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Berginski: Not all favor unionizing

By Staff | Apr 25, 2014

A while back in this column series I brought up whether or not college athletes should unionize and get paid. Since March Madness is over, a shocker came to light that University of Connecticut senior guard Shabazz Napier goes to bed hungry. In a CNN article, he also said even though he, and student athletes as a whole, shouldn’t be getting hundreds of thousands of dollars, scholarships alone don’t cover his expenses.

Napier called the National Labor Relations Board ruling that Northwestern football players could unionize “kind of great.” But not everybody thinks the same way, including me. I still think that whether college athletes should unionize is the wrong question to ask.

Speaking of asking questions, a marketing firm called Fluent recently surveyed over 900 college students in regards to college athletes unionizing. Of the 900, 29 percent said they were in favor, while 47 percent were against.

Those surveyed who were against unionization brought up some very interesting points. Some felt unionizing would increase the costs of education, or have a negative effect on financial aid for non-athletes or athletes who aren’t unionized. Some felt it would affect funding for departments other than sports, and it would make athletes focus solely on sports rather than their education.

Those surveyed who were for unionization brought up the possibility that it could bring about a more just college athletics system, and possibility of compensation ranging from full scholarships with health care to even payment between $30,000-100,000. Thirty-two percent of those surveyed said it could have a positive effect on college athletes pursuing a degree.

To me, unionizing opens up a lot of questions. Do we allow just NCAA Division I schools, or do we allow Division II and Division III to unionize as well? (UND and NDSU are Division I, and Minot State and UMary are Division II.)

Is the ability to unionize limited to private colleges under NCAA membership, or can public college teams do so, too? Do we only allow certain sports teams to unionize and not others? Is the entire team allowed to unionize, or just certain players?

Won’t this whole unionizing thing send a message to other departments and activities in colleges and universities that sports are more important than they are? (Some people might think so.) What backlashes could occur?

Those are questions we should be asking, not just whether or not teams should unionize.

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