A movement of epic proportions has started in Evanston Ill., and the repercussions could change the landscape of college athletics forever.
The National Labor Relations Board in Chicago ruled Wednesday that football players at Northwestern University are employees of the school and can unionize.
NWU players claim they work between 20 and 50 hours per week and generate millions of dollars for their institutions.
The Wildcats are now looking to cash in on that gold mine, begging the question: What if all Division I athletes got paid to play?
In the mitten, most big schools like Michigan State and the University of Michigan could probably afford to pay their student-athletes with ease, based on the dollars each of those universities rake in via athletics.
But what about little ol’ Central Michigan? Could we afford to dish out the dollars to compete with other Mid-American Conference schools?
With support for the CMU football and men’s basketball team at an extremely low level over the past few years, the long-term dollars needed to fund a player payroll would be unmanageable.
Recruits would have their minds made up before coach Dan Enos or Keno Davis came to visit.
“Why go to CMU where I would make minimum wage, when I can go to MSU or UofM and make a king’s ransom?” they will wonder.
There is no room in CMU’s budget for the latest phenomenon to hit college athletics.
Fans of smaller schools will not be the only ones crying heresy on the trend the Wildcats are attempting to start.
The NFL, MLB, NBA and any other professional sports league would likely not support the talent pool being sucked from underneath them.
Perhaps the strongest argument against the unionization of student-athletes is the intangible and undeniable quality of college sports: Tradition.
Years ago, students would play for a school for no monetary gain, but rather for honor and legacy.
Pay-for-play turns college athletics from being about school pride to personal finance.
But these players feel they are being treated like lucrative property instead of valued people and community ambassadors.
Some athletes can barely afford to pay for their rent or groceries, while coaches drive BMWs and sit front row at the hottest local events – and coaches don’t have to worry about being concussed anytime soon.
Sounds like a pretty alarming double standard to me.
Northwesten is appealing the labor board’s ruling, but the tone for the next chapter in college athletics has already been set.
CMU, and every other MAC school, should pay attention to what is happening in the Windy City, because winds of change might soon blow through Mount Pleasant.
And they just might break the bank.