Collective Bargaining

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Patrick

Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.

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  1. Avatar Kolohe
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    says:

    I can’t imagine how any change to the status quo would make things worse. College athletics is doing the same exact thing Silicon Valley is accused of doing (in the other thread), but in this case it’s perfectly legal. (with even less – with substantially less – of the labor surplus going into the hands of the workers)Report

  2. Avatar Chris
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    says:

    I am excited for the players. I’m pretty sure this is going to end up precisely nowhere, but it’s yet another sign that players and the fans who are paying attention are growing increasingly frustrated with the current college sports model.Report

  3. Avatar Burt Likko
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    says:

    The hallmark of collective bargaining is that each side in the exchange must make offers to the other in good faith. Typically “good faith” means “taking at least a small step from your immediately previous offer towards their most recent offer.” You can have lots of rounds, and especially when there’s a lot of points in dispute and other exchanges going on, you can send lots of signals about where you are really flexible and not. It’s as much art as craft.

    If that breaks down and reaches impasse, you can either leverage or call in a third party. Leverage is usually either a strike or a lockout. A third party is brought in if there is a clause in the CBA that prohibits those sorts of tactics. Here, I think there pretty much has to be a strike for unionized players to have credibility – and a strike would look like the Northwestern football team refusing to take the field, on live TV, resulting in a forfeit.

    The union’s demands would surely be inconsistent with NCAA membership requirements. So if the college wants to withdraw from the NCAA, it could meet the union in a mediated resolution session. (I’d serve as mediator, if asked; my hourly fee would be quite reasonable under the circumstances.) If not, then the college would… what? Can it disenroll or discipline the striking student-athletes? Doesn’t seem so. Maybe it rescinds the scholarships on a legal theory resembling but not quite reaching breach of contract? So the students stay enrolled but they have to pay tuition…

    But the thing of it is, maybe the NCAA doesn’t like the students not taking the field either, and if Northwestern fails to get the students back into competition, can NCAA suspend or expel Northwestern?

    You can see where I’m going here — there’s no rule or law that says any particular college has to be in the NCAA at all. And if it isn’t, there is no rule or law that says student-athletes can’t simply be paid cash money, G. So the strike should be aimed at getting Northwestern out of the NCAA. And after that, college after college will dispense with the rules, or the NCAA will change its rules, and maybe there will be better treatment of the athletes.Report

  4. Avatar Kazzy
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    says:

    ESPN.com has a poll up asking: How important is amateurism to your enjoyment of college athletics?

    41% said very important.
    26% said somewhat important.
    33% said not at all important.

    The idea that you would enjoy something less if you knew the people involved in creating it were getting paid for their efforts is… troubling.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      Players-for-hire is what the officially professional leagues are for. The notion of the student-athlete rather than the player-for-hire is for a lot of people the “sell” of college athletics. The NFL is what it is based largely on the quality of its players (the best that money can buy). College football is based largely on the institutions that the players are representing, rather than the overall quality of play.

      The response to this is usually that the notion that they aren’t players-for-hire, or that they’re students at all, is a fiction. I don’t think that’s quite accurate in the broader scope of things (even if you’re really cynical, college football doesn’t begin and end with the major conferences… or in Division I), but even if it is, it’s a useful fiction to an awful lot of fans.Report

  5. Avatar Tod Kelly
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    says:

    I don’t know if anyone anywhere is addressing this, but…

    If the NCAA does become a unionized, player-paying enterprise, what’s to stop it from competing directly with pro sports leagues? If the “student-amateur” facade goes, why can’t the NCAA and the endowed schools use their vastly superior wealth to put, say, the NFL out of business?Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
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      says:

      “Student athletes” (heh) would still only be able to play college ball for four years of eligibility, no?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater
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        says:

        Why?

        At the moment this is only so because everything revolves around the premise that these are amateur athletes. But if, say, Notre Dame is allowed to pay for an athlete, why does that athlete have to be a current student? If the NCAA is suddenly going to have a new, very large expense, why wouldn’t they change the rules more, to increase revenues?

        If Stanford thought they could make more money in the long run paying Richard Sherman more money than the Seahawks to come back, why wouldn’t they? For that matter, why wouldn’t Notre Dame?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
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        says:

        I hadn’t thought about it that way. I’m presuming – maybe incorrectly – that the only people eligible to join the union would be enrolled students subject to restrictions on number of years of eligibility.

        But you’re right – that there’s no reason the whole thing couldn’t blow up.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Stillwater
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        says:

        For my own part, my interest in college sports would be considerably less so if there weren’t for the concept of student athletes and whatnot. If I want to watch professional sports, I’ll watch professional sports.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Stillwater
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        says:

        Do you think that a “student-athlete” can get a degree as well as a stipend for spending money and still be a “student-athlete” as opposed to a “professional athlete who is also taking classes at college during the off season”? Because I do.

        A stipend ought to be a reasonable amount of money, and one of the things I would suggest be discussed is what that might actually be. Maybe for the top athletes, as much as $1,000 a month and a full ride on the tuition? This to me does not contaminate the “purity” of the idea of the “student-athlete” to me.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Stillwater
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        says:

        That’s kind of different than what Tod is talking about.

        I have mixed feelings about a stipend. I’m not going to really go to the mat on objecting to any stipend at all. The NCAA is talking about a stipend right now, in fact. A lot of these conversations often seem headed in a different direction (though not really the player’s union, who at the moment isn’t requesting anything that doesn’t seem unreasonable to me).Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater
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        says:

        @burt-likko “Do you think that a “student-athlete” can get a degree as well as a stipend for spending money and still be a “student-athlete” as opposed to a “professional athlete who is also taking classes at college during the off season”? Because I do.”

        I do too. I think I have less confidence then you, however, that a players union would not push for a lot more than a stipend; and I have absolutely no faith that the NCAA would care so much about the whole “student athlete” thing that they wouldn’t go for the bigger bucks if they could.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Tod Kelly
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      says:

      1) The schools are not richer than the NFL. Just in tv rights, the NFL pulls in 3 billion per year. The SEC is going to pull in 3 billion for the fifteen year span ending early next decade, and they’re the ones with the most cash flow in the college game. (cept maybe Notre Dame individually)

      2) You probably want to ask the USFL and XFL how competing head to head with the NFL worked out. (That’s not to say that’s there’s plenty of room for a farm team system)Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kolohe
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        says:

        @kolohe “1) The schools are not richer than the NFL. Just in tv rights, the NFL pulls in 3 billion per year. The SEC is going to pull in 3 billion for the fifteen year span ending early next decade, and they’re the ones with the most cash flow in the college game. (cept maybe Notre Dame individually)”

        I think you might be wrong on two counts:

        1. If you include the equity of the entire NCAA and its members, I think you will find that ti dwarfs the collective equity of the NFL and its owners.

        2. The TV revenue is a function of where the stars are. If the NCAA started to compete against the NFL as a professional league, I assume a sizable chunk of that $3 billion gets eaten by the NCAA.

        “2) You probably want to ask the USFL and XFL how competing head to head with the NFL worked out. (That’s not to say that’s there’s plenty of room for a farm team system)”

        True, but in both of those instances investors were trying to create whole new leagues out of nothing, and trying to do so in a way that could compete with an already popular product.

        The NCAA doesn’t have those initial obstacles. They already have a successful, marketable product in place. I’m not sure about this, but my guess would be that it already has a built in fan base that is significantly larger than the NFL’s.Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to Kolohe
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        says:

        @tod-kelly Divided by how many teams? The NFL has 32 teams. That’s less than the SEC, Pac-12 and Big XII combined. So yeah, the NCAA pulls in more dough. Big XII get $2.6B for 13 years (for football and basketball), the Pac-12 gets $5.2 B over 12 years. The poorest NFL team gets far, far more revenue than even the wealthiest NCAA school.

        Let’s also note that college football is strongest in two places, Texas (where football at all levels is religion) and places where there is no pro alternative. In places where there is a pro team and a college team, maybe Ohio, Jacksonville and possibly Michigan, would have the college team become more popular than the pro team. But the big money would still flow to the NFL.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kolohe
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        says:

        Yes, if you’re talking about total endowment, that ‘equity’ stake dwarfs the around 40 billion in cumulative valuation for NFL franchises. But first, tapping those endowments is likely unethical and probably illegal in some states, and second, assets aren’t cash flow.

        It is difficult (surprise surprise) to find good financial statements on the athletic boosters side of the house – the money that’s earmarked just for the purpose of creating a semi-pro system – but this (pdf, page 83) gives some idea of the magnitude of the numbers. They’re drawing in about 13-14 million a year, and giving out the same in scholarships (across the athletic enterprise, not just the big 2 revenue sports). The NFL salary cap per team is about 10 times that.

        So the premier college football program in the nation would have to up its game financially by a full order of magnitude (at least) to go head to head with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

        Last, the TV money follows the product, it doesn’t lead it. (esp not after NBC got burned with the XFL)Report

  6. Avatar Stillwater
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    says:

    I’m excited about the prospects of unionization, but why limit it to only football players rather than all student athletes? I get that there’s an incentive for football players to want a slice of the revenue, but what about track-and-fielders? Lacrossers? Hockey players? Would those all be separate unions (if at all)?Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Stillwater
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      says:

      It’s football and basketball, I believe. And yeah, because those sports bring in more money so they feel more comfortable asking for more. The lacrosse player… well, the response responds for itself: “If you don’t like it, we can cut that sport and you can lose your scholarship and we’ll be better off financially. How does that sound?”

      This actually touches on a significant point: Student athletes of the minor sports exist in part on the revenue brought in by the major sports and because they’re under the NCAA umbrella which requires that they sponsor minor sports (and Title IX, lest we forget).Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        Yeah, that’s why I brought it up. It seems to me a big problem emerges if revenue sharing isn’t restricted to only revenue generating sports. But that seems like an arbitrary boundary to impose, one that might create more problems than it solves.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        I’d be a little more worried about the schools running out of money to support the minor sports if there didn’t seem to be so many non-atheletes getting rich from the runoff that doesn’t go to fencing or track and field.

        This is similar to my take on the notion that public funding for museums is the same as public funding for NFL stadiums. I’ll worry about that problem when it becomes common for museum management to threaten to abandon a perfectly serviceable building and go somewhere else if the city doesn’t build them a sweet new building.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        It’s not so much a matter of them literally not having the money (though I’d worry about school in the Gang of Five). More, it’s a matter of allocation. They’ll make sure Les Miles gets the money he needs to stick around before they worry about sponsoring any more sports than they have to, or paying any more for them than is necessary. Most of the minor sports exist precisely because athletics programs are not, contrary to popular belief, overwhelmingly financial in nature. Athletic programs are, in the aggregate, money-losers at most schools.Report

  7. Avatar Will Truman
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    says:

    (For the record, my relatively muted participation as the Lone Voice of Dissent probably won’t endure. Just going to throw some of the contrary ideas out there in between doing stuff I actually ought to be doing.)Report

  8. Avatar Notme
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    says:

    Gee, I thought the players would have to be employees first before they could collectively bargain but I guess Ramogi knows best.Report

  9. Avatar Damon
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    says:

    I’m curious to see how this plays out. Big time college sports are nothing but farm teams for the pros. They players deserve a lot more than they are getting. “education” my ass.Report

  10. Avatar James Hanley
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    says:

    How about if the athletes get paid, but have to pay their own tuition, room, and board out of their wages?Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      How ’bout we just add a stipend, insurance, and workers’ comp to their existing scholarship package (which covers room and board).

      College athletes have serious restrictions on their ability to work, so if they come from a poor family, while their tuition and room and board are paid for, anything they need beyond that is going to be difficult, because they likely can’t take a part time job to cover incidentals. On top of that, if they get hurt, they have no long term coverage. If they miss class because they had major surgery for a serious injury, and they’re on pain meds and prescribed bed rest, they can lose their eligibility if their grades suffer, so maybe something to deal with that too?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Chris
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        says:

        How ’bout we just add a stipend, insurance, and workers’ comp to their existing scholarship package (which covers room and board).

        That’s my preference. Is that all that’s actually being proposed in the public debate?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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        says:

        I think the issue that’s really motivated increased attention from the athletes themselves has been the health care one. Most of the proposals I’ve seen for paying athletes would involve a relatively small stipend (a thousand to a few thousand a month). Workers comp is something I’ve also heard talked about as a serious need. So I think this is basically in line with what the athletes/unions would like to see.Report

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