Unionization a good move

By Steve Shonder

While Northwestern’s football team didn’t do much on the field last season, it’s certainly made its mark in the world now.

Wednesday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled Northwestern football players are employees of the university, who are, according to the board, being paid via their scholarships while working more than 40 hours a week and generating millions of dollars for the university.

Of course, Northwestern will appeal the ruling, but the damage is done. It’s a signal to the NCAA that the days of making billions off the work of “student-athletes” are drawing to a close.

It’s unlikely for college football players to expect to make NFL money, but there’s definitely enough money at these schools to pay players a handsome sum for their services. The guise of amateurism is being lifted.

Northwestern, a private school, doesn’t publish its revenue totals, but a good way to take a stab at its numbers is to look at what other Big 10 schools are generating.

According to USA Today, University of Illinois brought in $78.7 million in 2012; expenses for U of I sat at $76.7 million. This leaves around $2 million to pay U of I’s student-athletes in the moneymaking sports that give the university all that revenue.

It’s time for the NCAA and the universities to face facts. They’re making far too much to avoid letting the guys doing the actual work get money.

While there are a lot of questions to be answered on paying players, it’s time to explore paying college players.

College sports are multibillion-dollar businesses, and the most essential members of this enterprise can’t make a dime off it. Players can’t get paid for autographs and — my favorite instance — can’t win a half-court shooting contest at a professional basketball game unless an exception is granted because it’s using their amateur skills for money.

It’s time to pay the people who made these schools billions. It’s impossible to be an amateur in a multibillion-dollar business.

Jordan Lynch was worth $5 million a month in media exposure, according to a story from Shaw Media, and he wasn’t allowed to see a dime of it. I wonder how much money NIU made off selling No. 6 jerseys and T-shirts? Does anyone think Lynch saw any of those proceeds?

Northwestern’s unionization efforts should be the death knell for the NCAA’s stupid amatuerism rules. The school can go on about how it’ll suspend the football program, but it won’t. The money it brings in is too much for the school to live without.

While a school like NIU probably won’t be affected by this rule for a long time, due to its mid-major status and the lower revenue it generates, the ripple effect at schools like Texas, Alabama and Ohio State will really get the change started. The Northwestern football players have finally got the ball rolling in the right direction.

The NCAA should have addressed this problem years ago, but now it’s too late to fix it. The players will have their due.