When the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago ruled in favor of Northwestern University athletes forming worker unions last week, as reported by CNN, a central question in the ensuing debate became: is a full scholarship fair compensation for the work that goes into competing on behalf of the school?
NCAA president, Mart Emmert said an education is well worth the efforts asked of student athletes, calling a funded education a "game changer"' for them, according to CBS News Face the Nation.
"... (T)he game changer for a young person in life is that they get an education. We know that means they'll make a million dollars more than they would have otherwise," Emmert said.
Dennis Pitta, a former Brigham Young University football player and a tight end for the Baltimore Ravens, also highlighted the importance of an education in an interview with the Deseret News.
“I think when you come to college you should be a student first and foremost,” Pitta said. “And you should be treated as such. A college education has a ton of value. It may not be immediate monetary value when they’re going to school, but it sets them up for the rest of their lives. I certainly think that’s payment enough.”
Northwestern University opposes the ruling by the local NLRB, and has called for an offical review of the decision, according to CNN.
"Unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns these students are raising. The life of a student-athlete is extremely demanding, but the academic side and the athletic side are inextricably linked," said university spokesman Alan Cubbage in a statement.
So why unionize? The president of College Athlete Players Association, Ramogi Huma, said in an interview with USA Today that the requests these players are making have caused confusion — these Northwestern football players are not asking to be paid.
"It is a major misconception," Huma told USA Today, "that the Northwestern players are trying to get paid. CAPA's goals focus on medical coverage and the establishment of an education trust. Another goal is for players to gain the ability to market themselves, but for that to happen, NCAA rules first would have to be changed."
Huma and former Northwestern athlete Kain Colter will be travelling to Washington this week to meet with Congress about the union, according to USA Today.
Meanwhile, sports analysts are suggesting possible solutions, from the NCAA making a deal to meet CAPA demands with medical plans, according to SB Nation, to the NCAA and Northwestern battling it out in court.
One Sports Illustrated writer, Andy Staples, believes this Northwestern and CAPA decision will not be resolved at the regulatory level.
"Northwestern could win its forthcoming appeal to the NLRB, which ... would help." Staples wrote. "This case probably won't get resolved before it reaches the Supreme Court or Congress."