Northwestern Ruling Could Forever Change College Athletics

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- When it comes to NCAA athletics, money is what keeps the wheel turning. But a ruling Wednesday, which gives Northwestern University's football players a chance to unionize, could eventually open the door to paying college athletes.

"It's a very novel and concerning decision," Attorney Mark Carter said.

Carter works as a management labor attorney in Charleston, and is also a former NCAA student-athlete. He worries the decision could lead to drastic changes in college sports.

"The two things that are most troubling to me are, one the prospect of strikes, because that doesn't help anybody," Carter said. "A lot of people depend upon the revenue that {sports} creates, including athletes in other sports who are able to derive scholarships on the basis of that revenue."

"The other thing I am concerned about as a guy who played football in college is who's going to be making the decisions about how a football team is trained and managed?," Carter said.

Carter believes if the decision to allow student-athletes to unionize is upheld, coaches would likely lose a great deal of power over their own players.

"The union can negotiate about how long practices are, how long you have to run wind sprints, how long you have to hit the tackling dummies," Carter said.

But supporters say the decision could lead to more balance, helping compensate student-athletes for what many feel is free labor for the schools.

In terms of total sports revenue, not including expenditures, Ohio State had more than $142 million in 2011. Kentucky and West Virginia Universities had more than $80 million, while smaller schools like Marshall and Ohio still had nearly $30 million dollars in total revenue.

Carter says in the end, it's up to the NCAA to finally address the issue. A tough decision that's now leaving fans worried about the future of college athletics.

"They are concerned," Carter said, "and I am concerned, about what is going to happen with my alma maters and my favorite teams, and how this decision could impact my ability to enjoy those athletic programs as they get played out through the season. One thing is sure, this decision will have an impact on that."

The lawsuit filed by Northwestern University football players only asks for union rights for athletes in private schools. However, it's likely, if the decision is upheld, that public universities would follow suit.


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