Reports, NRLB ruling show the exploitation of college athletes

| March 30, 2014

imagesEditorial by News and Observer, March 29, 2014.

Marcus Paige and the UNC men’s basketball team are out of the NCAA Tournament, but that didn’t stop the university from leaning on Paige to score points last week.

The sophomore guard, a second team Academic All-America, and several other athletes were taken before the university’s board of trustees to affirm that they are getting an education at UNC-CH in addition to devoting long hours to their sports.

But the athletes’ testimony had an effect opposite to its intent. When Paige feels compelled to say of himself and his teammates, “Trust me, we all can read and write,” the heart sinks.

And the discouragement deepens with the realization that UNC can’t get beyond denial. The show for the trustees – called “A Day in the Life of a Student-Athlete” – came the same week that national audiences watching shows on ESPN and HBO heard from former UNC athletes with a different message. They said that not only were they steered to no-show classes, but their entire schedules and majors were set up for them to maximize the time they could devote to sports and still stay academically eligible.

UNC whistle-blower and former athletics learning specialist Mary Willingham told ESPN, “Athletes couldn’t write a paper. They couldn’t write a paragraph. They couldn’t write a sentence.”

Willingham has been granted a meeting with UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt to discuss what she knows about the academic qualifications of athletes. That meeting has been a shockingly long time in coming and comes after efforts by Provost James W. Dean Jr. to discredit Willingham’s claims.

What Willingham may encounter in meeting with UNC’s leaders is another kind of illiteracy – an inability to read the seriousness of the athletic-academic scandal and what it is costing the university in prestige, morale and credibility.

Even as UNC struggles to contain and counter the fraud beneath the surface of big-money college sports, the truth is working itself inevitably to the surface.

Perhaps the most obvious indictment comes from the spectacle unfolding in the background this month, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. CBS and Turner Sports paid nearly $11 billion for 14 years of TV rights to the tournament. And they’re getting their money back with extended timeouts and halftimes crammed with commercials. According to a Kantar Media report on last year’s tournament, the average price of a 30-second spot in the championship game was $1.42 million, up 6 percent from the prior year. The tournament’s athletes get paid nothing.

The NCAA and university leaders, of course, counter that athletes get a character-shaping experience and a free college education by playing sports. That may be true for athletes in non-revenue sports, but it’s often not the case in football and men’s basketball.

Last week a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board punctured the fiction of college athletes as student-athletes by ruling that Northwestern University scholarship football players are employees and eligible to unionize. The NLRB’s Peter Ohr reached that conclusion after a hearing that made clear what really happens in “a day in the life of a student-athlete.” Those days add up to 50 to 60 hours a week during training camp and 40 to 50 hours a week during the three- or four-month football season.

“Not only is this more hours than many undisputed full-time employees work at their jobs, it is also many more hours than the players spend on their studies,” Ohr wrote in his ruling.

The NLRB ruling will be appealed and other legal challenges fought, but the process is heading inexorably toward unmasking the fraud and compensating college players either through cash or with a true education. University leaders at UNC and at all universities that are involved in major revenue sports shouldn’t resist the process but urge it along.

Read more here:

Category: NC SPIN Perspectives - Opinions from NC Leaders & Organizations

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Norm Kelly says:

    Sports in general are irrelevant to my life. College sports are even less relevant. Sitting through some sporting event on television is almost as painful as watching ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ or whatever the name of that stupid movie is. Until I watched that idiotic time wasting movie, I thought TV sports was the biggest waste of time possible. So my comments come from someone completely, totally disinterested in the topic.
    First, who exactly is surprised that the union friendly NLRB determined that college athletes can unionize? The big news would have been if the Obama NLRB HADN’T given permission for ANY group to unionize! If the majority of NLRB members had said NO to athlete unionization, you would have seen Obama respond by publicly denouncing them and replacing members so fast the average persons head would have spun right off their neck. This administration is so pro-union that virtually nothing else concerns them; college athletes are just another arrow in their quiver of potential Demon voters.
    Second, is anyone, anyone at all, surprised that student athletes are steered toward zero-attendance classes? Does anyone believe this only happens at UNC? Does anyone believe it’s possible that many, if not a majority, of student athletes can’t put together a reasonable sentence? A paragraph might send many into convulsions. But this is not a UNC problem. This is not a surprise. The actual surprise would be those who believe student athletes are getting an education. From the time some kid shows talent in any sport, that kid is treated with kid-gloves, no pun intended. Student athletes are given every opportunity to excel in academics for the sole purpose of continuing to get play time. There’s no ‘there’ there, as Mr. Obama would say. But in this case it’s true; when Heir Dictator says it, you know there’s something hiding that he doesn’t want you to find out about.
    Now, let’s get on with news and/or relevant topics.