The Division IA Faculty Athletic Representatives Board of Directors, of which Texas Tech’s Brian Shannon is president, on Wednesday endorsed many of the proposals made by the College Athletes Players Union (CAPA) in the high-profile case involving Northwestern athletes.
The faculty representatives called for athletes to get more time away from their sports, a moratorium on on-campus summer athletic activities and scrutiny of the NCAA’s 20-hour rule and its many loopholes. It also backed one-semester seasons.
“Indeed, why not May Madness rather than March Madness?,” the board asked.
The faculty reps’ board represents and has members at all 125 Football Bowl Subdivision programs. The board’s support for upping student-athlete benefits could add momentum to a movement already underway.
“We are largely supportive of the goals articulated by the Northwestern football students at the forefront of the union movement,” the board said in a statement. “We just don’t support utilizing labor unions and collective bargaining as the way to get there.”
Shannon, a Texas Tech law professor, is in his sixth year as the Tech faculty representative. After the statement was released, he told the Avalanche-Journal it represented the consensus opinion of the 11 members of the board — one from each of the 10 FBS conferences and immediate past president Jo Potuto from Nebraska.
“We collectively decided that we needed to speak out as this issue continues to be discussed,” Shannon said.
Shannon said he alerted Tech President Duane Nellis and athletic director Kirby Hocutt the statement was coming.
In addition to Shannon and Potuto, the faculty reps’ board members are from Troy, Buffalo, Ohio State, San Jose State, Colorado, Southern Mississippi, Duke, Cincinnati and Mississippi State.
Potuto did the initial draft and a couple of others worked with her and edited, Shannon said.
“We’ve been discussing it informally,” Shannon said, “and then decided within the last two weeks to state a position.”
Asked if there were dissenters among the 11, Shannon said, “It’s the unanimous board position.”
Last month, a Chicago regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern University athletes are “not primarily” students and fall under the definition of employees.
He determined, for example, that Northwestern football players spent 50 to 60 hours a week on their sport during August preseason practice and 40 to 50 hours a week on football in season.
Kain Colter, a senior quarterback on the Northwestern football team, co-founded the CAPA, whose website lays out five objectives:
■ Guaranteed coverage for sports-related medical expenses for current and former players;
■ Minimizing concussion risk, reducing contact in practices, placing independent concussion experts on sidelines and standardizing return-to-play protocol;
■ Improving graduation rates;
■ Increasing athletic scholarships to meet full cost of attendance and allowing players to be compensated for commercial sponsorships;
■ Securing due process rights. CAPA says, “Players should not be punished simply because they are accused of a rule violation, and any punishments levied should be consistent across campuses.”
The faculty reps’ board of directors endorsed many of those planks.
“The athletes want both a voice at the table when decisions affecting them are made and enhanced scholarships to cover full cost of attendance. So do we,” the statement read. “We also want more postgraduate scholarship aid and assuring that medical professionals have the unquestioned authority to make return‐to‐play decisions based solely on the best medical information.
“The athletes want guarantees of scholarship aid to permit them to return to school to complete a degree. Right now schools have the discretion to make that happen. We support the idea that this should be guaranteed.
“And certainly we agree that money must be devoted to more concussion research, as well as to develop data‐driven protocols both to identify concussions and other brain traumas and to determine postconcussion responses. The NCAA and several athletic conferences are currently engaged in such research.
“Other concerns of the athletes focus on transfer restrictions and the ban on their ability to exploit their name and likeness value. Although there are substantial, legitimate issues attendant to any such changes, they clearly are topics for serious discussion, where, we think, substantial movement may well be possible.”
The faculty reps are especially wary of how many hours college athletes are compelled to spend on their sport, saying they are “increasingly concerned with athletic time demands on student-athletes.”
“We recognize that we live in a zero‐sum world, where choices must be made that forestall other opportunities,” the statement said. “But we also believe that the pendulum needs to swing back to provide student athletes more time away from athletics.
“We support a moratorium for at least part of the summer from any athletically related activities on campus. We support limiting the number of games. We support a re-examination of the 20-hour rule and its many exceptions. We support one semester sports. Indeed, why not May Madness rather than March Madness?”
The proposed moratorium for on-campus athletic activities for at least part of the summer is especially relevant to football. At many schools including Texas Tech, all or nearly all scholarship football players attend summer school and use campus facilities to work out.
NCAA rules limit athletes to 20 “countable” hours per week devoted to their sport. However, NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr, in his March 26 opinion, noted that all manner of football-related time is excluded such as team travel, meetings, film study, voluntary strength and conditioning, medical check-ins and required “training table” attendance.
For example, Ohr determined that for a road game at Michigan, Northwestern players spent 24 hours on Friday and Saturday in travel and football-related activities, but only 4.8 hours counted toward the 20-hour rule — including only 3 hours on game day.
The board did express concerns in the event Northwestern athletes ultimately go forward with reconstituting their relationship as university employees rather than students.
“If so, then they want a major paradigm shift that may dismantle the collegiate model, threaten the collegiate mark, and decrease substantially the athletic opportunities available to athletes in nonrevenue sports,” the board said. “And, if so, that’s where we would come to a parting of the ways.
“But that’s not what they are saying now. From most published reports, one would think that the Northwestern football players’ union effort signals an all‐out war between athletes (or some of them) on the one side and campuses and the NCAA on the other. Not so, or at least not yet. And, certainly not with (faculty athletic representatives).”
Northwestern football players are scheduled to vote Friday on whether to form a union.
Asked what effect the board’s public position could have, Shannon said, “I think there is a great opportunity with the governance restructuring at the NCAA to be able to implement or at least debate seriously a number of the issues that have been identified.”
The NCAA Division I board of directors is scheduled today to discuss changes to the governance model. Among the proposals is giving the five biggest football conferences, the Big 12 among them, more autonomy.
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