College athletics is a multimillion dollar industry. According to USA Today reporter Steve Berkowitz, the NCAA has had a surplus of over $71 million dollars for three straight years. 

It seems 2014 isn’t looking to be any different, as the association is on-pace to reach this mark again and some collegiate athletes have begun to ask for their share.

The Northwestern football team decided to take steps asking for a football union last spring, after NLRB [National Labor Relations Board] Regional Director Peter Sung Ohr, “… ruled that scholarship football players at Northwestern are employees of the university and thus have a right to unionize and fight for better health care coverage, larger scholarship funds and other benefits,” according to Sean Gregory of TIME magazine.

Ohr cited all the hours athletes commit to their sports as a major reason for his decision.

For example, he said that student-athletes commit between 40 and 50 hours of time a week to their sport, not including the schoolwork they have on top of that.

AP Photo

AP Photo

Northwestern also controls many aspects of life on campus for these student-athletes, Ohr found, according to the Associated Press article by Brian Bennett for ESPN College Sports.

The school fought back, the NCAA fought back and even the Big Ten voiced it’s opinion. “While not a party to the proceeding, the NCAA is disappointed that the NLRB Region 13 determined the Northwestern football team may vote to be considered university employees. We strongly disagree with the notion that student-athletes are employees,” NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy stated in an article posted by  Brian Bennett for ESPN College Sports. Not to mention the students were allowed to  voice their opinions and hold a vote.

KSC junior and men’s soccer player John Fitzgerald voiced his own opinions.

“I think the scholarships these kids receive are enough, they don’t need money on top of that,” Fitzgerald said.

He also said he doesn’t think he would join a union if he had the choice. He was rather more accepting of the idea of a stipend or an allowance of sorts for athletes

“It’s an interesting idea because playing a sport is so time consuming and even takes away from schoolwork,” Fitzgerald said. As stated in the Chicago Tribune by reporter Alejandra Cancino, experts believe this ruling could create an impact beyond Northwestern’s locker room. Perhaps influencing other players and schools.

“We don’t give scholarships, so people are playing because they love the sport and not because they are getting paid to play,” Keene State’s Director of Athletics John Ratliff said, indicating why unionization would likely never reach KSC.

However, Ratliff does understand the athlete’s points of view though, even if their union ideas never reach our campus. Ratliff said student athletes at these power schools, in conferences like the SEC [Southeastern Conference], ACC [Atlantic Coast Conference], Big Ten and others, see their schools making money while they have little.  Some don’t have the income to go out and eat with friends, he said, while these institutions rake in millions. The schools aren’t just using the student athletes without anything in return though.

“In most cases, they’re getting a quality education for nothing,” Ratliff said.


Skyler Frazer can be contacted at

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