It’s not a matter of whether the NCAA is in trouble.
It’s a matter of whether it’s smart enough to limit the damage before college sports as we know it gets obliterated.
The smart guys in the business and legal offices need to convince the arrogant members residing in the ivory towers that this might not be the end but you can see it from here.
The latest bomb dropped Wednesday when the regional National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern football players are university employees and have the right to unionize.
Northwestern will appeal the decision to labor officials in Washington, D.C., so the regional decision might not stand.
What’s more, there are many federal, state and local issues to be dealt with. Unintended consequences always surface.
Additionally, just because Northwestern football players can unionize doesn’t mean they ultimately will.
But this is not just about Northwestern. No, this appears to be the most powerful blitz on a massive, multibillion dollar NCAA institution facing several significant assaults.
The NCAA is being sued for antitrust over athletes’ compensation by noted sports and labor attorney Jeffery Kessler. It is being sued for antitrust in the Ed O’Bannon case over the use and compensation for images of football and basketball players. The NCAA has had trouble with antitrust issues before.
All of this is heading toward seismic change. There is too much momentum working against the NCAA for it to dig in the way it always has. That doesn’t look like it’s working.
Getting ahead of litigation, however, works.
Letting things go to court or an arbitration board can result in surprising decisions. Wednesday’s decision, for example. Or the original arbitration decision that created free agency in baseball, for another.
Professional sports leagues have finally figured it out. Any number of labor negotiations have proven the wisdom of making partners out of players.
College players want a say in such things as travel and class loads compared to practice schedules. Northwestern and the NCAA must work that out first. Back up the blather about the "student" in "student-athlete."
Players want medical help from the results of playing a game capable of wrecking a body. Northwestern and the NCAA should concede the fairness of that request and establish a program that covers aftereffects.
That’s just for starters, and the NCAA needs to get started now. The money that has bloated the NCAA is working against it and will continue to do so. That’s usually the way it goes with dictatorial regimes, and that, in turn, is usually followed by blood.Copyright © 2015, RedEye