Fisking The Internet On CAPA

Submitted by Brian on March 27th, 2014 at 12:36 PM


we're going to have a picture of Kain Colter at this press conference from ALL THE ANGLES

BiSB's terrific post earlier today covers much of the ground I wanted to, except from a lawyer who actually knows what he's talking about. I did want to put my two cents in, because approximately 74% of the comments I've read in the aftermath of the NLRB's decision make me want to find the person and shake them, shouting something along the lines of "HAVE YOU EVER MADE A COHERENT ARGUMENT IN YOUR GODDAMNED LIFE?!?"

So let's address these things. These are actual MGoBlog user comments. I'd say I'm sorry if I picked yours, but I'm not.


I could definitely see Northwestern arguging that football athletes shouldn't get special treatment over all the other sports, etc and just dropping it the way Chicago did.

So… your theory is that Northwestern will drop football, get kicked out of the Big Ten, lose about 99% of their athletics revenue, and pay for its nonrevenue sports out of its own pocket because the football players have the right to collectively bargain. The people making this decision will be throwing away countless hours of free marketing, making their school less attractive to prospective students, and essentially firing themselves.

Seems likely.

Wow. Stupid. So long college sports as we know it.

"So long the Olympics as we know it." –this guy, 1992

No way is the third string back-up tackle as valuable as Jake Ryan or Devin Gardner. Why should a guy who contributes little to victory receive the same level of pay that a Gardner does?

Also, this will basically destroy the MAC  and other small schools. They don't have the budget to negotiate anything. I foresee schools dropping football or going to non-scholarship.

This is an argument that the future system might be unfair because it treats all athletes the same when some of them are worth more than others. I'm sure if we think about this very hard for a very long time I can come up with a flaw in that.

The MAC may not be able to provide the same sort of financial support that bigger schools can. This will undoubtedly crater their recruiting, which features many head-to-head wins against the Big Ten.

Won't this cripple many athletic departments and force them to drop sports? Perhaps not Michigan, but schools of lesser stature?

Maryland recently dropped several sports.

There are broad swathes of schools playing NCAA sports, and most of them are going to be completely unaffected by this decision. To be an employee you have to be involved in economic activity, and most NCAA schools are spending, not making money. The top and vast bottom are going to be fine. There is a middle tier of schools that face a choice between narrowing their focus to keep up with the Joneses and abandoning their dreams of being Louisville.

The problem is: they already face that choice. They run with a D-I minimum of sports and throw their resources at the revenue generators. This won't "cripple" them any more than their already short resources do.

Maryland dropped several sports because it was run by an idiot, a problem orthogonal to this discussion.

if this decision stands they will have just walked tens of thousands of student athletes right out of college sports.  title IX will be effectively gutted.   your daughter that wanted to row/field hockey/basketball, etc, kiss that good bye.  your son who wanted to play a sport that really doesn't generate revenue, say gymnastics, wrestling, and track,   well that's all done too.  nice job [insert expletives here].

There are 311 Division II institutions that make zero money on sports. There are 449 D III institutions. There are hundreds—thousands—of D-II and D-III field hockey, rowing, basketball, gymnastics, wrestling, and track programs. The chance that a high revenue program that has to deal with a player union is forced to drop sports is very low, and the overall number of opportunities to participate in intercollegiate athletics is not likely to change in any significant way.

And even if it did, I don't think there's any compelling reason to privilege generally wealthy nonrevenue athletes over the general student population and especially the relatively poor and underprivileged revenue athletes.



The athletes do not draw in the money. The name does. Michigan Football brings in the revenue. I didn't watch Denard any more closely than Sheridan. I don't watch Derrick Walton more often than Darius Morris. Have you ever said you were going to stop tuning in because a player left? Probably not, so it's not the players drawing in the money. The coaches play a big role, because they determine which players get recruited and how well the team performs (more fans watched Beilein than Amaker, for example).

Lots of players come and go every year, and the amount of revenue is not affected.

The hell you say. Traffic patterns during the last two football seasons here certainly indicate a correlation between success and engagement, and while football teams have a pile of goodwill built up all you have to do is look at ticket availability at Minnesota versus Wisconsin, or Northwestern, or Purdue, or Indiana to get an idea that the players make the name over a long period of time. If Michigan had a string of 3-9 seasons over the last 30 years, Michigan Stadium would be a decaying half-full wreck.

Meanwhile, I note you compared Derrick Walton to… uh… Darius Morris. I will expect a full report on the details of Gavin Groninger's career by Tuesday, in exacting detail.

So a 4 year full ride scholarship is not getting paid? This concept is a mockery of the system.

It may or may not be a 4 year full ride, and that full ride is not like getting an engineering degree (most of the time—I see you, Jordan Morgan). Many of the kids coming in are under-prepared to get a meaningful degree and have to spend 50 hours a week year round on their chosen sport. For many the value of their degree is approximately zero, both in terms of vocational knowledge gained and their ability to apply that to a real world job.

This is not because they did not "take advantage of their opportunity." It is because the opportunity was to play football and the rest of it was window dressing.

Also, CAPA was arguing that the scholarship is payment. The issue is that these players are compensated, making them employees, and the NCAA illegally colludes to cap compensation at a certain amount. That is not legal.

And the system is a mockery of you, man.

It's not free labor, they pay them in the form of education, meals, $1,200 month stipend, etc. Nobody is telling these kids that they can't go to college unless they play football, they can take the normal route and get student loans and be a normal student. That's what grinds my gears about the whole thing.

They are telling them that this is the deal, take it or leave it, if you want to get to the NFL. And oh by the way as you're embarking on your probably-failed quest to have an NFL career that's going to be about 3 years long even if you do make it, we are going to make millions of dollars off your single outstanding skill.

It is ludicrous that everyone in college is all about getting theirs and we bristle at the idea of the players doing the same. Any moral high ground the NCAA had—and they did try to cap assistant pay back in the day—is 20 years gone.



I wonder what cut the IRS will get from these Unionized employees

lets say 50000 a year for tuition, food, room, board, books and everything else

thats 50000 x .25 since thats 25 percent tax bracket = 12500 taxes

12500 x 4 = 50000 taxes owed

good luck kid

This was capably addressed by BiSB: the NLRB has nothing to do with the IRS and vice versa, and even if it did the way the law is currently written athletic scholarships should already be taxable. If anything, negotiating a provision that the scholarship still applies even if the player leaves the team puts the non-taxability of scholarship on more solid footing. Meanwhile, room and board money is already taxed.

What happens when needs aren't met? Strike? What happens then?

What prevents players from sitting down now? 

If the medical benefits, etc. that these players want really comes to fruition, what is that going to do to ticket prices?  The schools are going to try to come up with some sort of calculations as to what these new benefits to the players is going to cost and almost certainly try to figure out where the money is going to come from to fund the new player benefits.  Odds are it's going to be the consumer (ie - fans) that are going to be asked to help fund the new player benefits.

If ticket prices had any relationship to the cost of supporting the athletic department they would not have quadrupled in real dollars since 2000. If NCAA athletic departments were not trying to wring out every last dime they can already, Rutgers and Maryland would not be joining the Big Ten next year to the outrage of 90% of current Big Ten fans. If athletic departments could not afford to shift some of their money towards the athletes under their care, coaching salaries would not have gone up 70% since 2006.

Does this mean that Northwestern can fire all of their underperforming players and replace them with better ones now?




March 27th, 2014 at 3:48 PM ^

They would have to claim, somehow, that unions violate their religious principles.  How could they do that given that the other employees at Notre Dame are in unions (including the faculty)??

French West Indian

March 27th, 2014 at 2:23 PM ^

The level playing field. I don't really get why people cling to this. Why do we need to have a level playing field among universities?

Because it is sports and fairness is fundamental.  It doesn't need to be universally fair, but at the least, we need fairness amongst peers (for example, within the Big Ten) otherwise the games lose legitimacy and become exhibitions (think Harlem Globetrotters or Tigers vs. Mud Hens, etc) rather than true sporting events.


March 27th, 2014 at 2:27 PM ^

Seems to me this conflates "fairness" with "equality."  Everyone has to play by the same rules (fairness) but there is no reason to expect that all will be equal.  The Yankees operate under the same rules as everyone else, but they are not "equal" by a long shot.  The Yankees have all sorts of advantages over other teams and use those to win a lot (relatively speaking).


March 27th, 2014 at 2:37 PM ^

You could make an argument that the MLB isn't all that fair, but I doubt we want to see that sort of thing come to college football where teams are getting recruits by paying more for them.  Sure, teams pick Alabama over Arkansas already for a lot of reasons, but if it becomes that Alabama (and a few other teams) pay the most, then the playing field will be thrown completely out of whack.


March 27th, 2014 at 2:24 PM ^

I was really hoping Brian would blast me. C'mon, Brian. I make dumb-ass comments all the time. You just don't pay any attention to me anymore.

And I thought you cared.


March 27th, 2014 at 2:28 PM ^

My comment stems from this quote: 


"He further said that if the players won their fight, private institutions with high academic standards -- he specifically cited Duke and Stanford -- could abandon the current model in order to preserve academic integrity."…


Brian says, " The people making this decision will be throwing away countless hours of free marketing, making their school less attractive to prospective students, and essentially firing themselves."


That's a mischaracterization of the issue for three reasons. Firstly, they would not be throwing away "free marketing." The entire point of the unionization effort is that the marketing gained from football shouldn't be free.


Secondly, that argument completely misunderstands the way most academics view athletics. To be succinct, they don't support football specifically and sports in general. Northwestern withdrawing from athletics would not be a case of people "firing themselves." Instead, it would be a case of the academic wing of the university firing the athletic department wing. That becomes much easier argument to make if football players are getting special treatment in relation to the rest of the student body. 


Finally, the belief that academics, deans, etc think that Northwestern somehow needs marketing from football to get top-flight prospective students is absurd. Northwestern is not an elite university because of football marketing. There are studies showing that resources being used differently actually leads to better results regarding school rankings, reputation, etc. They view their peers as Cornell, Dartmouth, etc. In the 1980s Northwestern openly considered joining the Ivy League. The issue was raised again a decade or so by faculty. The only reason they didn't leave is because they got vetoed by one of the existing Ivies (I think it was Cornell). Northwestern would leave in a heartbeat if the Ivy League offered them a spot.…


So yes, unionization could very much lead to Northwestern dropping football, at least at the D1 level. 


March 27th, 2014 at 3:05 PM ^

Yup, Northwestern, Stanford, Duke, Vanderbilt, Tulane, I think could very easily drop DI sports and shed nary a tear. Would there be consequences? Probably, but in the long run I doubt it would shake things up very much(Washington University, Chicago, MIT, are all non-ivies that are doing just fine without

High level sports.)

Hugh White

March 27th, 2014 at 2:33 PM ^

Fitzgerald has now gone on the record saying that if he is forced to engage in collective bargaining with the players' union, he will have to insist that they play in the fourth quarter.

Ed Shuttlesworth

March 27th, 2014 at 2:34 PM ^

Yeah, Brian's confusing of "economic activity" and "making a profit" was ultra weak.   Not to mention that economic activity wasn't the only rationale of the NLRB's decision -- the only way they could disinguish it from the Brown precedent was to point out the amount of time the players spend on football versus school, a far higher ratio that the graduate TAs in the Brown case.

The rationale of the decision applies to any scholarship athlete who plays a sport where admission is charged for the event, the athlete spends significantly more time on their sport than TAs do teaching, and where the coach of the sport dictates the player's sports schedule.

It can be stretched way beyond just football. 


March 27th, 2014 at 2:47 PM ^

What is all this fuss I hear about a NLRB decision on a "Michigan Union"?  It's terrible!  Why, if this continues then pretty soon the next thing they're going to demand is a Michigan League!
- Emily Litella


March 27th, 2014 at 2:48 PM ^

Avid reader, but first-time poster.  I'm compelled by this and the previous post on CAPA.  Phenomenal work.  

One factual oversight from the previous post by BiSB is that private university graduate TA's were recognized by the NLRB as employees in 2000, and were covered by a collective bargaining agreement at NYU from 2002-2004, until the Brown decision.  Recently, they won another contract after the NLRB signaled it would revisit Brown.  Not to mention that University of Michigan GSIs have been covered by a contract since 1975, and are unionized in many public school systems.

The employee/student distinction is even more obvious for athletes than graduate students, and you're deceiving yourself if you think otherwise.


March 27th, 2014 at 4:06 PM ^

The "no politics" rule has always been more directed at posters and less the staff.  And by the way, if he really had a "no politics" rule with respect to this issue he'd just erase these comments.  Instead, Brian just responded that he doesn't agree.  Sorry it got front-paged, I guess, but if you post here you shouldn't be surprised the moderators of said blog will give them a look.  And he's allowing you to respond in the same comments.


March 27th, 2014 at 4:49 PM ^

"Politics" in that context means the stuff that would fall under the "politics" section of a major news outlet. Like, stuff that involves Republicans, Democrats, Congress, Obama, Bush, Hitler, Stalin. And even then, some of those things are fair game; if Republican/Democratic Congressman X proposes rule Y about college football, people can discuss it until someone jumps in with "YEAH BUT [whichever party] IS RUINING AMERICA, YOU SHOULD VOTE FOR [other party] BECAUSE THEY LOVE AMERICA."

Relevant policy stuff, legal stuff, regulatory stuff, etc. is almost always fair game. The only political angle here is whether the NLRB has a particular partisan/ideological leaning, and people have largely avoided that issue.

Mpfnfu Ford

March 27th, 2014 at 3:00 PM ^

We just watched over the last few years as dozens of longstanding and excellent rivalries were torn apart in the name of TELEVISION MARKET SIZE and MAXIMIZING TV REVENUE. Even the conferences that have "won" realignment have seen their existing rivalries diluted because teams in different divisions no longer regularly play each other. AD salaries are climbing higher and higher, and hell, Michigan hired A CORPORATE CEO to be their AD. Coaching salaries at the top are creeping closer and closer to 10m a year territory. 




You have to be completely clueless about the level of money in major college athletics to think that pay-for-play will fundamentally alter college football in any way shape or form. Major college sports basically exists to make middle aged white dudes in bad clothes absurdly wealthy. It's gonna be ruined by the actual athletes having health insurance? Seriously?

lou apo

March 27th, 2014 at 8:00 PM ^

Do you really think this is about health insurance?  If so, I've got a bridge to sell you.  Sure, this is the line now, but the union bosses don't give a rats fat ass about health insurance.  They want a cut of something, and health insurance isn't it.  

Mpfnfu Ford

March 28th, 2014 at 4:32 AM ^ a psychology senior in college. This ain't the daggum Teamsters we're talking about.

I don't get why we'd assume they're full of shite when they've done nothing deceitful to this point. Their opposition couldn't even do a press release without lying about their position. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt to an organization that to this point has done nothing unethical or untowards, especially given the other side is complicit in all manner of fraud. I

And even if the players did ask for an increased stipend, WHAT'S SO WRONG ABOUT THAT? What's so wrong with them being able to hire agents? What's wrong with them doing local commercials or being sponsored by Nike? EVERYONE ELSE IS BECOMING A MILLIONAIRE and they're getting a scholarship, medical bills and having to constantly worry about whether their coach will find a way to grey shirt them and pull the little compensation they do get. They can't even switch schools without a headache. 

So, NO I don't think this is just about health insurance. This is about players vital to a billion dollar enterprise (that masquerades as a non-profit, further defrauding tax payers) wanting to be treated like grown ass men who are vital to the whole system instead of being treated like an irritating batch of cattle that have to be herded about and controlled.


March 27th, 2014 at 3:35 PM ^

This will ruin college athletic. These kids need to remember if yo want to be an employee will be treated like an employee.  Money will not solve this problem but will only create more problems.


March 27th, 2014 at 4:04 PM ^

I actually think they pretty much understand what being an employee is, and it certainly feels like the schools and coaches treat them as employees.  Now they just want to have a couple of the same rights and control over their interests.

Mpfnfu Ford

March 27th, 2014 at 4:18 PM ^

They are currently treated like they are somewhere between an "indentured servant" and "an intern at a really type A company." Employees are allowed to look elseware for employment if they don't like their current situation, for example. They aren't subject to constant online supervision. 

Also they aren't asking for money. They want insurance, ability to transfer and independant medical staffs that can't be fired by the coaching staff when they make a health decision that might impact his win-loss record.


March 27th, 2014 at 5:23 PM ^

Just wanted to toss another perspective into the conversation--one from an advocate for the "non-revenue" sports.  The folks at the Swimming World Magazine and website have advocated that the fans/alumni of swimming programs raise money from outside sources to create "endowed" scholarships for a Div 1 school's varsity swim team.  The thinking is that Div 1 "revenue" sport athletes are going to see more of the AD's revenues, and other sports are going to get cut.  Their proposed solution is for the swimming community to front the money to allow, for example, the Michigan Men's Swim Team to cover the scholarships from an endowement independent of any revenues from the rest of the athletic department.  I'm not sure whether this is practical, or consistent with current NCAA rules (which look to be gonners in the near future) or Title 9 (which does NOT), but it's worth considering.  The link is below.'s-Biggest-News-was-Out-of-the-Pool


March 27th, 2014 at 6:15 PM ^

Very smart of the swimming folks to get ahead of that game.  I believe they're absolutely right, and have every reason to be worried as swimming is a program that often finds itself on the chopping block.

I'm sure it's fully consistent with NCAA rules.  Baseball programs at Towson and Cal, for example, have been the beneficiaries of exactly such a donor endowment after having been on the chopping block.

Ed Shuttlesworth

March 27th, 2014 at 5:29 PM ^

Yeah, the Olympics are also a lame point.  The best Olympic event ever was the US-USSR hockey game in 1980.  Why was it so great?  Because it matched amateurs and professionals.

In other words, it's the kind of spontaneous, great thing that can never be allowed to happen in today's silly world where every last thing has to make perfect, Cartesian "sense" lest a bunch of snarkophobes obsess and obsess and obsess for years on end and cobble together some "issues" that become part of the internet blabfest and can never be allowed to just be left alone.  

And that's exactly what happened here with college football.  College football was the same thing as the 1980 Olympics.   Yes, there were some hypocrisies and some troubling things in it -- and it really didn't make "sense" if a million people spent a million hours on the internet poring over every last detail to make sure every last detail was "fair."

But there's way more to life and entertainment and fun than every goddamned thing making perfect "sense."  The world in which everything makes "sense" will not have the US college kids beating the Red Army hockey team and it will not have college football as it was ca. 1974-2004.  And while it might be a more "sensible" world, it will not be a better world.

lou apo

March 27th, 2014 at 9:58 PM ^

"To be an employee you have to be involved in economic activity, and most NCAA schools are spending, not making money"

Wrong!  That would be like saying Amazon is not engaged in economic activity.  In case you didn't know this, Amazon has never turned a profit, but guess what, that doesn't matter as far as labor law is concerned.  If you sell your product, even at a loss, you are engaged in economic activity.  So any school that sells tickets at any price, sells game advertising at any price, or in any way sells anything that is tied to those guys playing ball on the field, then your school is affected.


Hell, for that matter you could apply this to any amatuer event where tickets are sold.  I see no reason why this wouldn't apply just the same to high school ball.  Even your high school musical if they sell tickets.


March 27th, 2014 at 11:57 PM ^

that what gives an individual employee status is pretty critical as is understanding what comes along with that status in the eyes of the law. On top of that one cannot assume that other laws/treatments will remain static.


March 27th, 2014 at 10:16 PM ^

You make a lot of good points but there was one that I consistently see brought about that I cannot wrap my head around.


"They are telling them that this is the deal, take it or leave it, if you want to get to the NFL."


Who is telling them that this is the only way to the NFL? The NCAA makes no claim to getting the athletes into the NFL. Maybe the coaches do but it is never represented as the only path. It currently is the only path because no one chooses another path. They go to college and play football because it is the biggest stage they can get on. If the CFL provided a bigger spotlight for these players and was the place the NFL scouted the most you can bet that is where the players would be.


Unrelated to this specific post is this is represented as the players "have to go to college for 3 years in order to get into the NFL". I don't understand how this is a NCAA issue and not something that should be taken up with the NFL.


I also fail to understand how saying any cap on "pay for play" is illegal doesn't turn into an immediate bidding war for the best recruits. A bidding war for players who haven't really demostrated they can perform at the college level.

lou apo

March 28th, 2014 at 8:30 AM ^

To your point, there have been plenty of guys who simply showed up to an NFL team's open tryouts and made the cut, or got drafted out of the cfl or semi-pro leagues.  Guys who never saw the inside of a college locker room.  The nfl states you have to be 3 years out of HS to qualify, which I don't quite understand.  It would make more sense if they had a minimum age.  You can understand the argument of not being physically developed enough until you are 21 or so, but being 3 years out of high school doesn't exactly correspond to an age or level of phsycial development.