find out whether racial prejudice influences white opinion on paying college athletes, we conducted a survey of opinions on “pay for play” policies using the 2014 CCES.

In a statistical analysis that controlled for a host of other influences, we found this: Negative racial views about blacks were the single most important predictor of white opposition to paying college athletes.

The more negatively a white respondent felt about blacks, the more they opposed paying college athletes.

To check our findings’ validity, we also conducted an experiment. Before we asked white respondents whether college athletes should be paid, we showed one group pictures of young black men with stereotypical African American first and last names. We showed another group no pictures at all.

As you can see in the figure below, whites who were primed by seeing pictures of young black men were significantly more likely to say they opposed paying college athletes. Support dropped most dramatically among whites who expressed the most resent towards blacks as a group.

When we talk about paying college athletes, we’re talking about race 

In other words, the discussion about paying college athletes is implicitly a discussion about race. As the representative of nearly 1,200 schools, conferences and affiliate organizations, the NCAA should consider how much it wants to base its policies on public opinion that may be tainted by racial prejudice.


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As college sports revenues spike, coaches are not only ones cashing in http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/as-college-sports-revenues-spike-coaches-arent-only-ones-cashing-in Tue, 29 Dec 2015 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/as-college-sports-revenues-spike-coaches-arent-only-ones-cashing-in For years, the highest-paid public employees in many states have been football and men’s basketball coaches at state universities. But as big-time college sports revenues have nearly doubled over the past decade, coaches are far from the only ones cashing in.

Since 2004, many athletic directors have seen their pay soar and have gone on hiring sprees, surrounding themselves with well-paid executives and small armies of support staffs to help their premier teams — primarily football — recruit, train and plan for games. 

Rising administrative and support staff pay is one of the biggest reasons otherwise profitable or self-sufficient athletic departments run deficits, according to a Washington Post review of thousands of pages of financial records from athletic departments at 48 schools in the five wealthiest conferences in college sports. In a decade, the non-coaching payrolls at the schools, combined, rose from $454 million to $767 million, a 69 percent jump. 

College sports officials long have cited rising costs both to justify mandatory student fees supporting athletics and to argue against paying college athletes. One of the fastest-increasing athletic costs at many of America’s largest public universities, however, is the amount of money flowing into the paychecks of the people running those athletic departments. 

From 2004 to 2014, UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero’s salary increased from $299,000 to $920,000 to do the same job, and his administration grew from 97 to 141 employees, boosting UCLA’s non-coaching payroll from $9.1 million to $16 million. (All 2004 figures in this story have been adjusted for inflation.) 

In 2004, University of Michigan Athletic Director William Martin made $361,000, and 15 of his administrative employees made $100,000 or more. Ten years later, Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon made $900,000, and the number of his administrative staffers making $100,000 or more had risen to 34. 

In 2004, 12 football teams in the “Power Five” conferences — the ACC, Southeastern Conference, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pacific-12 — spent more than $1 million on staffers who were not coaches. A decade later, 34 football teams had seven-figure support staff payrolls. At Clemson University, the football coach’s chief of staff — his official title is “associate athletic director of football administration” — makes $252,000, a salary that exceeds what some athletic directors at big colleges made a decade ago.

College athletic departments are making more money than ever — and spending it just as fast 

Guerrero, whose pay more than tripled in a decade, refused multiple requests for an interview to discuss his compensation and hiring decisions. Officials at other schools defended rising pay and expanded executive teams as necessary to maximize income and manage athletic departments in an increasingly commercialized industry. 

“We’ve gotten so complex . . . we need people with levels of expertise in a whole myriad of areas that we didn’t need years ago,” said Cindy Hartmann, who makes $225,000 as Florida State University’s Deputy Athletics Director for Administration, a job created in 2014. 

“We’re responding to the competitive demands of the market,” Hartmann said. “We’re no different than any other corporation that wants its business to be successful.” 

That business, however, depends on unpaid labor. To people who have worked for years to expand benefits for football and men’s basketball players, surging administrative pay exposes the fallacy of the NCAA’s argument that most big college athletic departments can’t afford to pay players. 

“There’s just this overwhelming force of greed we’re up against,” said Ramogi Huma, president and founder of the National College Players Association. “It’s clear NCAA sports are financially rich but morally bankrupt.” 

A former UCLA linebacker, Huma was stirred to action after his teammate — all-American Donnie Edwards — was suspended by the NCAA and ordered to pay restitution for accepting $150 in groceries from an agent. 

“The front office pay surge, Huma said, is the product of college sports operating in an “illegal market that suppresses protections and benefits for players to such a degree that there’s a bubble.” 

“The money has to go somewhere,” Huma said. “So it goes into — surprise, surprise — ADs’ paychecks.” 

School officials defend expanded support staffs as providing better individual attention for athletes while allowing teams to cast wider recruiting nets.

“It isn’t wasteful. There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes,” said Oklahoma football Coach Bob Stoops, whose support staff payroll has grown from $540,000 to $1.1 million in a decade. 

Some former coaches, meanwhile, wonder what all these new staffers are doing.

“These coaches are hiring people to do anything,” said former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden, the second-winningest coach in major college football history. 

“We didn’t even realize we needed them,” said Bowden, who retired in 2009. “I don’t know how we won all those ballgames back in the olden days.” 

‘Titles . . . get a little goofy’ 

It was a moment of candor that soon sparked controversy. 

Last December, at a conference on the business of college sports, a panel discussion involving Michigan athletics executive Hunter Lochmann turned to the topic of paying players. Lochmann, according to media reports, expressed skepticism about whether players deserved any of the millions sponsors paid to have their logos seen during Michigan games. 

“Those are fleeting, four-year relationships,” he said of the careers of Michigan athletes. “At Michigan, it’s the block ‘M’ that has the affinity and power globally, not [former Michigan quarterback] Denard Robinson.” 

The response was interesting coming from Lochmann, a former longtime National Basketball Association marketing executive who himself had just a four-year relationship with college sports at that point. In 2014, Lochmann made $225,000 performing a job — chief marketing officer at Michigan athletics — that didn’t exist before 2010, when then-Michigan athletic director Brandon created the position, luring Lochmann from the New York Knicks. 

Lochmann was not the only new face in Michigan athletics. Between 2004 and 2014, records show, the department added 77 new full-time positions, contributing to an administrative payroll surge from $14.7 million to $27.7 million.

Brandon resigned last year, and declined an interview request. Officials at Michigan athletics also declined to comment. What happened in Ann Arbor was not an anomaly, though. 

In the Tallahassee offices of Florida State athletics, the administrative payroll grew from $7.7 million to $15.7 million in a decade. In 2014, Athletic Director Stan Wilcox announced two new senior positions — both paying more than $200,000 — to help him run the department. 

“Years ago, you were able to have a smaller staff with people who had their hands in more than one pot. . . . Now it’s more complex, because of the growth of the business side,” said Hartmann, the new deputy athletic director for administration.

Hartmann oversees internal operations, she said, such as human resources and contract negotiations. New Deputy Athletic Director for External Operations Karl Hicks makes $250,000 to oversee areas including marketing, communications and digital media, Hartmann said. 

Even struggling athletic departments dependent on money from students to stay solvent are paying administrators more than ever. At Rutgers University — where the athletic department needs tens of millions in mandatory student fees and university money every year to pay its bills — Athletic Director Julie Hermann made $450,000 in 2014, up from the $345,000 her predecessor made back in 2004. Chief Financial Officer Janine Purcaro made $200,000; her predecessor in 2004 made $110,000. 

Why students foot the bill for college sports, and how some are fighting back 

In a phone interview in October, Hermann pointed out Rutgers’s $10 million administrative payroll was the lowest in the Big Ten conference. 

“Our challenge is to pay fair market value for the best talent that we can bring to Rutgers,” Hermann said. “I honestly believe that we’re doing one of the most efficient jobs in the country regarding how we’re compensating our staff.”

A few weeks later, Rutgers President Robert Barchi fired Hermann and replaced her with Patrick Hobbs, who will make $560,000. 

The expansion of front offices has left even some in college athletics wondering what all their new well-paid colleagues at other schools do. 

When Fred Glass took over Indiana University’s athletic department in 2009, he noticed a few administrative positions paying at least $100,000 with ambiguous titles. Glass, a former chief of staff to Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh, didn’t think he needed all these senior staffers. So he started getting rid of them. 

Glass outsourced Senior Associate Athletic Director Internal Operations ($125,000) and Associate Athletic Director Facility Management ($112,000) to the university’s human resources and facilities departments, respectively. When the Senior Associate Athletic Director Budget and Finance ($147,000) left, Glass promoted the second-in-command and didn’t fill that job. 

Between 2009 and 2014, Glass eliminated 10 management positions through layoffs and attrition, trimming $1.7 million from his annual payroll. As he reviewed the list of eliminations recently, Glass admitted he had forgotten who had held some positions and what exactly they did. 

“Some of these titles get a little goofy,” Glass said in reference to Senior Associate Athletic Director Regulatory Affairs, a job he eliminated that paid $147,000 that involved some legal and contract work, Glass said. 

Glass was not surprised to hear administrative pay is one of the top surging expenses in college sports. 

“Money goes into the system, it has to go places,” Glass said. “More money in the system is creating a market for these people.” 

College sports’ latest extravagances? Laser tag and mini golf 

Glass made $459,000 in 2014, running an athletic department with 179 full-time employees, not including coaches, and a payroll of $16 million. In an interview, he marveled repeatedly at the size of Michigan’s front office, which had 259 full-time employees in 2014 and a payroll of $27.7 million. 

“We’re doing the basic functions of an athletic department and we’re figuring it out,” Glass said. “They must get paid to sit back and think big thoughts.” 

Michigan’s front office has gotten a bit smaller since last year, however. A few weeks after Lochmann’s controversial comments about Michigan athletes — which sparked backlash from university alums, including some NFL players — the university announced that Lochmann had resigned to “pursue other opportunities.”

In the year since, Michigan athletics has not needed to fill the vacant chief marketing officer job. 

The department’s full support 

A few weeks ago, Bowden, the former Florida State football coach, got a Christmas card from Alabama’s football office featuring this season’s team photo. Something struck Bowden as unusual. 

“There must’ve been 60 guys surrounding the team,” Bowden said, referring to the massive support staff for Crimson Tide football. “There’s no way I can figure out what in the world all those people are doing.” 

The NCAA limits the number of coaches for each varsity team, but places no limits on “support staffs,” which can encompass recruiting, scouting, nutrition, sports medicine and secretarial jobs. 

Alabama football has won three championships since 2009 and is contending for another one this season. In the last few years, teams across the country have added to their support staffs like Alabama’s, which had a payroll of $2.6 million in 2014, records show, up from about $630,000 a decade prior. 

“It’s what the rich winners are doing: They copy each other,” Bowden said.

At Florida State, where Bowden retired in 2009, the football staff payroll grew from about $287,000 in 2004 to $1.4 million in 2014. In the 2003-04 Florida State football media guide, the “Support Staff” page has nine people, including Clint Purvis, the team chaplain, a volunteer position. 

In the 2013-14 media guide, Purvis is still pictured among the support staff, but he has a lot more company: 38 other faces surround him. 

College sports’ fastest-rising expense? Paying coaches not to work 

Florida State spokesman Monk Bonasorte said the expanded staff is necessary to keep up with competition. Eight quality control staffers allow for deeper scouting of upcoming opponents. Larger nutrition and sports medicine staffs keep players healthier and stronger. Recruiting assistants help Florida State review highlight reels from more high school prospects than ever before. 

Most of the support staffers are modestly paid, Bonasorte said. Director of Football Operations Mark Robinson ($120,000) and Director of Player Personnel Bob LaCivita ($105,000) are the only ones who make six figures. 

At some schools, these positions can be more lucrative. At Clemson, six football administrators make more than $100,000 and two make more than $200,000.

Woody McCorvey makes $252,000 to serve as chief of staff for head football Coach Dabo Swinney, with duties including representing the coach at functions when Swinney is unavailable. 

H. Brad Scott makes $215,000 as assistant athletic director of football player development, a job that Deputy Athletic Director Graham Neff described “is primarily associated with the transition for our student-athletes from recruitment through their freshman year as they get settled at Clemson.” 

In a decade, Clemson’s football support staff payroll has grown from about $480,000 to $2.5 million. Neff defended Clemson’s hiring as necessary to provide the best individual attention to players. 

Officials at both Clemson and Florida State said that if their football teams started struggling at recruiting, it would hurt their bottom lines. The most important thing that keeps money flowing in, they said, is a steady stream of talented football players. 

“We can’t lag behind and let the other schools get ahead of us,” Bonasorte said. “You start losing players, then you start losing fans, then you start losing revenue. It’s a cycle.” 

Adam Kilgore contributed to this report. 

The non-coaching payrolls at 48 schools in the five wealthiest conferences in college sports:

Whatever suits

These 10 athletic departments spent the most on administrative and support staff pay in 2014. For comparison, each school’s 2004 payroll figures – adjusted for inflation – are also included.

SCHOOL 2004 PAYROLL 2014 PAYROLL CHANGE
Texas $21,070,624 $35,714,699 69.50%
Michigan $14,657,410 $27,737,280 89.24%
Ohio State $15,559,386 $26,546,929 70.62%
Florida $14,679,286 $24,889,345 69.55%
Wisconsin $16,890,378 $23,775,800 40.77%
Alabama $9,140,046 $21,672,483 137.12%
Kansas $10,531,089 $20,400,667 93.72%
Tennessee $14,551,545 $20,137,487 38.39%
Oregon $5,977,574 $20,121,340 236.61%
Auburn $9,031,809 $19,911,702 120.46%

Source: NCAA financial records, Post analysis


Supporting the football team

Over the past decade, college football programs have substantially increased their spending on non-coaching staff member. These 10 teams saw the biggest payroll spikes. (2004 figures adjusted for inflation).

SCHOOL 2004 2014 CHANGE
Mississippi $212,702 $2,170,676 920.52%
Washington State $180,564 $1,256,138 595.67%
Utah $124,503 $824,357 562.12%
Clemson $479,156 $2,479,771 417.53%
Mississippi State $217,234 $1,097,679 405.30%
Florida State $286,565 $1,375,654 380.05%
Texas $816,806 $3,580,767 338.39%
Alabama $633,623 $2,647,170 317.78%
Georgia $861,601 $3,404,300 295.11%
Ohio State $724,933 $2,634,411 263.40%

Source: NCAA financial records, Post analysis

Note: Four schools did not break out pay by support staff in 2004.

THE WASHINGTON POST

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State of NCAA Sports http://www.ncpanow.org/news/releases-advisories/state-of-ncaa-sports Mon, 05 Oct 2015 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/releases-advisories/state-of-ncaa-sports NCPA leader Ramogi Huma and Kain Colter speak on the State of NCAA Sports at the Indiana AFL-CIO convention, which in turn passed a resolution of support of equal rights under labor/antitrust laws for all college players.

Transcript of their speeches below:

KAIN COLTER:

Good Morning,

I would like to begin today by extending a huge, “Thank you,” to the AFL-CIO for giving us the opportunity to speak today. It is a great privilege.  

My name is Kain Colter.  I am the Co-Founder of the College Athlete’s Player’s Association (CAPA), which is the first labor organization seeking to represent college athletes.  I would like to briefly overview our organization, the progress we have made over the past couple of years, and to talk about the current state of collegiate sports.  It is my hope that when you leave today, you will leave with a greater understanding of our organization and why this fight is so important.  

I was born into a football family. When I say this, I mean that football was not just a fun weekend activity it was a way of life for multiple generations of my relatives. My Grandfather Colter is still discussed today as someone who set football records that have never been broken in over four decades of Arizona high school football.  My dad played for the University of Colorado on the only National Champion football team that the university has ever had.  My uncle was one of the most highly recruited football players in the history of Arizona and he went on to be an All American at the University of Southern California.  It’s probably easy to understand why these men were role models to me as a kid.  Whatever Colter house you visited, whether my parents or my grandparents, the house was filled with trophies, framed newspaper articles and photographs of these great men performing incredible athletic feats.  All I remember wanting to do from a young age was to play football and follow in their footsteps.  

As soon as I was old enough, I enrolled in pee-wee football and I remember that I instantly fell in love with the sport.  From the age of 7 until now, football has been an important love of my life.  I remember sitting down and talking with my parents about my goals for football and where I thought it could take me in life.  My number one goal was to play at the Division I level in college and then to play in the National Football League.

While I was growing up I used to love going to watch my dad’s alma mater play on Saturday’s.  Thousands of people tailgating hours before the game with the beer flowing and the barbeque emitting smells that make the strictest of vegetarians salivate.  Fan’s come decked out in the jersey of their favorite player while merchandise flies off the rack in the campus bookstores.  Ten’s of thousands of people begin piling into the stadium to watch their favorite teams and players, while millions more watch through the television. The excitement surrounding those heralded days was, and is exhilarating.

Then, as the games begin and everyone sits down the true stars of the event, the players make their way onto the field.  I envied these players when I was young.  They looked like rock stars and I thought to myself they this must be what living the good life looks like.  But as a naive middle school kid, I was unaware of the incredible amount of dedication, perseverance, and sacrifice it would require to reach, and stay, at that level of sports.  

The real blood, sweat, and tears that the players shed are often unnoticed by the fans and spectators.  The 5:00 a.m. workouts and conditioning sessions aren’t televised. The late night film sessions are not seen by anyone outside of the team. The difficulty of balancing a full-time job with a full course schedule is not glamorized. The wear and tear that the player’s body endures throughout the year is seen as a badge of honor. The concussions, surgeries and broken bones become just a part of the game. 

Luckily for me, I had the guidance of people who had played at these high levels and they kept me on the right path towards my goals.  After finishing up my high school career I was blessed to receive a full-ride scholarship to Northwestern University where I played quarterback for four years and made some of my greatest, most meaningful memories of my life. I developed genuine relationships that will last a lifetime.  I have always been, and will always be, truly grateful for scholarship to Northwestern; I graduated from an amazing university, was coached by a great coaching staff, and was afforded opportunities I wouldn’t have had without my scholarship.

Unfortunately, as I went through my four years of playing Division I football I was also exposed to the ugly truth of NCAA sports. The truth is that college athletes are left with a huge lack of protections.  As I began to learn and research this truth for myself, those sacred Saturday’s from my childhood did not seem as sacred anymore.  

Here are just a few of the stories and facts that made me look at the NCAA in a different manner:

  • The NCAA makes over $11 billion in revenue from their TV contracts alone
  • Mike Krzyewski’s, the coach of Duke Univeristy men’s basketball team, yearly salary is $9.6 million.
  • Nick Saban’s (coach of the Alabama football team) yearly salary is $6.9 million
  • College football coaches salaries have gone up 59% since 2007 vs. just 25% in the NFL
  • Notre Dame, Texas, Alabama, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, Auburn, and LSU had more football and basketball revenue in 2012-2013 than average NHL team
  • 87% of the BCS schools’ media coverage comes from its sports teams
  • Colleges are not required to pay for any sports-related medical expenses.  Not one penny.   You can ask former Oklahoma basketball player Kyle Hardrick about that.  He was left to pay thousands of dollars in medical expenses from a knee surgery that he needed after being injured in practice.
  • Universities are free to revoke scholarships of players in good standing for any reason, even injury.  Former rice football player Joe Agnew is among many athletes whose scholarship wasn’t honored after sustaining an injury
  • We’ve all heard the NCAA’s rhetoric about academics being first, but in college sports, the money is first.  That’s why graduation rates for football and basketball players continue to hover around 50% and the NCAA refuses to use some of its billions of dollars for degree completion.
  • Perhaps most shameful is the NCAA’s refusal to implement concussion reform despite the mounting evidence of severe short and long term health risks.  There have been numerous tragedies where former NFL players committed suicide and were later found to be suffering from CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy.  It’s a degenerative brain condition linked to contact sports.  College athletes face the same risks.  Proof of this was found after Penn football player Owen Thomas committed suicide at the age of 21.  He was found to have CTE.

As I became aware of the lack of protections and lack of rights of college athletes, I became determined to try and change the system.  I began doing some research and simultaneously enrolled in a class at Northwestern called “The History of the Modern Worker”.  

This class explored the social and political history of work in the United States.  During my participation in the course we touched on the history of unions in the United States, briefly reviewing the existence of unions in major sporting leagues.  This immediately got me thinking about the possibility of unionizing college athletes.  As I did more and more research it became clear to me that what college athletes needed was a union.  We needed to join together with the purpose of protecting and advancing our interests and improving our sports for future generations that might include our own sons and daughters.

You might be saying how did you jump to the idea of a union?  Just as industries of the past where unions were formed and improved the lives of American workers, college athletics had many of the same attributes.  There is no denying that the NCAA is a multi-billion dollar sporting industry.  If you examine how players in other multi-billion dollar sporting industries (such as the NFL, NBA, MLB, etc.) gained better rights and protections, it was through the formation of a union.  The presence of a union in these industries not only aided the players but the entire league benefitted and felt increasing revenues and an overall increase in fan bases.  

I then began to look into organizations that already advocated for the rights of college athletes and I came across the National College Player’s Association that was founded and run by Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA linebacker.  I reached out to Ramogi and expressed my thoughts, ideas, and interest in helping him bring about NCAA reform.  From that moment forward we have been pushing for reform and trying to get college athletes the rights and protections all Americans deserve.  

Ramogi has been working with the United Steelworkers movement since the inception of the NCPA.  The steelworkers have long supported the rights of college athletes and without their guidance and resources, many of the newfound positive changes in the NCAA would not have occurred.  It was with the invaluable help of the steelworkers, Ramogi and I put forth a plan to start the first union in collegiate sports. 

The first step in this plan was to prove that college athletes are employees of their university.  To do this, we needed a football team to step up and sign employee cards petitioning for the labor board in their state to rule they were indeed employees.  Since I was a current member of the Northwestern football team it made sense for me to discuss this issue with my team.  After my senior season concluded, I set up a meeting with the team to discuss the issues, propose a plan and see if they wanted to proceed.  After carefully outlining issues, detailing the plan and then answering many, well thought out questions from my teammates, player’s had an individual decision to sign the petition cards and an overwhelming majority of the player’s chose to sign the cards.  We gathered the cards and filed them with the National Labor Relations Board.  A trial date was set and our next task was to prove in court that college athletes are indeed employees under the National Labor Relations Act. 

In order to make this claim we needed to prove that football player’s work sufficient hours, are under control of the claimed employer, and are compensated for their performed service.  On a cold, winter day in Chicago I testified about the day in the life of a Northwestern football player.  We were able to show that football players work an upwards of 60 hours a week during training camp and 40-50 hours a week during football season.  We were able to show that football players had to abide by rules and regulations imposed by the athletic department and that violations of these rules could result in the termination of their scholarship.

Finally, we were able to show that the full athletic scholarship (room, tuition, and board) was indeed a form of compensation for an athletic service.  In short, we proved that athletes are already paid to play.  These findings are not exclusive of Northwestern; the same working conditions are standard for college football teams across the country.

In March of 2014, a few months after the testimony, the NLRB regional director issued a decision ruling that the Northwestern football players were employees of the University with the right to collective bargain.  Following this ruling Northwestern University was granted a request for review from the full board in Washington D.C.  The NCAA and Northwestern combatted our case by introducing many different false narratives to sway the board from upholding the regional ruling.  Their arguments highlighted three myths that were brought into the light by the media.  They said ruling that college athletes were employees would disrupt competitive equality among college teams.  The ruling that college athletes are employees would disrupt the concept of “amateur” athletics. They argued that ruling that college athletes are employees would create an issue of income tax.  

In actuality, the current system does not produce competitive equality. Between 2002-2011, 99.3% of the top 100 football recruits in the nation chose teams in the power conferences. Historically, over 90% of football teams that finish in the top 25 rankings and over 90% of the basketball teams that make it to the Final Four are from the power conferences. Currently, the wealthiest schools hire the best coaches, have the best facilities, benefit from the biggest recruiting budgets, and sign the best recruits.  Where is the competitive equity in this?

The myth regarding the NCAA’s definition of “Amateurism” is easily dispelled.  The NCAA’s $11 billion TV deal with CBS, multimillion dollar salaries, and stadiums that dwarf those in the NFL clearly demonstrate this.  And again, we proved that athletes are already paid to play.  

There’s another myth that if college athletes had a union that nonrevenue sports would be cut.  The truth is that there is over $1 billion in NEW TV revenue being generated every year, which is more than enough to increase protections without harming any other sports.

Finally, the continued myth of income tax issues was squashed when the IRS issued a letter stating that college athletes WILL NOT have to pay additional income taxes on their scholarship if ruled employees.  

Despite easily addressing the NCAA’s myths, the full board finally released their decision deciding not to exert jurisdiction in this matter, therefore overruling the previous decision.  

While the ruling was disappointing, and not the ruling we were hoping for, it does not close the door on this issue. Other player’s can bring forth this issue again and in the future we hope these athletes will obtain a ruling and not an outcome that amounts to the passing of a hot potato. We are hopeful that the next time this issue is in front of the NLRB, this government body will act swiftly and issue a definitive decision.  

While the desired outcome has not been reached yet, there were many positive changes that came from a group of players standing up and making their voices heard.  The power five conferences have now adopted 4-year scholarships.  Player’s are now receiving a stipend check to cover the full cost of attendance.  Many conferences are adopting and implementing better concussion protocol.  

While these changes are steps in the right directions, it is important to remember that these new policies are not legally binding and can be rolled back; which the NCAA has done in the past.  

When millions of Americans gather around to watch college football this Saturday, the player’s who are wearing their school’s uniforms will walk onto the field without guaranteed full medical coverage.  The former player who is dealing with cognitive issues and physical issues such as a needing knee replacement, will not receive financial assistance to address their ailment that was suffered while making their school money.  Worst of all, only half of Division I basketball players and FBS football players will graduate with a degree.  It is time for player’s to stand up and demand for their voices to be heard.  

I want to thank those fighting for workers’ rights here in this room and throughout the country.  We hope that our mission motivates and inspires others to stand up when they see something is wrong where they work.  There is no shame in wanting to improve the industries in this great country.  It is our responsibility as Americans and as human beings to try and right things that are not only wrong but also jeopardize the health and well being of our fellow brothers and sisters.

I would now like to introduce the President of the College Athletes Players Association, Ramogi Huma. 

RAMOGI HUMA:

Thank you Kain,

First, I’d like to thank Indiana State AFL-CIO President Brett Voorhies for inviting us to speak to you today.  I’ve known Brett for several years now and not only is Brett a friend, but he’s been a supporter of the NCPA and college athletes’ rights long before it became popular.  He provided valuable guidance, logistical support, facilitated meetings with Indiana state lawmakers, and even participated in meetings with college athletes.  I would also like to thank the United Steelworkers for its unwavering support of college athletes’ rights since 2000.  Without the Steelworkers’ support, this movement would have fizzled out long ago. 

There are a lot of people who think that our union effort at Northwestern was the first step taken to protect college athletes.  But the reality is that we’ve fought for college athletes’ rights for almost two decades.  In 1995, I was a freshman football player at UCLA.  During my first season, my all American teammate Donnie Edwards, was on a radio show talking about what it was like to be a college athlete.  Donnie said that he was grateful for his scholarship but for some reason, the scholarship check didn’t cover basic necessities.  In fact, he didn’t have any food in his refrigerator.  He went home after the show and groceries had been left anonymously on his doorstep, which Donnie ended up eating.  Somehow the NCAA found out.  And when they found out, they suspended him. 

Meanwhile they were selling Donnie’s jersey in stores across the nation.  I found a few years later that the NCAA capped every full athletic scholarship in the nation below the price tag of the school, leaving unsuspecting players with about $3000-$5000 in out-of-pocket expenses each year. 

Later that year, I was informed that NCAA rules prohibited UCLA and all other colleges from paying for sports-related medical expenses during summer workouts.  My teammates and I were grateful for our scholarships and opportunities, but were frustrated by NCAA rules that left us with gaps in protections and without a voice.

During my second year, I started a student group with the intention of giving college athletes across the nation that voice and the means to change NCAA rules.  I soon realized, however, that I needed expertise on how to go about reaching this goal. I reached out to the United Steelworkers for help and fortunately for college athletes, they agreed to join our fight. 

The Steelworkers provided vital assistance in strategic planning, communications, fundraising, and more.  Together, we’ve been able to make progress over the years through various forms of pressure.  We’ve shamed NCAA sports in headlines throughout the country, empowered players to sign petitions and participate in televised protests by writing “APU” for “All Players United” on their uniforms, we have helped arrange lawsuits and successfully advocated for some state laws.  All of our actions have been in the pursuit of securing basic protections for college athletes, but NCAA sports fought our efforts at every turn. 

The need for college athletes to assert all of their leverage was underscored by the NCAA’s position on reducing the risk of concussions.  In response to legal pressure intended to force concussion reform in college sports, the NCAA stated, and this is a quote, “The NCAA denies it has a legal duty to protect student-athletes.”  This is an organization that was founded to protect football players by adopting rules to make the game safer.  It’s position was further revealed by internal emails from the NCAA head of Enforcement stating that the NCAA would not punish a coach who knowingly forced a player to play with a concussion.  This is the same NCAA enforcement division that moved heaven and earth to investigate frivolous issues like whether or not Ohio State football players received free tattoos by signing autographs.  It’s the same office that dropped everything to investigate whether or not Johnny Manziel received a few bucks for signing autographs.  But when it comes to protecting players’ brains, the NCAA refuses to enforce safety rules.

After years of advocating for college athletes’ rights and the NCAA’s inaction on concussions, it’s become clear that public pressure is not enough to bring the comprehensive reform that college athletes desperately need.  While there are those who would prefer reform to come without college athlete unionization and lawsuits, it is precisely these forms of leverage that have been the catalyst for significant changes that the NCAA has resisted. 

NCAA sports puts college athletes at physical, academic, and financial risk.  Administrators on the NCAA, conference, and university levels enjoy multimillion-dollar salaries generated from the blood, sweat, and brain damage of their athletes.  They are enjoying historic revenues while simultaneously lobbying elements of the government to deny players equal protections.  In short, NCAA sports is financially rich, but morally bankrupt. 

After Northwestern football players were deemed to be employees by the NLRB Regional Director, lawmakers in Ohio and Michigan passed laws excluding college athletes from protections under state labor laws.  Their actions are proof that college athletes would have otherwise been deemed employees in their states.  Otherwise, why go out of their way to pass the law?  In effect, they targeted a group of their citizens and stripped them of their rights.  They attempted to justify their actions on the argument that college athletes are students not employees.  However, this is a false choice.  Many students are also employees throughout college campuses.  Students that work in the university book stores and libraries are no less students because they receive a paycheck as an employee.  The reality is that college athletes are students and employees.  Ohio and Michigan lawmakers’ actions were unjust and show a disregard for the serious gaps in protections college athletes in their states face.

In their rush to pass those laws, the lawmakers didn’t bother to think of whether or not such protections could have allowed players to secure changes that would have saved Michigan quarterback Shane Morris from long-term health risks associated with being kept in a game with a concussion.  Or whether or not reforms could have prevented Ohio State football player Kosta Karageorge from committing suicide after sending desperate text messages to his mother about how his concussions were affecting his mind.  Instead, players in those states are left without the leverage needed to avoid debilitating and deadly brain trauma.

The NLRB had a chance to apply equal protections under the law by ruling on whether or not college athletes are employees.  But it refused.  In August, the NLRB refused to answer the question of whether or not college athletes are employees because it was worried about disrupting the notion of competitive equity in NCAA sports.  It said it was concerned that Northwestern football players could get a competitive advantage in the Big Ten Conference if it was the only unionized team.  This analysis is wrong.  Nothing would have stopped other colleges from giving the same protections as Northwestern even if their teams weren’t unionized.    The argument holds no water but was used to deny players justice. 

While the NLRB did not close the door on unionization, it moved to put off justice until sometime in the future.  In the meantime, the NLRB made certain that scores of college athletes will be denied the leverage they need to protect themselves.  It begs the questions: “How many more players will needlessly suffer serious traumatic brain injury?  How many more players like Kosta Karageorge or Penn football player Owen Thomas will commit suicide while the NLRB delays equal protections under the law?  How many players will end up like Derek Sheely, a Frostburg State football player who died because he was kept in practice with brain trauma?  And thousands of players must face these risks in the name of what? False notions of competitive equity?”  Competitive equity doesn’t exist.  Ohio University is not winning recruiting battles with Ohio State and Idaho isn’t winning recruiting battles with USC.  Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bolwsby says competitive equity “is largely a mirage”.  Former Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive said competitive equity is an “illusion”.  Yet this “mirage”, this “illusion” is the basis for why the NLRB is delaying justice for vulnerable college athletes.

Recently, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found the NCAA guilty of violating players’ rights under antitrust laws in the O’Bannon v. NCAA lawsuit.  The NCAA’s illegal price-fixing scheme has serious negative consequences for college athletes, 98% of whom never make it to the NFL or NBA.  The price-fixing scheme robs players of what would otherwise be the most valuable years of their lives and forces more than 80% of them to live below the federal poverty line.  The illegal price-fixing scheme prohibits reforms such as a degree completion fund that would improve graduation rates.  It even prohibits concerned people from providing food to players like my former teammate Donnie Edwards in 1995 or the 2014 NCAA MVP Shabazz Napier who acknowledged spending too many hungry nights because of NCAA rules.  Any scheme that declares giving food to a hungry person is immoral on its surface, and in this case, illegal.  The 9th Circuit correctly ruled that the NCAA is guilty of violating antitrust laws.  However, it signaled that the false notion of amateurism could let the NCAA resume corporate practices that would be illegal anywhere else.  This unequal application of the law is wrong. 

Like competitive equity, amateurism is a “mirage”, an “illusion”.  This is made clear by the NCAA’s $11 billion TV deal with CBS, by the multibillion dollar TV deals throughout NCAA conferences, by the multimillion dollar salaries lavished upon coaches, commissioners, and the NCAA president, by the lucrative shoe company deals that require players to serve as human billboards during games, by the pay for play arrangement each college has with its players cleverly disguised as “athletic scholarships”.  The NCAA’s imaginary principle of “amateurism” is not a fairytale, it’s a nightmare.  It’s a term used as a weapon to deny college athletes’ equal rights.  As former NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers put it, “Amateurism is not a moral issue, it is an economic camouflage for monopoly practice”.  “Amateurism”, this “mirage”, this “illusion” is the basis for why the 9th Circuit denied players equal protection under the law. 

The NCAA admits lobbying members of Congress about blessing these illegal NCAA activities by stripping players of their rights under antitrust laws.  It wants an antitrust exemption so that its illegal activities are green-lighted.  In effect, the NCAA wants the power to be above the law by eliminating players’ rights that are guaranteed to other Americans.

Denying the rights of a targeted group of American citizens should never pass as progress in this country.  And it defies logic to require college athletes to forfeit their rights as a condition of playing for institutions of higher education.  Before these young men and women are athletes, they are human beings and should not be treated as second-class citizens.  The rights of American citizens are inherently more sacred the NCAA preferences.

We have a very clear message to the members of the NLRB, the federal justices throughout the country - especially in the 9th and 3rd Circuit Courts of Appeal, the United State Supreme Court, state lawmakers, and members of Congress:

“It is your duty to ensure that Americans have equal protection under the law.  To deny college athletes rights afforded to other Americans is discriminatory.  Equal protection under the law is the legal and moral compass that must be followed, not indefensible notions of competitive equity and amateurism. The NCAA is asking you to a participate in a Jim Crow system where players win legal arguments but are denied justice nonetheless.  This Jim Crow push isn’t motivated by race.  The NCAA seeks to strip both white and black players of their rights.  This push to exclude players from equal protections is motivated by the color green – money.  America cannot afford those of you tasked with ensuring equal protection under the law to become complicit in inflicting unjust and illegal practices on its citizens.” 

So, where is this movement headed? We’re helping college athletes assert their legal protections with a clear vision of what NCAA sports should become.  It should become a system that

  • Enforces rules to minimize the risk of traumatic brain injury in contact sports
  • That protects current and former players from out-of-pocket sports-related medical expenses
  • That guarantees players due process rights
  • That improves graduation rates by establishing a degree completion fund to help players that need an extra semester or two to graduate. 
  • That provides four-year scholarships for players in good standing – even if they are permanently injured
  • And ensures athletes have a real seat at the table on issues concerning physical, academic, and financial protections.

These reasonable reforms would be legally binding and easily paid for by new TV revenue.  However, the NCAA will stop at nothing to deny players basic protections.  The only way this vision will be achieved is if college athletes are treated equally under the law.

In summary, NCAA sports is financially rich, but morally bankrupt.  It’s using substantial resources generated off the backs of players to deny those players equal rights.  But there is much hope because current and former college athletes like Kain Colter, Northwestern football players, Adrian Arrington, Ed O’Bannon, and Martin Jenkins are standing up for justice.  Every major improvement in this country began with this hope.  It’s the same hope that led to the founding of our great nation.  It is the same hope that freed the slaves and demanded civil rights for all Americans.  This hope trumps hollow excuses meant to derail justice. 

Much of this hope wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of the people right here in this room and throughout organized labor, who defend workers rights day in and day out.  Without you, those who oppose workers rights would’ve won long ago and Northwestern football players would’ve had nowhere to turn for justice.  We know that for every news story about our fight, there are countless dedicated activists that are making our movement possible and protecting our rights.  So please accept our utmost gratitude for defending for workers’ rights, and for giving us hope.  And today, I would like to ask members of the Indiana State AFL-CIO to stand in solidarity with college athletes in their pursuit of equal protections.  History has shown that as people stand up, injustice falls down.  Please stand with us.  Thank you.



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College player union leaders still pushing for changes http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/college-player-union-leaders-still-pushing-for-changes Mon, 05 Oct 2015 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/college-player-union-leaders-still-pushing-for-changes Ramogi Huma and Kain Colter are fighting back. 

The two former Division I football players walked into the NCAA's own backyard to criticize the governing body at Indiana's AFL-CIO state convention Monday, just seven weeks after the National Labor Relations Board effectively killed an effort to unionize Northwestern's football team. (CLICK HERE TO READ THEIR SPEECHES)

Just a short walk away from NCAA headquarters, Colter, the co-founder of the College Athletes Players Association, and Huma, the CAPA president, argued that while recent reforms such as multi-year scholarships and stipends to cover normal college expenses are a good start, much more still needs to be done.

''The progress that's been made since that's been made since the Northwestern players signed their (union) cards has been night and day,'' Huma told The Associated Press before the speech. ''But many more reforms need to come, and also the reforms need to be legally binding. We've seen NCAA sports roll back protections over the years, so we need something that's legally binding. A policy can be wiped out with the stroke of a pen.''

The solution, Colter and Huma contend, is a collective bargaining agreement - something the NCAA has adamantly opposed.

Both sides have powerful allies and arguments.

In July 2014, NCAA President Mark Emmert told The Wall Street Journal that school leaders had discussed the possibility of seeking an antitrust exemption from the federal government and might pursue that course if the courts struck down the amateurism model.

Colter, the former quarterback and receiver at Northwestern, continues to plead his case on campuses around the country, arguing that schools, conferences and the NCAA must take stronger stances on concussion protocol and long-term health care.

Huma's organization, which has been backed by the Steelworkers since 2000, is trying to enlist support from additional unions after the NLRB issued a unanimous decision saying the possibility of union and nonunion teams competing against one another could create competitive imbalances on the field.

Huma doesn't buy it.

''Another reason we're having a discussion today is to send a message to the justices in the federal court system and to lawmakers because basically the NCAA is basically asking them to uphold a Jim Crow system,'' Huma said before explaining the motivation in this case is more financial than racial. ''We've proven that we have all the correct answers legally, but yet in these cases there are aspects where players are still being denied justice nonetheless. So the NCAA is asking the NLRB, the federal government, the courts to deny players equal protection under the law - the same protections that every other American is afforded.

''But we can't afford, America can't afford, for the people who are entrusted to make sure that there are equal rights under the law to be complicit in what the NCAA is trying to accomplish, targeting a group of Americans and stripping them of their rights,'' Huma added.

The NCAA declined comment on that accusation.

But spokesman Bob Williams did issue a statement regarding the overall theme of the two speeches.

''Although unions may be appropriate for professional sports, college athletes are not professionals nor employees, so there is no need for unions,'' he said.

While Huma wages the hardball political and legal battles, Colter is content to try to change the hearts and minds of college athletes, even those who might not agree with the concept of unionization.

During his speech, Colter explained how his interest in forming a union grew from a class he took on the modern worker. After doing a little more research, Colter said he believed college athletes were being subjected to too many risks.

And while Colter acknowledges the NCAA has taken ''baby steps'' toward progress, there are still many others to be addressed.

''The 5 a.m. workouts and conditioning sessions aren't televised. The late-night film sessions are not seen by anyone outside the team,'' Colter said. ''The difficulty of balancing a full-time job with a full-course schedule is not glamorized. The wear and tear that the player's body endures throughout the year is seen as a badge of honor. The concussions, surgeries and broken bones become just a part of the game.''

A game that Colter believes can be much safer and every bit as popular as it is today.

''Players, they need a voice, they need a seat at the table,'' Colter said. ''The biggest thing we want to see changed is we want them to have a say in the policies and the rules that kind of govern their collegiate athlete experience. At that point, they'll finally have a voice and they'll vote and they'll be able to make decisions for themselves.''

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Northwestern Union's Legacy of Reform Lives On http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/northwestern-unions-legacy-of-reform-lives-on Wed, 23 Sep 2015 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/northwestern-unions-legacy-of-reform-lives-on

There will be no football-player union at Northwestern, thanks to the National Labor Relations Board’s decision last month not to rule on the historic case.

But although former Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter’s vision for the College Athletes Players Association never came to fruition in Evanston, the dialogue created by his efforts resulted in lasting changes.

“The Northwestern football players have already created change,” CAPA president Ramogi Huma told SI.com in June. “If you look at the amount of pressure they’ve put on the system, a system that’s been refusing to address basic protections for so long, now all of a sudden they have motivation to actually grant some of the things we’ve been fighting for. Just in the last year there have been significant changes in policy.”

When Colter and Huma announced their intent to form a players union in January 2014, they proposed a laundry list of reforms for college athletics, including guaranteed scholarships and stipends to cover the full cost of college attendance. Since then, those ideas have indelibly become part of the college sports conversation and, in some cases, gone from suggestion to reality.

University administrators applauded the focus Colter brought to these issues, although they maintained opposition to the unionization push from the beginning.

“Northwestern considers its students who participate in NCAA Division I sports, including those who receive athletic scholarships, to be students, first and foremost,” University spokesman Al Cubbage said in a statement in August. “We applaud our players for bringing national attention to these important issues, but we believe strongly that unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by student-athletes.”

Although the union effort failed to accomplish its principle goal — organizing the Cats’ football team — it has left a legacy of reform. Eighteen months after the movement began, college sports have seen a number of changes that follow in its spirit.

Unlimited food for student athletes

The NCAA’s decision in April 2014 to allow student-athletes unlimited meals and snacks appeared to be a direct result of comments by Connecticut basketball star Shabazz Napier, who told media at the NCAA Tournament that, “Sometimes, there’s hungry nights where I’m not able to eat.”

The idea of one of college basketball’s best players going to sleep on an empty stomach because he can’t afford food, then waking up the next day to play in front of thousands of paying fans wearing jerseys with his number struck a chord with enough people to force the NCAA into reform.

Napier’s comments came in direct response to a question about the NU union. In his answer, the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player repeated many of Colter’s talking points, touching on the inequity of college athletes generating revenue and being meekly compensated for it.

The interview and subsequent rule change was the most dramatic example of the influence the union movement had simply by forcing conversation about college athletes’ rights.

Major conference autonomy

In forming a union, Colter and Huma dreamed of collectively bargaining players’ rights with the NU athletic department. The only problem: NCAA rules leave very little leeway for additional benefits. For example, one of CAPA’s goals was expanded scholarships that would cover the full cost of college, including rent and food, but NU could not have given the players that if it would have wanted to — NCAA rules don’t allow that kind of benefit because the vast, diverse roster of member schools could not (or maybe would not) accommodate it.

Last August, the NCAA decided to grant additional flexibility to the five major conferences (Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12, Big 12, SEC). The restructuring allowed the conferences to vote on reforms and to act on their own interests without worrying about the smaller athletic departments that might be unable to afford expensive rule changes.

In January, 65 schools in the five major conferences voted on a slate of reforms that resulted in two seismic changes:

1. Players can now receive stipends (between $2,000 and $4,000) to cover the full cost of college.
2. Coaches can no longer pull a student-athlete’s scholarship for athletic performance.

A student-athlete voice in student-athletes’ rights

From the day the union was first announced, Colter emphasized his desire for the players to have a voice in the reform process.

“It’s almost like a dictatorship,” Colter said of the NCAA. “We want someone who is going to be looking out for us.”

Student athletes received that voice in January, when the NCAA announced a new advisory committee comprising 15 athletes from all different sports representing the five major conferences.

One of the athletes selected to represent the Big Ten was NU soccer player Nandi Mehta, a junior and co-captain.

In an interview with The Daily several months later, here’s how Mehta described the newly created Student-Athlete Advisory Committee: “It’s a platform to promote communication between athletes and administrators on campus, or athletes all the way up to the conference or NCAA,” she said. “It’s a place to have the conversation and then implement change.”

Once again, a change that officially had nothing to do with CAPA or Kain Colter had the NU union’s fingerprints all over it. It was not the first time, and it will not likely be the last.

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Pac-12 proposes allowing athletes to make money off names, likenesses http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/pac-12-proposes-allowing-athletes-to-make-money-off-names-likenesses Fri, 11 Sep 2015 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/pac-12-proposes-allowing-athletes-to-make-money-off-names-likenesses NCAA sports continue to respond to players' pressure for change. The Pac-12 has submitted a proposal to change NCAA rules to allow college athletes to use their name, image and likenesses to promote non-athletic business ventures. The proposal will be taken up by the Power 5 conferences and could be voted on at the NCAA convention in January 2016.

The NCAA also announced 72 proposals that will be considered by Division I members during the current academic year. These proposals may not pass but they're a positive sign that when players stand up and put pressure on the system change can happen.

ESPN:

The Pac-12 has proposed changing NCAA rules to allow college athletes to use their names, images and likenesses for non-athletic business ventures.

The NCAA lost an antitrust lawsuit last year that challenged the association's use of athletes' names, images and likenesses to generate revenue. A judge ruled in the Ed O'Bannon case that schools should be allowed to make deferred payments of about $5,000 per year to football and men's basketball players for the use of their names, images and likenesses.

The Pac-12's proposal will be taken up by the Power 5 conferences (Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference) and could be voted on at the NCAA convention in January.

The NCAA announced 72 proposals that will be considered by Division I members during the current academic year.

Among the others:

• The SEC and ACC each have proposals that would prevent football coaches from holding so-called satellite camps away from their campuses.

• The Mountain West has proposed allowing NCAA-sponsored events to be played in states that allow sports wagering.

• The Mid-American Conference has proposed lifting all restrictions on communicating with recruits over social media.

• A proposal that creates new academic misconduct rules with also be considered. The proposal would require schools to publish and follow an academic misconduct policy for all students; define impermissible academic assistance; and determine when a student worker's involvement would be considered academic misconduct.

• The Division I Council wants schools to consider a measure that would give men's basketball players 10 days from the end of the NBA combine to withdraw their names from the draft, allow college players to enter the draft multiple times and allow them to participate in the combine and try out for one NBA team per year.

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Players Finally Getting Paid Thousands of Dollars! http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/players-finally-getting-paid-thousands-of-dollars Mon, 31 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/players-finally-getting-paid-thousands-of-dollars The NCPA is joining players everywhere in celebrating a historic victory. NCAA sports has finally given in to pressure from players and is allowing colleges to pay thousands of dollars in player stipends!  On average, players will now receive an additional $3000-$5000 per year at many colleges.  But BEWARE, the NCAA approved a stipend in 2012 and eliminated it just a few weeks later.  We need to keep the pressure up until stipends are guaranteed by law!
 
Don’t believe NCAA sports when it tells you it did this voluntarily - it fought this stipend for many years.  The truth is that they finally buckled from the serious legal and public pressure that current and former players have mounted.  The timeline below tells the real story.  As players stand up, injustice falls down!  
 
Timeline Highlights:
 
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University of Illinois Fires FB Coach in Player Abuse Scandal http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/university-of-illinois-fires-fb-coach-in-player-abuse-scandal Fri, 28 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/university-of-illinois-fires-fb-coach-in-player-abuse-scandal The University of Illinois announced its firing of head football coach Tim Beckman based on evidence uncovered in its investigation backing former players’ claims of mistreatment and abuse. The university cited Beckman’s “efforts to deter injury reporting and influence medical decisions that pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and continue playing despite injuries.” This investigation was initiated after former Illinois football player Simon Cvijanovic took to Twitter to accuse Beckman of forcing him to play with significant injuries, physically attacking a player, and other forms of mistreatment. Simon reached out to the NCPA for assistance and, after reviewing multiple player statements, the NCPA had called on Illinois to terminate Beckman and other athletic staff across three sports that former players accused of abuse.

Simon stated in a tweet, “I appreciate all the support I have received. Huge step in bettering athletics and in helping us prevent future wrongdoings.”

NCPA Executive Director Ramogi Huma stated, “Simon and the other players showed tremendous courage and endured unjust attacks on their character for telling the truth. I am proud of them, and Illinois football players are safer because they stood up. As players stand up, injustice falls down.”

While progress has been made in addressing football player abuse allegations, the University of Illinois has continued to employ women’s basketball and women’s soccer athletic staff accused of player abuse and mistreatment.

The NCPA has called on NCAA President Mark Emmert to implement rules to prevent player abuse but, so far, Emmert has refused to respond.

Click here to read the University of Illinois’’ statement on its firing of Tim Beckman.

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NLRB 'Had It Wrong' On Northwestern Players' Bid To Unionize http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/nlrb-had-it-wrong-on-northwestern-players-bid-to-unionize Tue, 18 Aug 2015 21:09:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/nlrb-had-it-wrong-on-northwestern-players-bid-to-unionize  

NPR's Robert Siegel talks to Ramogi Huma, president and founder of the College Athletes Players Association, about what's next after the Northwestern football team lost its bid to unionize.

TRANSCRIPT:

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

If you heard a giant whooshing sound yesterday and wondered what it was, it may have been the collective sigh of relief of some big college athletic programs. It would have come just after the National Labor Relations Board dismissed a petition by football players at Northwestern University, players who wanted to form a union. But the NLRB did not rule on whether the players are university employees. Ramogi Huma, president of the College Athletes Players Association, joins me now from Los Angeles. He had backed the efforts by the players. Welcome to the program.

RAMOGI HUMA: Thanks for having me.

SIEGEL: And remind us first, why did some of these Northwestern players, like former quarterback Kain Colter, want to form a union in the first place?

HUMA: Well, really it's to get a seat at the table for college athletes. You know, college athletes fit the criteria for an employee, yet they hadn't had the opportunity to be treated like employees and have the opportunity to form a union. And in NCAA sports, college athletes don't have a seat at the table and - which leaves them with gaps in protections.

You know, if you look at some of the traumatic brain injury issues on the NFL level - well, they exist on the college football level as well. You know, we've had players die, commit suicide. NCAA sports, unfortunately, has not taken steps to correct that and refuses to do so. So, you know, that in terms of players being stuck with sports-related medical expenses and poor graduation rates, they wanted to change the system, and it was the first step in terms of getting the leverage to do so.

SIEGEL: The NCAA, of course, insists that they are student-athletes; they're not employees. Yesterday's decision by the National Labor Relations Board was unanimous. It overturned a decision last year by a regional director that said the players were de facto employees of Northwestern. How do you understand those two very contradictory rulings, one by the regional director and the other by the entire board?

HUMA: Well, just to clarify, the board actually didn't rule on the employee status. The regional director said they are employees, and the board didn't throw that part out. What they did was say that they were not going to rule. They're not going to exercise jurisdiction. The board says this only affects Northwestern football players, but other schools and players are free to petition to unionize. But it's frustrating because this delay means a delay in the players securing the leverage that they need to protect themselves, again, from those various issues.

SIEGEL: But the board's decision also underscored a complexity in big-time college sports. Northwestern is a private institution, and the decision observed that a unionized Northwestern football team would have an unfair advantage over the rest of the Big Ten schools which are public and outside of the jurisdiction of the NLRB. That seems like it would be a sticky legal problem that's not going to go away.

HUMA: Not really, no. The board had it wrong. You know, when you have a union, you still have to abide by NCAA rules. Right now, without a union, Northwestern, if it chose to, could treat its players better. It could treat its players the best among the Big Ten schools. It could provide opportunities for grad school. It could reduce traumatic brain injury risk by reducing contact in practices. But it doesn't break NCAA rules.

And all the other schools in the Big Ten are free to match what Northwestern would do with or without a union. So the board had it wrong, and I don't think the board understands college sports as well as it thinks it does. And so it's also frustrating to see the board point to some of these arguments as reasons they denied players equal protection under the law.

SIEGEL: The Big Ten, the conference that Northwestern plays in, did announce last year that it plans to improve medical insurance and guarantee multiyear scholarships. Do you see those as points of progress that have really been brought about under the pressure of the Northwestern suit?

HUMA: Oh, there's no question. You know, and actually the Pac-12, for instance, the presidents got together and said that they needed to take these various steps that the players are calling for. And within, you know, a short period of time, the conference has begun to move towards those ends. And the board pointed to that. They said well, you know, let's let NCAA sports see what they can do. They've made some recent progress.

But the irony is that the progress was made because players had that leverage, because players signed union cards. And now the board has basically stripped the players of that leverage for the time being, so we'll see soon enough how serious NCAA sports is in terms of maintaining this progress.

SIEGEL: That's Ramogi Huma, president of the College Athletes Players Association. Thanks for talking with us.

HUMA: Thanks for having me.

SIEGEL: And we were talking about the decision by the National Labor Relations Board yesterday, dismissing a petition for college football players to unionize.

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NLRB: Northwestern Football Players Cannot Unionize For Now http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/nlrb-northwestern-football-players-cannot-unionize-for-now Mon, 17 Aug 2015 22:19:08 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/nlrb-northwestern-football-players-cannot-unionize-for-now The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced its ruling today that it will not exercise its jurisdiction in the Northwestern football players unionization effort.  This ruling does not close the door on the option for college athletes at private schools to unionize but it takes away this option for Northwestern football players at this time.  The Board was clear that the decision only affects Northwestern football players and does not prevent players from other private schools from attempting to unionize.

“This is not a loss, but it is a loss of time.  It delays players securing the leverage they need to protect themselves from traumatic brain injury, sports-related medical expenses, and other gaps in protections.” - Ramogi Huma, NCPA Executive Director and CAPA President

"The ruling is disappointing because it imposes a delay in this issue, but I am proud of my teammates for standing up for justice.  Their courage has provided a national platform to expose gaps in player protections and pressure colleges and conferences to take steps toward better health coverage, four-year scholarships, concussion reform, and even stipends.  The fight for justice will continue and college athletes everywhere should take note. A few dozen 18-21 year-old Northwestern football players joined together to challenge an unjust system and are forcing change.  It's simple. As players stand up, injustice falls down." - Kain Colter, Former Northwestern football player

Thanks to college athletes like Kain Colter, the Northwestern football players and CAPA, who courageously stood up against injustice, the entire country is aware and can begin to understand that college athletes deserve a greater voice and basic protections.

College athletes are at risk and subject to brain trauma and we can't afford to have more incidents like the suicide of Ohio State football player Kosta Karageorge or have coaches keeping players in the game with concussion symptoms like Michigan did last season with Shane Morris.

Under NCAA rules, players can be stuck with sports-related medical expenses, lose their scholarship when they are injured, are exposed to unnecessary risk of traumatic brain injury, and face a Federal Graduation Rate of approximately 50% in football and men’s basketball.  This unionization effort comes after more than a decade of NCAA sports fighting against these reforms. 

The fight continues and we are more determined than ever to fight for basic protections for ALL college athletes. As players stand up, injustice falls down.

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College athlete activist Ramogi Huma discusses Northwestern union, more http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/college-athlete-activist-ramogi-huma-discusses-northwestern-union-more Tue, 04 Aug 2015 09:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/college-athlete-activist-ramogi-huma-discusses-northwestern-union-more
College athlete activist Ramogi Huma discusses Northwestern union, morePhoto: AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke

Huma, a former UCLA linebacker and president of CAPA and the National College Players Association (NCPA) advocacy group, has watched carefully as changes have begun to take place at the NCAA level, from unlimited snacks for college athletes to autonomy for the five major conferences.

In a 30-minute phone conversation in June, Huma said he does not know when to expect a ruling on the Northwestern appeal but remains confident in CAPA’s case. A recent report from The Wall Street Journal said a decision is expected “in coming weeks.” 

SI: If the NLRB ruling on the Northwestern union is upheld, the players’ votes will be revealed. A number of mediareports from around when the vote was taken indicated that the vote would most likely be “no.” Is that your expectation as well?

Ramogi Huma: We’re hopeful for a positive outcome. Northwestern put a ton of pressure on the players, so we’ll only know the answer to that if and when the results are revealed.

But I think it’s important to point out that really it’s a win-win situation. Number one, the Northwestern football players have already created change. If you look at the amount of pressure they’ve put on the system, a system that’s been refusing to address basic protections for so long, now all of a sudden they have motivation to actually grant some of the things we’ve been fighting for. Just in the last year there have been significant changes in policy.

I will point out, those policies are not legally binding. There’s still a way to go. That’s the difference between a collective bargaining agreement and a conference or NCAA policy. An NCAA policy is not enforceable, it can be changed on a whim, just as we saw in 2011 with the $2,000 stipend, which the NCAA initially approved only to take it away weeks later. Policies come and go, but I think college athletes are in need of legally binding protections. But it’s a major step in terms of the progress we’ve seen over the past year, and all of that credit goes to [former Wildcats quarterback] Kain Colter and the Northwestern football players who stood up.

In terms of the legalities and legal rights of players, it’s also a win-win, as long as we win the ruling. The ruling itself is the most important thing. If the board rules in our favor and says “yes college athletes are employees with the right to unionize,” that is the most important decision. As long as we win that ruling, this movement is in pretty good shape. You have a scenario where we win the ruling and win the vote, well then Northwestern players are that much closer to an actual union, although we expect Northwestern would try to challenge that and take it into federal court. But if we win the ruling and the players didn’t vote to join a union at that time, well then we have a precedent, a standing at that time, as employees, for private school football players in the nation that the federal government considers them employees with the right to unionize.

SI: We haven’t heard much from you and the NCPA recently. Are you waiting for the Northwestern domino to fall to see what happens next?

RH: Well we never comment on our organizing strategy, but obviously this board ruling is going to set the tone in terms of the landscape of unionization for college athletes.

SI: Do you see unionization for college athletes as the way that this reform is going to happen, or are you still looking into other ways of accomplishing your goals?

RH: I think unionization is the best way for reform to occur and for players to have a vehicle to maintain legal protections. If we just look at the pro leagues, and I’ll just say the other pro leagues, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here. We’re trying to use a model that’s tried, tested and proven. Not only effective in protecting players but at the core of what helps industries remain stable and prosperous. All the pro leagues are very healthy. 

SI: Do you think it’s good that threats to the NCAA are coming from all different directions, between the Ed O’Bannon case, the Jeffrey Kessler case and all the various activists chiming in? Or would it be better if everybody on the same team, so to speak, were united on one front?

RH: Well, I think there’s a core of unity. Even among players and advocates that have not met, the unity is that we are all united in trying to reform NCAA sports to give players a better deal in terms of basic protections and leverage and a voice. So I see all these difference challenges as positive. I haven’t seen a challenge yet that would undermine that cause.

SI: In the Ed O’Bannon case, the judge ruled that players can profit from the rights to their names, images and likenesses but capped compensation at $5,000.

RH: They didn’t actively. They left the door open for the NCAA to impose a cap. Whether or not the NCAA chooses to impose a rule to act on that, that’s another story. Which we would expect them to do, but the judge did not impose the cap herself.

SI: So in your opinion, was that a total victory for reform, or was it kind of a qualified victory?

RH: I think it was a solid victory, but granting the NCAA limited anti-trust exemption to implement a $5,000 cap, I think that’s a step in the wrong direction. I don’t know that that part of the ruling will withstand additional scrutiny. I think at some point it’s going to be challenged.

SI: What do you think when you see college athletes, like Simon Cvijanovic from Illinoisor Garrick Sherman from Michigan State and Notre Dame, kind of going rogue and calling out the NCAA or their individual programs? Is that advancing the cause, or is there a better way to do that? 
 
RH: I definitely think it’s advancing the cause. These players are using their voice, they have first-amendment protection. They’re using their right to point out what they see as injustices or what they see in NCAA sports or both. I think it’s definitely positive. The more players that speak out, the quicker change will come. You know, I didn’t start the union at Northwestern. I can’t. I’m not a current player. It takes current players to stand up for themselves.
 
SI: Is reform needed more on the campus level, like we’ve heard about at Illinois, or is it needed more at the NCAA level or both?
 
RH: Both. I think we’ve done a good job over the years of laying out all the issues at the national level, the NCAA level, even the conference level. And we’ve also zeroed in on whether or not schools do enough to protect their athletes even under NCAA rules. Because the schools could be doing more, even if none of the NCAA rules changed.
 
And then you look at the accusations coming out of Illinois. There was just a lawsuit announced a couple days ago from a softball player that echoed some of the accusations of medical mistreatment of her concussion. And so clearly there are concerns at Illinois, and it really has teased out that coaches and administrators that can’t really handle these issues can really be abusive. Players can be mistreated in many different ways, not just by policies but also whether there’s inappropriate treatment of injuries or there’s blackmail in a sense where someone is getting their future or their scholarship held over their head in terms of pressuring them to play with serious injuries. Emotional abuse, potential racism. There’s a lot of ugly things that have been discussed.
 
How do you deal with that? They definitely need protections. I don’t necessarily think those are policies. Those are just the need to protect these people as human beings first and foremost and not treat them as property whose bodies are expendable. So how do you wrap your head around that, how do you address that?
 
So I think Simon, and these other players that have spoken out are advancing that at Illinois. I don’t see any scenario where Illinois walks away from this without serious changes, and that would have never happened had the players not spoken out.
Photo: AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

SI: The North Carolina academic fraud scandal presents an interesting ideological dilemma. Many people are outraged by the revelations of institutional dishonesty at a top school, and others have taken the attitude of, "they’re not there to study anyway, let them play sports in peace." Where do you fall?

RH: I think there are too many extremes in that conversation. At the end of the day, it’s healthy to recognize that these players are subject to serious athletic time demands. In the Northwestern case, we used Northwestern’s itineraries. We didn’t make this stuff. You had players spending 50 hours a week on their sport alone. And on top of that they’re expected to be fulltime students? It’s very difficult.

Another issue is that most universities allow players in with relaxed standards in terms of academic performance—and they do that for other students on campus as well—but I believe there’s a responsibility if they admit a student, they have to do everything they can to give that student a realistic opportunity to get a quality degree. If you’re going to let these students in you’ve got to educate them. And in terms of athletes, you have to accommodate for their athletic schedules.

What we’ve advocated for is to put some of these resources toward educational trust funds that would allow people to complete their degree if they needed another semester or two to graduate and to incentivize them. If they complete their degree on time they can get an ear-marked amount of money, and if they don’t, that money can be used by the player to complete their degree.

SI: What would you say to an athlete who expresses the Cardale Jones, sentiment, the “We ain’t come to play school” kind of idea?

RH: You can’t mandate on intent. That’s what the NCAA tries to do, and every time I shake my head. The NCAA says, “Well they come here for an education and to be amateurs and to uphold the NCAA values.” How do they know? They haven’t asked the players. And clearly there are players out there that, that’s not the primary reason they come to college. There are some that are and some that aren’t. You can’t pigeonhole all the players in the nation under a certain ideology. There’s a segment of players, some players especially in basketball, they’re now forced to go to college in order to go to the NBA.

The one-and-done phenomenon is true in that not all players want to go to college and not all players would rather stay in college and earn a degree rather than go pro. The NCAA is full of hypocrisy. And if you step away and look at all the rhetoric, the only thing that makes sense is that if you have the perspective of, this is a business trying to maximize revenue, and they will say anything and do anything they want in order to maximize revenue, then everything makes sense. But if you try to follow the NCAA’s logic then you’re ultimately going to be advocating for hypocritical policies and practices.  

SI: Many people, smart people, instinctively cringe at the idea of college athletes being paid. Why is the concept so hard for people to wrap their minds around?

RH: I think they’ve been conditioned to think that way for 65 years of spin that the NCAA has been paying for. And the NCAA has been trying to label “pay-for-play” as something dirty. But when they began to pay players in the 1950s in the form of a scholarship, they knew that this was pay-for-play. But what they did was try to wrap it up, put it in a bow and say, “Oh this is just a scholarship.” But they did that to avoid workers’ compensation liability.

So all those people, if they were to sit back and realize that we’ve already arrived at pay-for-play, that there is an employee-employer relationship, then I think it would be less taboo in their minds.

SI: What will college sports look like in 10 years?

RH: I would say 10 years from now college athletes will have a real seat at the table, a real voice. I think that they will have legally guaranteed protections, and I think that some of the value that they generate will go to them in some way, whether it be a trust fund for them after they’re done.

I don’t think it’ll be either extreme. I don’t think you’re going to see college athletes with multi-million-dollar salaries, but they’re not going to be living below the poverty line like they are now. The graduation rate isn’t going to be hovering around 50% for football and basketball players like it is now. And I think players are going to have long-term support for the injuries they suffer in college sports. I think that there are going to be mandated rules to minimize traumatic brain injuries and other serious injuries.

I think we’ll be in a much better place.

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Advocacy group wants Illini AD, coaches fired http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/advocacy-group-wants-illini-ad-coaches-fired Fri, 10 Jul 2015 09:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/advocacy-group-wants-illini-ad-coaches-fired Tim Beckman

An advocacy group for college athletes called for the University of Illinois to fire athletic director Mike Thomas, football coach Tim Beckman and others who have been the target of player mistreatment allegations and two lawsuits by former athletes alleging abusive treatment and racial hostility.

Ramogi Huma, the executive director of the National College Players Association, sent a letter Thursday to Chancellor Phyllis Wise, demanding the firings of seven university employees, including Thomas, Beckman, women's basketball coach Matt Bollant, women's soccer coach Janet Rayfield and athletic trainers Sam Laingen and Brittany Scott.

"It's very clear to us the claims of mistreatment are credible," Huma told the Tribune. "If credible, all these people responsible are still posing a threat to current players."

Seven former women's basketball players have sued the university in a $10 million federal law suit alleging a violation of the Civil Rights Act. The players allege that coaches used derogatory stereotypes about African-American players and segregated the team at times based on race.

Former assistant Mike Divilbiss, who is named in the suit, parted ways with the university in May as allegations came to light.

Simon Cvijanovic and several former football players have spoken out about their alleged mistreatment, including being forced to play through injuries. Former women's soccer player Casey Conine has filed suit over the team mishandling her concussion.

Huma wrote to Wise: "It is beyond reason to believe that Simon and all of the Illinois players and parents across three sports are lying about their experiences. It would be negligent and indefensible to allow the current players on these teams to remain at risk of similar mistreatment and abuse."

The NCPA also called for a meeting with the university, require mandatory reporting by university staff of any suspected or verified abuse and to provide players with the means to anonymously report mistreatment to an independent third party that would investigate claims.

A university spokeswoman said Wise is out of the country and was unavailable for comment.

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NCPA Calls for Firing of University of Illinois Coaches, AD, and Trainers http://www.ncpanow.org/news/releases-advisories/ncpa-calls-for-firing-of-university-of-illinois-coaches-ad-and-trainers Thu, 09 Jul 2015 17:01:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/releases-advisories/ncpa-calls-for-firing-of-university-of-illinois-coaches-ad-and-trainers

Riverside, CA – After an explosive CNN investigation into allegations of athlete mistreatment and abuse across three sports at the University of Illinois, the NCPA is calling on the university to fire football coaches Tim Beckman and Bill Cubit, women’s basketball coach Matt Bollant, women’s soccer coach Janet Rayfield, women’s basketball trainer Sam Laingen, and women’s soccer trainer Brittany Scott. 

Eight former women’s basketball players asserted and backed various accusations that their coaches treated black players worse than white players, segregated practices and room assignments based on race, made derogatory comments about black players such as calling them “Westside ghetto”, regularly bullied many players on the team, and frequently threatened to terminate athletic scholarships against university policy. 

One former women’s basketball player says that her athletic trainer Sam Laingen successfully pressured her into playing after an X-ray revealed she had a broken foot. 

Former Illinois women’s soccer player Casey Conine said that after she was diagnosed with a concussion, her coach Janet Rayfield and athletic trainer Brittany Scott returned her to play without approval from a doctor.  She asserts that this action was against university policy and that she has suffered significant health consequences as a result.   

Former Illinois football players Simon Cvijanovic and Nick North say that their coaches pressured them into playing on significant injuries. Cvijanovic says coaches Beckman and Cubit threatened to disparage his character to NFL scouts and North says he was told his scholarship would be terminated if he did not play while his knee was injured. 

Former Illinois football player Kenny Knight says that Beckman physically attacked him while Kenny was having a verbal altercation with a teammate witnesses say landed a cheap shot on Kenny during a practice.  Multiple players who witnessed this event backed Kenny’s claim. 

CNN spoke with seven former football players that backed various allegations that Beckman mistreats players and regularly threatens to terminate players’ scholarships against university policy.  

NCPA Executive Director Ramogi Huma sent University of Illinois Chancellor PhylliWise a letter calling for the terminations and to meet with the NCPA to discuss much needed reform measures.  Huma stated, “It would be negligent and indefensible to allow the current players on these teams to remain at risk of similar mistreatment and abuse.  The University of Illinois must act now.  

Cvijanovic stated, “I agree with the NCPA that athletic director Mike Thomas and coaches Beckman and Cubit should be fired.  Until that happens, I believe Illinois football players will remain at risk of abuse.  Also, Illinois and NCAA sports as a whole need to take steps toward making rules that protect players from abuse.” 

Seven former Illinois women’s basketball players have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the university and key athletic staff.  Terry Ekl, the lawyer who filed the case on their behalf stated, “We completely concur with the NCPA’s recommendation of the termination of both Matt Bollant and Mike Thomas.  I believe this will be a step in the right direction toward cleaning up the problems associated with the Illinois athletic department.”

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Athletes allege abuse and racism at University of Illinois http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/athletes-allege-abuse-and-racism-at-university-of-illinois Tue, 07 Jul 2015 16:00:00 -0500 http://www.ncpanow.org/news/articles/athletes-allege-abuse-and-racism-at-university-of-illinois

They called it the "dog pound."

It was a separate practice for women's basketball players at the University of Illinois, a majority of them black, where athletes were often allegedly harassed and attacked for things that had nothing to do with basketball.

Like the neighborhoods where they grew up. Or their family life. 

It was common, these women told CNN, for an assistant coach to refer to race, and to tell them their "culture" was "poison" or "toxic" to the starting team, which was predominantly white. During road games, the players say they were segregated -- black players separated from the white ones in hotel rooms.

It was so bad, the women said, four players from this past season transferred out of the program at the University of Illinois to other schools. 

Nearby, at the university's Memorial Stadium, some members of the football team say they were being harassed too. They recalled two instances where players were physically hit by their coach. 

Another player, with Type 1 diabetes, said he was shamed about his weight. 

CNN has spoken to 15 recently departed players on the football and women's basketball teams, and they allege a wide range of misconduct and persistent bullying of athletes by coaches. 

In addition, players and their families have complained to CNN that they were pressured to play through injuries that go far beyond the typical tough nature of college sports. In one case, a women's basketball player says she was forced to play with an injured toe that ended up being diagnosed as a broken foot. Athletes on the football team also complained that injuries were not taken seriously -- one recalling a time when coaches threatened from the sidelines that he would lose his scholarship as he limped across the field with a knee injury.

Overall, students and parents on both teams say there was a culture of coaches bullying students, with frequent threats to take away their scholarships even though university policy says an athlete can't lose his or her scholarship because of injury or performance in sport. 

The university's athletic director, Mike Thomas, acknowledged that the allegations are serious and call into question the culture of the program.

"I was certainly troubled by all the allegations. And those allegations don't match our core values," he said. "Certainly our student athletes need to be in an environment that's safe, that's healthy, that takes their well-being as primary importance."

Women's basketball head coach Matt Bollant and head football coach Tim Beckman declined to comment through a university spokeswoman.

"Look at what the university has to lose," said Lydia Tuck, the mother of one former women's basketball player. "I'm sure they're worried about Title IX funding. I'm sure they hope that we go away."

 

Racism alleged on women's basketball team

The women's basketball team lost four girls to transfer this year -- all for the same reasons: They allege pervasive emotional abuse. 

Eight former players -- seven of them have since sued the university -- talked to CNN, and all said that assistant coach Mike Divilbiss verbally attacked players daily, going after them for personal issues such as learning disabilities, family life or the neighborhood in which they grew up. Divilbiss could not be reached for comment.

"The way he would attack you personally was just horrible," said Jacqui Grant, a former player.

"He came after my character," said former player Alexis Smith, claiming that Divilbiss reprimanded her for moving into the same apartment as two of her teammates who were Bollant's recruits. "He said, 'I feel like you are trying to poison these girls. Why did you even move in with them? You are trying to poison them.' "

"When I tried to defend myself," she added, "he was like, 'Don't try to come after me, I'm the wrong person.' "

Kierra Morris, who left the team after being put on medical disability, said the coaches told her they didn't want her "culture carrying over" to their new recruits.

Another former player, Amarah Coleman said that race was a constant underlying distinction and that Divilbiss often said things like, "you know how black people play."

And another former player, Taylor Tuck, said Divilbiss made a comment about three black players sitting together at a restaurant, saying, "All the black girls are sitting together, that's segregated."

Divilbiss left the university after coming to what administrators call a "mutual understanding" with Bollant, following complaints from some parents, but Bollant remains in his position.

Several former players or their parents told CNN that separate practices were held for the team -- one practice group was majority black, and called "the dog pound," which the players understood to mean they were not in favor. The other practice group was majority white, made up of the starters on the team. In addition, tension between the groups was encouraged, parents wrote in letters of complaint to the university in April.

The players said those in the "dog pound" were called "crabs," which, on a conference call, seven of the players explained like this: "Crabs can never get out of a bucket because they always pull each other down. That is how he explained it in practice. ... They all just climb on top of each other and pull each other down. Like, bums, we are just dragging everybody down."

Coleman said she felt uncomfortable when her team was preparing to play one that was majority African-American, "because coach Divilbiss would single out the blacks on the team to talk about what the other black team was thinking. ... The division of the team during that time made it feel like coach was thinking all blacks think alike."

She continued with more examples: "In practice when a black player would do a certain move, he (Divilbiss) would make a comment stating 'that's the West Side coming out' (referring to Chicago's predominantly black West Side). People should be proud of where they are from, but coach was saying it to make fun of where they are from."

 

Recruitment by a previous coach

Six of the former players who spoke to CNN said that Divilbiss made several comments that singled out the black players who were primarily recruited by the previous coach, also an African-American, from the white players who were primarily recruited by Bollant.

The players say race wasn't the only factor that led to their mistreatment; they say they believe it also had to do with the fact that they were recruited by a previous coach.

"It was a combination. Like you were African-American, and you weren't recruited by them," former player Nia Oden said.

In their lawsuit, and in interviews with CNN, the women said they were divided by race when sharing hotel rooms during road games. 

After the women's parents complained in April, the school did an internal investigation through its diversity council, and "preliminary findings" found no wrongdoing when it came to the allegations of racism and bullying. 

That led to an outcry from former players and their parents. And in response to them and to questions from CNN, the university announced five days later that it had hired a Chicago law firm to "finalize the preliminary review" that found no wrongdoing. 

"There's no rush to judgment. You know we will go through an investigative process, and when that process is complete we will look at the next steps," said Thomas, the university's athletic director. "... I think you and I could be watching practice, and you could hear a coach say something to two different kids, those two different kids might take it a different way and you and I might take it a different way. So I think for coaches, not just at the University of Illinois but across the country, these are the kind of things that we're going to be paying attention to moving forward."

The university has also hired a separate law firm to look at the claims of medical mistreatment on different teams. Allegations now include a lawsuit filed on June 8 by a former Illinois soccer player who says her concussion was mishandled. 

The suit says the university failed to follow its own protocol for handling concussions when defender Casey Conine was injured, returning her to play before doctors cleared her.

 

'A culture of mental and emotional abuse'

Divilbiss' departure comes after three sets of parents wrote letters to the administration in late April.

In one of the letters, Tuck, the former player, and her husband wrote that bullying and racial tension on the team are systematic and "epidemic," and they accused Bollant, the women's basketball head coach, of creating "a culture of mental and emotional abuse."

The family of another player, Taylor Gleason, wrote that she was "bullied and demoralized daily" and was forced to play with an injured toe, which later was diagnosed as a broken foot. 

"She's just happy to be at a new school and starting over," her father told CNN later. "Just happy to be out of there."

Many of the players who left are now playing at other schools, and they said they are having much different and much better experiences.

Tom Grusecki, the stepfather of one former player, wrote in a letter to the school that Divilbiss belittled his daughter in front of the team because of her estranged relationship with her father and because of her dyslexia.

More than one player said they became so depressed, "it hurt to get out of bed." 

"The things they said were so personal, attacking, that they would single you out and you felt you were alone," Gleason said. 

Sarah Livingston, who transferred after the 2014 season, said the final straw, for her, was when another coach just turned away after one of Divilbiss' rants. 

"That kind of embodied the whole attitude of everyone that wasn't Divilbiss," she said.

"He wouldn't stand up for us. He wouldn't tell coach D to stop. Coach Bollant would be quiet and continue with practice," Smith said.

Thomas, the university's athletic director, said the university is reevaluating its practice of allowing head coaches to do most of the vetting of assistants they bring in.

The university responded by saying that it's disappointed the lawsuit came before the findings of its internal review and that Thomas has asked staff to closely monitor team activities in the meantime.

"I cannot stress enough that anytime we learn that a student feels the experience at Illinois isn't excellent, we take those concerns seriously. We intended that through the external review process the student-athletes and their families would help us better understand their concerns and perceptions," Chancellor Phyllis Wise said in a statement.

Many players and parents told CNN they won't be happy as long as Bollant remains. One said, "When you are the head coach, you should stop that when you see it. If you can't stop bullying amongst your own staff, that is a problem."

Tuck, whose daughter graduated from the program, said the behavior of the coaching staff changed drastically when Bollant was hired after her daughter's freshman year. And, she said, the attitude of the coaches is drastically different from those of her other daughter, who plays under much better circumstances at Connecticut.

 

Football allegations

The alleged bullying at the University of Illinois wasn't isolated to one program or one coach. There are also allegations of wrongdoing in the football program.

Recently graduated football player Kenny Knight and three other former players who spoke to CNN say they witnessed two incidents in the past two years in which head coach Tim Beckman was physically rough with players. One player is still on the team and declined through his teammates to talk about what happened. But witnesses said that at the start of one practice, the player ran onto the field with his helmet unbuckled, and Beckman ran over to him, grabbed his face mask and jerked his head back and forth, yelling at him.

In 2013, Knight says, a similar thing happened to him. He says Beckman grabbed and tackled him from behind, throwing him to the ground during a practice. Two former teammates who witnessed the incident backed him up.

They say it happened after Knight was hit "dirty" by another player with his head down -- something that's prohibited in college football.

"I immediately got in his face about it," Knight said of the player who hit him. "Before I had the chance to lift a finger, in a matter of seconds, I was grabbed by my shoulder and thrown on the ground. I was livid, I thought I was going to look up and see one of my teammates had thrown me down, but I looked up and saw Tim Beckman staring in my face. I was shocked. I don't think I uttered a word."

The university says Beckman thought he was breaking up a fight; Knight and several other players who witnessed the incident said there was no physical fight happening when Beckman hit Knight. Knight's father said the night of the incident, Beckman told him, "Kenny accidentally fell backwards over him." 

Knight and his father tried to look at the practice tape to review what happened.

"There was 35 seconds of blank screen. I could see the dial was moving to let me know that it was still playing, but there was no film to be seen. It wouldn't play for me or for anybody else," he said. Two other players said they, separately, also looked for the incident on the practice tape, but it was not there.

The university says the "dead time" between plays is not normally recorded during practice. Knight says Beckman called him the day after speaking to his father to apologize, but Knight never reported the incident to anyone at the university out of fear that he'd lose his scholarship. "He should never be allowed to coach again," Knight said.

The National College Players Association is also involved, offering guidance to the players who are coming out publicly and demanding that Illinois fire all coaches involved in physical and verbal abuse.

"You can be tough as hell without abusing players," said NCPA president Ramogi Huma. "Everywhere, coaches yell and cuss. That happens everywhere. What doesn't happen everywhere is racism," Huma said, referring to the women's basketball team. "What doesn't happen everywhere is forcing players to play through serious injuries. It's not regular for coaches to put their hands on players -- that's not breaking up a fight, that's starting a fight," he said, referring to the alleged incident with the football team.

"At the end of the day, it's about the student-athlete experience, and part of that is their safety, well-being and health," said Thomas, the university's athletic director. "And abuse is not acceptable. We hold our staff to a high standard. That line of what's acceptable and not acceptable is really under the microscope right now."

 

Brothers allege bullying on football team

Knight and others are speaking up after fellow former teammate Simon Cvijanovic went on Twitter in May to say that he'd been pressured by Beckman to go back on the field too soon after knee surgery and to play through a shoulder injury. 

Instead, he quit the team, started the hashtag #BanBeckman and inspired several more teammates to speak up, including Knight, and former player Nick North, who told CNN that he, too, was pushed back into practice after hurting a knee ligament. 

"They kept saying, 'You need to go back out there,' even though they knew I wasn't 100 percent," North said. "I'd literally be limping while running, and you could see it. ... They were like, if you can't do this, you're going to have to leave. You can't play here. We're going to take your scholarship." North graduated in December.

All the players CNN spoke to said that many more stories like these exist, but players are afraid to speak up because they're still on the team.

"WHEN @coachbeckman is fired you'll hear plenty more stories but right now he's dangling scholarships like a carrot," Cvijanovic tweeted.

He later said, "They act like our bodies are just disposable and we should feel that way also or else we're not team players. ... There's nowhere to turn to so Twitter is where I went."

He says Beckman threatened to say bad things about his character to National Football League scouts unless he returned to the field after injuries. Once, he says, he was pressured to return two weeks after an ankle injury that his doctor told him needed a six- to eight-week recovery.

His younger brother, who also played football but quit the team, struggled as well. A Type 1 diabetic, Peter Cvijanovic had trouble gaining weight and says he was bullied daily by coaches for it.

"They made him step on the scale three to five times a day," Simon Cvijanovic said. "Every time he walked by, coach would make him step up on the scale, and Peter would hang his head and get up on the scale. We were both throwing up in the morning from anxiety -- me from my knee and him because of the weight issue."

The university says it cannot discuss the Cvijanovic brothers' or Nick North's allegations in detail because of privacy laws.

Thomas said he had not been aware of many of the allegations until being asked for comment by CNN, adding that he would ask the firm investigating to expand its scope.

"Anytime you receive these types of allegations, it brings you great concern," he said, later adding, "Here at the University of Illinois, the health and well-being of our student athletes is our number one priority. ... Anytime anything rises to a level of a student athlete being mistreated, I would address it immediately."

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