The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

March 27, 2014

College athlete union raises plenty of questions

— CHICAGO (AP) — Vince Dooley is sure relieved he's not running an athletic program these days.

Not after a decision allowing Northwestern football players to unionize, and what that might mean for all college sports.

"If this ever happens," said Dooley, now retired after four decades as Georgia's football coach and athletic director, "the issues would be unlimited. What might happen from school to school, from day to day, from year to year, I don't know. I'm just glad I've served my time."

Around the country Thursday, coaches and administrators pondered the potential ramifications of the stunning decision by the National Labor Relations Board, which ruled the Northwestern football team — up to now, referred to by the NCAA as student-athletes — are actually university employees in everything but name. Therefore, they should be able to bargain collectively for their fair share of an industry worth billions.

That set off speculation over what might happen if the ruling holds up on appeal:

— Would the big-revenue sports have unions, but others be left to fend for themselves?

— Would private school athletes get to negotiate over issues such as compensation and health insurance, while their public school counterparts are denied a spot at the bargaining table?

— Would high-profile programs such as Notre Dame and Alabama be better positioned financially to share a piece of the pie with athletes, leading to an even wider gap between the haves and have-nots?

"I just don't think you can come up with any kind of formula that's going to be equitable and fair to all," said John Chaney, who coached men's basketball at Temple for a quarter-century and was never shy about expressing his views on the ills plaguing college athletics.

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