Unionization Shouldn't Be The Norm in College Athletics

By Sam Horn
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

A football locker room is rife with tension. Chairs are being thrown in every direction and angry voices can be heard booming in the nearby hallways. Chaos ensues. This is not an apocalyptic scenario, although the described situation seems like anything but.

Now that private universities are one step closer to titling student-athletes as employees because of what several football players at Northwestern University did, this scenario seems ever more likely in the future — mainly because if the students aren’t getting paid enough, they’ll go on strike. It seems like the Northwestern University football players didn’t contemplate the consequences of their actions by winning this legal battle to unionize.

I understand that football players feel entitled to a sense of hierarchy. After all, they do help Division I colleges rake in millions of dollars annually. No other collegiate sport can compete financially with this gladiatorial sport that receives nationwide attention every fall. However, with this ruling, football players won’t be the only ones being compensated for their athletic endeavors. This unionization will reach every corner of the college athlete spectrum. Yes, even cross country.

It seems like accepting a full-ride scholarship to a major college to play football is enough of a payment. Apparently not in the eyes of some collegiate football players. Garrett Higgins, a partner at O’Connor Davies CPA, points out that “the IRS may be able to make the argument that the scholarship is really payment for services, and therefore compensation, and is now taxable to the athlete.”

Student-athletes go to college to receive an education. Nearly 99 percent of all college athletes won’t make it to the professional levels. Most student-athletes simply want to attend college, get their degree and become successful in the ever competitive workforce. It’s a scary world out there. It seems ludicrous to believe that some student-athletes are more focused on getting paid instead of getting the most out of their education.

It’s difficult to understand why football players think in the same fashion as the former quarterback at Northwestern, Kain Colter. Colter told the hearing that athletics at Northwestern are more important than academics, saying: “You fulfill the football requirement and, if you can, you fit in academics.”


This could be the beginning of a new world in private college athletics. This ruling won’t just affect Northwestern University. Infamous private universities like the University of Southern California and Stanford will have to submit to this ruling as well.

Academics should come first when attending college. Student-athletes need to focus on learning everything they can and making the most out of their educational experience because most of them won’t be fortunate or gifted enough to turn pro.

The four years in college are precious moments. They shouldn’t be wasted by trying to create a union to become employees of a university. Higher education already does enough for student-athletes.

Sam Horn is a Seattle Seahawks writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @samhorn7 and “Like” him on Facebook.

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