Comments about ‘In our opinion: Letting college athletes unionize is not the answer to problems in sports’

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Published: Monday, April 7 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

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Salt Lake City, UT

Unionizing college football and basketball makes as much sense as NFL and NBA player associations. We know that college football and basketball conferences are the "minor leagues" for their respective sports, on behalf of the NFL and NBA. Because of this college athletes, particularly in these two sports, put their efforts first and foremost into their sports. Yes about half of them get degrees, but usually in weak academic programs (with the exception of Alex Smith - there are always exceptions).

College football players and basketball players take enormous risks with their physical well-being. Most of them never go pro. Many are left with lifetime injuries for which there is no compensation.

Unions make sense for college athletics!

Salt Lake City, UT

I can't resist pointing out the top heavy distribution of income which prevails in college football and basketball. Athletic directors and coaching staff often draw multi-million dollar salaries. Whereas the players "make" almost nothing - a weak college degree if on scholarship, some free food, and access to the intercollegiate weight room.

College football and basketball players need unions for the same of the reasons labor in general needs them - to restore some sanity to the distributions of wealth and income. But with the athletes they need to negotiate protections against permanent injury - like NFL players are getting belatedly.

Mark from Montana
Davis County, UT

It is time to abolish all sports at the university level. At least sport organized by the university. Eliminate all scholarships, remove all coaches, stop spending money on all sports. My understanding is that while some programs bring money into the university, on whole they are losing propositions. At a time when tuition is being increased faster than inflation, it is time to cut costs. Remove the distraction of sports and concentrate on the purpose of the university, teaching.

Dr. Thom
Long Beach, CA

If collages and universities have "long exploited athletes" then image how long adjunct professors have been exploited and denied FT benefits, career incentives such as an office, phone, and other scholarly resources not mention equal pay. The average adjunct because of new IRS rulings concerning Obamacare are required to teach less than 30 hours per week or one class per semester or be considered FT with benefits. This means that and adjunct who normally earned $40,000 teaching 4 classes at the same school now has to teach four classes at four different schools just to break even. While there has been a recent push to unionize adjuncts, most institutions are resistant to this change. Also If football players can be unionized, what about swimmers, tennis, gymnastics and dance students who also compete? While athletes are required to bring certain abilities and skills to their job, what about adjuncts many with PhDs. Should they not have the same protection of a union?

liberal larry
salt lake City, utah

The NCAA "March Madness" event generates close to one BILLION DOLLARS in television revenue. The college football playoffs will generates around HALF A BILLION DOLLARS, and Kyle Wittingham is the highest paid Utah State employee with an income package of about $700,000/year.

Someone is making a lot of money off college athletics. Shouldn't college athletes be able to negotiate to get their slice of the pie?

Since when has the capitalist, free market, Deseret News editorial board decided to come out in favor of restraint of free trade?

Far East USA, SC

Not all college athletes are being "exploited". But, certainly there are some that are putting lots of money in the school coffers.

That is why college coaches are making so much money.

The top 70 highest paid college football coaches make over $1 million per year. The top 35 college basketball coaches make over $1 million.

I dont know if unionizing is the answer, but the top athletes are generating far more revenue than they receive in educational benefits.

cache, UT

The fact that this newspaper is owned by the same church that owns BYU, who's football program brings in literally millions of dollars every year to the school, should disqualify you from providing an opinion or at least label it properly as propaganda. While I do not have an answer right now for the problem of what to do with student athletes, I do not think it is appropriate for the schools to be exploiting football players the way they do. How many sprinters can die from their sport? Or get paralyzed or just have a lifetime injury? Why should the coaches and the school make millions off the efforts and risk of these kids? Just pay them so they can afford the school and then take away their scholarships. This would probably go along way to helping them learn to manage their money long before they get out into the real word where everyone will continue to exploit them.

LDS Liberal
Farmington, UT

There is Right and there is Wrong.
There is Right and there is Left.

Then there are those who can not tell the difference,
and entertwine the 2 constantly.

The Deseret News seems to fall into that category.

2 bits
Cottonwood Heights, UT

I can argue both sides. Both have a good case. Students who work in concessions or clean the stadiums get paid... why shouldn't the athletes. Students who work in food services or as a teacher's aid get paid by the University... why shouldn't athletes. But athletes get a free education and media attention for playing for the school (which other college employees don't get).

I think if we pay athletes it will just end or severely limit athletics at small schools. All schools can't afford to pay their players what Universities with wealthy donors like USC can pay their players. USC (and a few other schools) would eventually become the LA Lakers of college athletics (attracting all the best players). We already have this to an extent, but add the ability to use MONEY to attract players to your school... and it would just get worse.

I say if athletes get paid to play... they should not be given scholarships (just money) and they pay tuition (like other students). They could use the money they get paid to work for the college to pay their tuition (like other student employees do).

Springville, UT

@ Dr. Thom, adjuncts can unionize. They did at George Washington University and the results have been positive - not enough, but positive.

American Fork, UT

They shouldn't unionize only because there shouldn't be all that money in so called amateur athletics. In reality, the money is there, and chances are pretty good the players will be left out of the gravy unless they unionize. So maybe you should be calling for a return to truly amateur athleticism at the college level, maybe with a corollary of increasing our entire societal focus on the academic pursuits of college.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

For colleges not competing the top tier, the concept that the student athletes get much in trade for their playing is true. In top level programs, the schools and coaches make millions. Few athletes graduate, those who do often have a pitiful education despite any degree, and many get injured.

The concept that college play enhances the athlete's pro careers is exactly the point. Top level programs function like the minor leagues. Careers can get made playing in the minors. But they can also end there due to injuries.

Should the athletes be paid? Not sure. But should they at least get a seat at the table when their careers are on the line? Yes.

Colleges that don't like this should go back to competing a lower levels where student athletes have no realistic shot at the pros and value instead the scholarship provided. The college gets true student athletes, the athlete gets a real (and completed) education, the coaches don't make millions so the president of the college can still control them.

LDS Liberal
Farmington, UT

What's next?

For the "owners" of these teams to use extortion,
and pull moving trucks up in the middle of the night and
up and move the entire athletic program to more expensive cities or Universities,
who promise to build them bigger and newer stadiums?

Sports -- Pathetic.

Let the Teams Unionize.
It's the only way to keep the "owners" in check.

Fitness Freak
Salt Lake City, UT

Its' all about CONTROL. The NCAA and the universities have it and don't want to give it up willingly.

IF the NCAA didn't have a multi-billion dollar revenue stream, and IF the universities didn't pay their coaching staffs 6 and 7 figure incomes - I'd say the players are lucky to get a free college education.

But thats' NOT the case.

Let the colleges and universities bid on the athletes just like the pros. Some may decide to end their programs altogether, but there's not much of a downside to that either.
Don't we fund colleges and universites for education anyway, or do we?

Salt Lake City, UT

Here's the problem... how far does the union reach go? Does every school's athletes end up unionizing? This would start eliminating sports programs entirely from Division II and III schools and could seriously jeopardize many non-football/basketball programs at Division I schools.

Murray, UT

The NLRB has stepped way over its authority. The colleges and universities that have sports programs run on NCAA rules and regulations. The NCAA is allowed to monopolize the control of these sports programs through Congressional authorization. The first 'A' in NCAA stands for amateur, which in this case means that they are not there to be employees, but rather students that have their education paid for as long as they comply with NCAA rules. They are not there to be employees. Along comes the NLRB, who is pushing every avenue they can dream up to unionize everything and everyone. In this instance, the NLRB has totally ignored the NCAA laws and rules, which bans unionization of student athletes, and decided they can trump Congressional laws. The NLRB does not have any legal authority through labor laws that trump NCAA laws and rules. The NLRB decision will not stand, they have, once again, overstepped their authority.

Murray, UT

@liberal larry Whittingham's salary is just north of two million dollars per year.

Steven S Jarvis
Orem, UT

Unionizing college sports or paying athletes beyond what they already are paid in scholarship is going to have a lot of negative effects. Only a few teams break even with the cost of running athletics and that would mean lost opportunity.

First, all the women's programs will no longer be available. There are not enough women programs that are financially viable or self-sustaining around the US to run a league. Gone. Second, all the other sports besides men BBall and FBall will also be gone because they don't make money. Basketball won't be as hard hit as football under the change as there will be fewer 'employees' to pay. Football will lose big time. Most FBS programs do not make money currently. Only BYU did in 2012 for our state. Utah and USU lost money. Most of the programs will have to drop football if they had to pay people to practice and play because the cost of doing so may finally sink the schools that have programs. No more walk-ons, three-fourths of the programs will be gone and kids lose out on a dream.

Silent Lurker
Cottonwood Heights, UT

@ liberal Larry Check the freedom of information disclosure for state paid employees and you will find that Wittingham's salary is not even in the top 10.

Brave Sir Robin
San Diego, CA

The discussion of Whittingham's salary is irrelevant. Whittingham is a public sector employee at a public university. If Utah's football players were getting paid, they would also be public sector employees. By law, public sector employees cannot unionize.

Northwestern University is a private institution, hence the reason they were allowed to unionize by the courts. Thus the only universities in Utah that could be affected by this ruling are Westminster and BYU.

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