College athletes and Unions

College sports are big money. No secret there.Athletic department inflows are enormous pots of gold.  Here is some data, taken from a

Forbes article of late detailing just the Football monies.


Total Football Expenses

Total Football Revenue




Ohio State












Texas A&M



South Carolina












Notre Dame



Florida State






Oklahoma State















Boise State


















Oregon State






Licensing of the logos, conference television networks, and a host of other revenue generators have been implemented to enhance the bottom lines.  All fair in a capitalistic world.  Universities are big business, scholastically and athletically.

The football players upon whose performance all of this is based, most notably of Northwestern University, are challenging the current paradigm.  They have some legitimate issues.  Players who are injured to the extent those injuries prohibit a career or carry long lasting effects such as concussion trauma seem to be uncared for in the current system.  Enter the concept of workers rights.  Is OSHA involvement far away?

Seeking to rectify this situation, the concept of unionization has been floated.  A gentle nod of assent by a judge has given this idea some impetus.  College athletes under scholarship may unionize.  But what does this mean, exactly?

The “what if” machine is in full extrapolation mode.  No one knows for certain where this may lead.  Ideas of players dictating practice conditions, receiving monetary compensation, the collapse of other school sports as the revenues are redirected, title IX considerations start the list of potential ramifications.  Certainly the concept of amateur athletics is riding into the sunset just as it has fully dismounted in the Olympics.

A couple of points need to be brought to the fore.  Scholarshipped players are ALREADY compensated. Are the Northwestern football scholarshipped players prepared to declare their $50,000 a year compensation as income on their 1040s?

If the big money wasn’t there, or if you play for a school that doesn’t have the Alabama type revenues, what then of your compensation demands?  Is this merely about tapping into a pile of money?  Maybe all schools must chip in a percentage to some disability pool. But then what of the players of the recent past, lawyered up, and wanting to tap into that pot of gold?

Players who are injured may deserve some type of insurance considerations. But who can assess what career was cut short?  Who can determine the degree of lingering effects after college?

And what of the NCAA,  that peculiar entity that has whimsically enforced their laws, many of which limit or prohibit any financial remuneration to college athletes?

What can be agreed upon is this.  With big money comes big changes, and we are on the cusp of just that in collegiate sports.

James Longstreet