Did Northwestern Unionizing Just Cause Real NCAA Reform? No, Not At All
Well, the likely answer is no, but the ground is certainly finally shifting underneath the NCAA to such an extent that they are worried. The step of trotting authoritarian boob Mark Emmert out on for a series of television appearances sure didn’t work.
But, yesterday, somewhat quietly, the NCAA announced a proposed restructuring of its root governance model:
The board endorsed the restructuring process, which is aimed at allowing the division to be more nimble, streamlined and responsive to needs – particularly the needs of student-athletes – during its meeting Thursday in Indianapolis. The Steering Committee on Governance, made up of university presidents, drafted the restructuring plan.
Under the proposal, the division would still be led by a Board of Directors composed primarily of university presidents. However, new voices would be added: the chair of the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee; the chair of a new group tentatively called the Council; and the most senior Division I member of the Faculty Athletics Representatives Association’s executive committee. The council chair would always be an athletics director, giving that constituency an automatic spot on the board.
The Board would focus chiefly on oversight and strategic issues, while leaving much of the day-to-day policy and legislative responsibility to the council.
The council, composed of at least 60 percent athletics directors, would have 38 members: one from each conference plus two voting student-athletes and four commissioners (one from the five highest profile Football Bowl Subdivision conferences, one from the remaining FBS conferences, one from the Football Championship Subdivision conferences and one from the remaining conferences). The council would be the final voice on shared-governance rule-making decisions.
The steering committee suggests creating three bodies that would assist the council in its work and comprise the “working level” of Division I: an academics-focused group, a championships-focused group and a legislative group. Council members would determine implementation details, including what other groups are needed, how the groups will be populated and reporting lines. The steering committee also emphasized the need for a nomination process that is competency-based and diverse.
In order to allow the five highest-resource conferences (the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 Conference, Big Ten Conference, Pac-12 Conference and Southeastern Conference) to address their unique challenges, the model would grant them autonomy to make rules on specific matters affecting the interests of student-athletes.
Sounds all nice and glossy, no? Not so much though upon closer inspection.
First off, it appears timed to be a direct attempt to deflate the unionizing vote at Northwestern today. Emmert and the NCAA just can’t help but be oppressive jerks can they?
Secondly, it enshrines into the root NCAA governance that the major football and basketball conferences are all that really matters and the rest of the universities and colleges in the NCAA are second tier and unimportant. As the AP stated in their report:
If approved later this year, schools in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC could implement some rules on their own and would get more voting power over legislation that would affect every NCAA member school.
Sadly, that looks exactly right under the restructuring plan. Now, there is some value in giving a bit of autonomy to the super conferences, but not to where they can exercise their greed to the detriment of all the rest of the smaller conferences and member institutions.
Notably, while the NCAA proposal has taken care of the NCAA’s own institutional power, and cravenly concentrated more of it in the big money conferences, notably absent are attendant concrete proposals that actually aid the student athletes, provide for their well being and insure their existence in the face of injury.
As further evidence of the NCAA’s continuing malevolence, at the same meeting in which the restructuring proposal was approved, the NCAA also voted to screw the athletes just a little more by restricting their ability to transfer. The exact provision is to eliminate hardship waivers that permit athletes having a just cause for needing to transfer to another school the ability to be immediately eligible and, instead, just gives them an extra year of eligibility. In short, the NCAA just decided that instead of helping such athletes, they would screw them by stringing them out.
In other related news, the National Labor Relations Board announced also announced Thursday that they would grant the request/appeal lodged by Northwestern University challenging the previous regional decision to permit the players’ attempt to unionize. From the NLRB official announcement:
The National Labor Relations Board has granted Northwestern University’s Request for Review of the Regional Director’s March 26, 2014 decision in 13-RC-121359. The Regional Director found the University’s grant-in-aid scholarship football players are employees under the National Labor Relations Act. The election will take place on April 25, 2014 but the ballots will be impounded until the Board issues a decision affirming, modifying or reversing the Regional Director’s decision.
The Board intends to issue a subsequent notice establishing a schedule for the filing of briefs on review and inviting amicus briefs, to afford the parties and interested amici the opportunity to address issues raised in this case.
It is not totally clear, but it strikes me that should the Northwestern players vote to not unionize, the NLRB matter may be technically moot and die of its own weight.
However, what is clear is that should the players vote to form a union, their secret vote won’t be know and/or certified anytime soon, and will play out over months, if not years.
So, in short, status quo for the corrupt NCAA.
As I understand the process, the ballots will be impounded — and left uncounted — until the NLRB rules on NU’s appeal of the initial ruling. Should they sustain the ruling, only then the ballots would be counted.
Re your initial point . . .
NU football players may not have caused real reform, but they pushed the issues forward in such a way that Mark Emmert and the NCAA and the member school presidents and the ADs and the coaches AND MOST IMPORTANTLY the media that covers this circus* had to sit up, take notice, and make some kind of motion in the direction of reform.
As the money flowing to the NCAA and the schools has grown, the attention paid to the actual athletes has diminished — except for rules designed to protect schools and coaches from gaining an unfair advantage over other schools and coaches. It’s not a coincidence at all that it’s only been as NU football players have pushed the system into the NLRB process that these kinds of issues have been given any kind of hearing and credence.
We note in passing that the amount of pushback and pearl-clutching by Emmert and the apologists for the status quo against Kain Coulter et al. is a rather large piece of evidence pointing to the significance of the actions of the NU football players to this point. If this was no big deal, then why the huge and vicious reaction to them?
* apologies to F1, aka The Circus
Actually, I think the NW players WILL be responsible for real reform, or at least accelerating it. In fact I have no doubt. But I don’t think this proposal is real reform. That was what I was saying.
As to whether makes moot if players vote not to unionize, I think you are probably right.
Thanks. And these words about the reform . . .
. . . are spot on. Calling it “continuing malevolence” is being kind. When a coach is forced to sit out for a year if they leave a school before their contract is up, then the NCAA’s transfer rules for athletes might look a little more equitable. As it stands, though, it’s yet another example of “Fine for me, but not for thee” from the 1%ers in the college athletics industry.
One more thing. Should the players vote not to form a union, that will not make the NLRBs ruling moot. The NLRB ruling was that the players had the right to form a union if they wanted to do so. If they vote today not to exercise that right, that doesn’t eliminate the ruling that they have the right and does not foreclose the possibility that they might choose to exercise that right at some point in the future.
When confronted by a bunch of proles demanding fair treatment, step one in the authoritarian playbook is Rearrange The Central Committee.
The NCAA’s reaction says to me that the students at Northwestern got it right. It’s all about the dollars from TV to the big schools (and, I assume, NCAA itself), not about the students.