Northwestern lawsuit a long time coming

Updated: Thursday, March 27, 2014
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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - As reported Wednesday, the world of college sports turned upside down when the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago ruled that football players at Northwestern University could be considered employees.

As a result, the ruling said those players had a right to form a union and bargain collectively.

Tonight in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says it was something the NCAA should have seen coming a long time ago.

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There has been a lot of instant--sometimes hysterical--analysis over what this development will mean to college sports programs all across the United States.

If players are paid, does this mean lesser programs like baseball and track will be shut down? Will players have to pay taxes on their scholarships?

Will schools like Western and Central Michigan be able to afford it? Will football at smaller colleges have to cash it in?

Except for the tax question--and the answer to that is no; scholarships are "grants in aid" and therefore not taxable--nobody knows for sure what going to happen.

But man, this has been a long time in coming.

Take a look! Major college basketball and football is a multi-billion dollar industry. This weekend at sports venues around the country, lots of millionaires will be gathering to watch the games of the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. Among them will be coaches, conference administrators, advertisers--they're paying 700 grand for a 30 second spot right now--NCAA execs, video game producers, broadcasters, broadcast executives, the owners of professional teams, and the list goes on.

This is huge. This is an arena where money gets tossed around as casually as a pair of dirty socks.

Basketball and football coaches are regularly among the highest paid people in their states, and at the center of it all, the raw material for all this entertainment, are the players--some of whom will go pro, most of whom will not.

Many of whom don't have an extra dime in their pockets.

Meantime, take a look at the profits. Not revenue, but profits, as reported by some of the biggest  football schools:

  • University of Texas - Nearly $80 million dollars.
  • University of Michigan - More than $60 million dollars.
  • University of Georgia - More than $50 million.
  • University of Alabama - $51 million.

You get the idea.

But if one of the players on any one of those teams gets ten extra bucks for signing a jersey--a jersey sold, for profit, by his own university--it can be ground for dismissal or expulsion.

I know they're getting scholarships. And they are not to be taken lightly. It's a wonderful opportunity. But the NLRB ruling says it is clear the players are recruited for their athletic ability, not because of their achievements in the classroom.

And they spend much more time on the football field than they do in class. It goes to employee status.

Administrators at Northwestern, to the joy of college administrators everywhere, are appealing the NLRB ruling.

The whole thing  could wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

But the legal process is grindingly slow. And it'll take time.

But here's the curious  reality to all this. Here's what the suit is actually asking for. And it's not for more money.

The players want financial coverage for former players who suffer from sports-related injuries.
 
They want independent concussion experts on the sidelines during games. And they want the creation of an educational trust fund to help former players graduate.

That's the thrust of it. Measured. Reasonable. Logical. Doesn't seem like too much to ask for.

And the NCAA could have done all of that a long time ago. In addition, the NCAA could have come up with a formula for player stipends, for example, so there would be no need to for one of them to sell an autograph for a little spending money.

The television networks CBS and TBS have paid the NCAA more than a mind-boggling $10 billion for the rights to broadcast the games of the March Madness tournament.

With all that money, you'd think the NCAA might have found a way to loosen its iron grip on all the revenue producing athletes under its control. To achieve a little balance. To make things fair.

If it had, the Northwestern lawsuit may never have been filed. And we wouldn't be speculating on all the ruling's very real universe-rattling ramifications.

But with its eye on profit, the dictatorial NCAA dropped the ball. College sports will never be quite the same.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on November 24, 2014 08:29 GMT

GAS PRICES

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) -- A national survey reveals the average price of regular gasoline has plunged another 10 cents a gallon over the past two weeks, to $2.84.

Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg says the decline continues a trend that has seen prices in the U.S. fall by 88 cents since May.

Lundberg says lower crude oil prices are continuing to drive prices down, along with an abundant oil supply and the rising value of the U.S. dollar.

The highest priced gas in the Lower 48 states was found in San Francisco at $3.14 a gallon. The lowest was in Albuquerque at $2.47 a gallon.

The average price for midgrade gas in the U.S. is $3.08. For premium it's $3.24.

REGULATING CAR SERVICES

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina has become a prime market for the smartphone-based car services Uber and Lyft -- and is likely to join a push around the country to regulate the fast-growing businesses.

A big draw for the companies is the state's mix of mid-sized cities, which are full of college students but lack extensive mass transit networks to serve their spread-out geography.

The companies' expansion has legislators in North Carolina and elsewhere scrambling to study their business models ahead of sessions in 2015 when they could address insurance, car inspections or criminal background checks.

Transportation analyst Douglas Shinkle of the National Conference of State Legislatures thinks at least 20 legislatures are likely to take up legislation on Uber, Lyft and similar services in 2015 after several passed laws this year.

MERGER SURGE-HEALTH INDUSTRY

Health care M&A leads global deal surge

UNDATED (AP) -- It's been a big year for deal making and the health care industry is especially visible in that arena.

Large drugmakers are buying and selling businesses to control costs and deploy surplus cash. A rising stock market, tax strategies and low interest rates are also fueling the mergers and acquisitions.

It's all combining to make 2014 the most active year for health care deals in at least two decades. Data provider Dealogic says the industry has announced about $438 billion worth of mergers and acquisitions worldwide so far, about 14 percent of the $3.2 trillion total for all industries. Overall, M&A is on track for its best year since 2007, the year before the financial crisis intensified.

One analyst says deals are being driven by "cost pressure on the entire health care system," as insurers and government health plans increasingly hold down or even reduce reimbursements to drug, device and service providers.

Companies also are looking to expand market share, and boost their portfolios in hot areas such as drugs for cancer and hepatitis C.

JACOBS ENGINEERING-CEO RETIREMENT

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- The construction services firm Jacobs Engineering says CEO Craig Martin will retire in late December because of health reasons.

The company announced Sunday that former CEO and current board chairman Noel Watson will serve as executive chairman until a replacement for Martin is found.

The 65-year-old Martin joined Jacobs in 1994 and became CEO in 2006.

The Pasadena, California-based company helps design and build large, complex facilities for oil and gas companies, chemicals companies, governments and a variety of industrial customers.

Martin will step down Dec. 26, the last day of the company's first fiscal quarter.

SHIPPING SEASON

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Icy conditions have forced an early end to shipping on the Upper Mississippi River.

The season officially closed Thursday with the towboat Mary K. Cavarra and its load of four barges heading south through Lock & Dam No. 2 at Hastings, Minnesota.

The Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/1yIQ8un ) reports it's the earliest closing in 45 years. The season began last spring with the second-latest opening and came to a 26-day halt in midsummer so crews could clear flood-borne silt from the navigation channel.

Executive director Bob Zelenka of the Minnesota Grain and Feed Association says it's been a challenging year. Zelenka says the river is the cheapest way of moving crops. But the river's early closure means finding alternative ways to get those crops to New Orleans and foreign export markets.

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