(NNPA)—The recent National Labor Relations Board decision granting Northwestern University football players the right to unionize, if upheld, will shatter the NCAA’s business model. When you add to the mix the frontal attack launched a few days before by noted antitrust lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, accusing the NCAA of colluding to deprive athletes of the ability to earn more than the value of their scholarships and the pending lawsuit challenging the NCAA rule that bars players from earning money from the use of their images, it is safe to say that we are at the dawn of a new era in college sports. At some point, the athletes, who do the heavy lifting, will finally receive a slice of the $16 billion per year college basketball and football pie.
The ruling that college athletes are employees and not merely “student-athletes” confirms what we have known all along: College sports is big business—for everyone except the athletes who make it possible. College basketball and football have long operated as quasi-farm systems for professional teams by discovering talent, training players, and highlighting performance.
The NCAA and the college administrators who lead its member institutions would have us believe that they place the best interest of the student-athlete above all else. They have produced a TV commercial that reminds us: “We have 400,000 student-athletes and most of them will go pro in something other than sports.” Whether they go pro in sports or “something other than sports,” college sports is given higher priority than academics on campuses across the nation, even at premiere academic institutions.