In March, the Chicago regional director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that Northwestern scholarship football players are employees of the university and therefore have the right to form a union.In April, Northwestern University appealed the decision to the full NLRB in Washington, D.C.This weekend, the Northwestern football team, still awaiting a final decision from the NLRB, comes to Notre Dame with its unionization future unclear. Ed Edmonds, associate dean of the Notre Dame Law School, said either way the Board rules, the Northwestern case could be pivotal for the future of collegiate athletics.Susan Zhu | The Observer “I would like to think that this [case] would begin to change the conversation at the NCAA away from the idea that [athletics] should be equated to a hobby or a very modest expenditure of time,” Edmonds, who specializes in sports labor law, said. “I think we need to have a much more realistic conversation about how you try to balance intercollegiate athletics and its demands with the educational process.“I mean, we’re basically the only country in the world that has sports so intertwined with the educational process at the highest levels. And I think what the case has helped advance is a conversation that is badly needed.”Following the Chicago Regional Board’s decision in March, members of Northwestern’s football team voted on whether or not they wanted the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) to represent them. Edmonds said the results of the vote will remain embargoed until the full NLRB’s ruling and will only be counted if the Board rules in CAPA’s favor.Edmonds said the Board’s review period for the Northwestern case is typical, and he expects a decision by the end of the year. In the meantime, he said the case is an opportunity to consider how universities and the NCAA treat athletics and student athletes.“The most significant thing about the case, to me, was the fact that the regional board ruled in favor of the players,” Edmonds said. “It actually causes everybody to look very carefully at the definition of a student athlete.”In its list of core values, the NCAA prioritizes “the collegiate model of athletics in which students participate as an avocation, balancing their academic, social and athletics experiences.” Edmonds said this definition is problematic when student-athletes are pushed for significantly more time and effort than non-athletes.“In the brief that Northwestern filed, [they] said, ‘Well, participating in college football is no different than 400 and some-odd other student activities that we have at the university,’” Edmonds said.“They’re trying to say if you participate in the chess club or something along those lines that that’s the same as participation in intercollegiate football. I think those kinds of assertions, that seem laughable to me, make the arguments in this case sometimes really problematic.“The incredible amount of money that conferences get, the incredible amount of money the NCAA basketball tournament generates — that places it in a far different category than anything else that Northwestern students participate in.”The Northwestern NLRB case itself revolves around the definition of employment and whether or not scholarship athletes fit that definition. Notre Dame associate professor of law Barbra Fick, who specializes in labor law, said the definition of employee typically depends on pay and control.In the Northwestern case, Edmonds said NLRB Chicago regional director Peter Sung Ohr ruled the football scholarships were economic benefits and coaches exercised some control over the players, thus making them employees. The University, though, objected to Ohr’s interpretation of scholarships as income.“What Northwestern tried to present in this case … is [scholarship athletes] don’t pay any income tax on their scholarship benefits so that should be an indication that they’re not employees,” Edmonds said. “Ohr discounted that.”In recent years, Edmonds said the idea of scholarships as income has grown more viable due to increasing tuition costs. According to the Northwestern University Office of Undergraduate Admission, the annual cost of attendance is $65,554, which totals to roughly $262,216 over four years.“One of the things that has changed a lot over the years is as tuition has risen, the value of [athletic] scholarships becomes, to a lot of people, fairly important,” he said. “So even tough [student athletes] aren’t given a paycheck, they are given a pretty significant economic benefit. And I think in this day and age when a lot of people take on a lot of debt to go to elite private universities, that’s begun to change the way some people look at the issue of whether or not college athletes are exploited.”The Chicago Regional Board did distinguish between scholarship and walk-on athletes, determining walk-ons are not employees. On its website, CAPA said it could possibly represent walk-on and “nonrevenue” athletes in the future, but “it would depend on the applicable labor laws and details surrounding their athletic arrangement.”Former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, who graduated in 2014 and led the unionization effort last year, leads CAPA, along with former UCLA linebacker Ramogi Huma and former University of Massachusetts Amherst basketball player Luke Bonner.On its website, CAPA lists its goals, which include “guaranteed coverage for sports-related medical expenses for current and former players, minimizing the risk of sports-related traumatic brain injury [and] improving graduation rates.”Edmonds said if the full NLRB rules in favor of the players, CAPA could bargain over these issues on behalf of scholarship football players at Northwestern and 16 other private universities with Division-I football, including Notre Dame, if they voted for representation. The union could not represent athletes at public universities because the National Labor Relations Act does not grant public employees collective bargaining rights, Edmonds said.“If the full board rules in favor of the players, it raises the question of whether any of the other private universities that play Division-I football would be approached by CAPA,” Edmonds said. “And I think CAPA would try to approach all of the schools.”He said athletes would react differently from campus to campus to the prospect of unionization, but if the NLRB rules in favor of CAPA and the Northwestern players voted to unionize, Notre Dame scholarship athletes could consider joining CAPA, too.Edmonds said the full NLRB’s decision is “a real toss-up” at the moment, but the Northwestern case is part of a larger conversation about the role of athletics at major universities.“The big thing about this … is that maybe we can now begin to talk about student athletes — if you want to call them that — in a different way because they generate such an incredible amount of revenue for their university,” Edmonds said. “If you want to maintain this idea of a student athlete, then you really ought to switch it and say it’s an athlete student, because they’re a full-time athlete and a part-time student.”Regardless of the outcome of the NLRB’s decision, Edmonds said the Northwestern case, along with several lawsuits that “strike even more directly at the core of the way the NCAA conducts business” will shape the future of college sports.“I’m hard-pressed to imagine that the situation is going to be exactly the same in a decade than it is now,” Edmonds said. “To me, it’s part of a broader discussion about the role of intercollegiate athletics in the university that’s being pushed by a host of things, and this is just one aspect of a lot of things that are aimed at whether the NCAA’s model is really a workable one anymore.”Tags: CAPA, college football, Ed Edmonds, NCAA, NLRB, Northwestern University, Peter Sung Ohr, Unionization
Published on February 15, 2016 at 10:24 pm Contact Connor: [email protected] | @connorgrossman Having not taken an official faceoff in nearly 10 months, it took Ben Williams five seconds to do what he did 256 times as a sophomore last year.He pried the ball away at the faceoff X from Hunter Sanna, and popped it in the air to Tom Grimm five yards behind. While Grimm took off down the field, Williams ran forward about 20 yards before retreating to the bench.If only for a moment, Syracuse’s electric faceoff specialist teased a run toward the goal. A run he made successfully only three times last year, and one SU has toyed with him making more frequently going into this season.“We’ve been incorporating some things where I’ll stay out on the field,” Williams said. “… We’re still kind of messing around with it. It’s been fun, I’m excited to see how it gets put to work here in the early season.”Williams broke out last season with the second-best faceoff percentage in the country, and didn’t have to play anything more than a “faceoff-get off” role. But with 63 percent of SU’s points from last year gone, head coach John Desko will look at new places on his roster to fill the offensive void.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAfter a shoulder procedure sidelined Williams from taking faceoffs in the fall, it left him with ample time to practice free shooting in anticipation of his expanded role. He didn’t unfurl any shots toward the net against Siena on Saturday, but maintained dominance on the draw with 12-of-16 takeaways.Syracuse didn’t need to leaf too deep into the playbook in its 18-5 win, but is soon expected to roll out scenarios with Williams leading the charge toward the goal.“Face-off guys are a different kind of breed,” Saints head coach John Svec said. “Those guys, they’re (lacrosse) junkies, and I would imagine (Williams) is the same.“He’s athletic. He’s got more than one move.”Thirteen times last year Williams managed to get a shot off after the faceoff, each one usually coming off a breakaway from the X.He last broke free toward the net and scored on March 22 against Duke. Williams swatted the ball away from the Blue Devils’ Jack Rowe and sprinted forward while holding the stick in his left hand.He ran about 35 yards and through four defenders to score in the span of seven seconds. Williams’ quickness, perhaps more than any other quality, makes him an ideal candidate to break the barriers of a cookie-cutter faceoff specialist.“I think he shoots the ball pretty well on the run, which not a lot of face-off guys do,” Desko said. “I think that’s an added threat.”The 6-foot junior said there were discussions last season about getting him more involved in the offense. Usually after faceoffs though, Williams gave way to an SU midfield line that accounted for three of the team’s top six scorers.The Orange features a reshaped first line of middies this year with former second-line players Tim Barber and Sergio Salcido and transfer Nick Mariano to round out the trio. It’s a more balanced line than it’s predecessor, one that likely won’t account for nearly one-fourth of the team’s points like last year’s.That leaves Williams with slightly more freedom to take advantage of open lanes he sees instead of immediately dishing away the ball. And freedom is exactly what Williams has been looking for.“I’ll do whatever I can to get more balls in the net,” Williams said. “Having the opportunity, potentially, to score some more would be great.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+
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SEOUL, South Korea (CMC):Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz went through the final practice session yesterday as they put the finishing touches on their preparation for their international friendly against South Korea here today.The contest is expected to be a tough one for the Caribbean side, with South Korea ranked 53rd in the latest FIFA rankings, and Jamaica ranked four spots below.Also, South Korea have been in imperious form in their World Cup Qualifying (WCQ) campaign and currently sit on top of the standings in the second round of the Asian zone, with four wins from as many games. They are preparing to face bottom-placed Myanmar in their next qualifier next month.troubled startJamaica, meanwhile, had a troubled start to their World Cup qualifying campaign in the CONCACAF zone, going down 3-2 to Nicaragua in the first leg before scrambling a 2-0 win in the away leg in Managua, in order to reach the fourth round.Since their arrival here last weekend, the Jamaicans have battled wintry weather in practice, and temperatures are forecast to plunge to around 158C around game time, slated for 8 p.m. (6 a.m. Jamaica time).Jamaica have been boosted by the inclusion of strikers Giles Barnes of the Houston Dynamo and Darren Mattocks of Vancouver Whitecaps, both of whom were part of the successful squad at the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July.Mattocks has been in superb form, scoring in Jamaica’s last four encounters – both WCQ games against Nicaragua last month, and against Mexico and the United States in the preceding CONCACAF Gold Cup final and semi-final.The Reggae Boyz, the highest-positioned Caribbean side in the FIFA rankings, will use the South Korea game as final preparation for their campaign in the World Cup qualifying fourth round.They have been installed in Group B alongside Costa Rica, Panama and Haiti, and begin their campaign on November 13 against Panama at home in Kingston.JAMAICA SQUAD: Rosario Harriott, Lee Williamson, Simon Dawkins, AndrÈ Clennon, Allan Ottey, Michael Seaton, Deshorn Brown, Shaun Cummings, Jermaine Woozencroft, Ryan Thompson, Adrian Mariappa, Hughan Gray, Joel Grant, AndrÈ Blake, Lance Laing, Giles Barnes, Darren Mattocks, Upston Edwards, Errol Stevens, Ricardo Morris.