For the first time in the history of college sports, athletes are asking to be represented by a labor union, taking formal steps on Tuesday to begin the process of being recognized as employees.
Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, filed a petition in Chicago on behalf of football players at Northwestern University, submitting the form at the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board.
They say that they're essentially "workers" who make enormous profits for the colleges they play for. Howard "Bull" Jones of U.S.C. has said "Look, we're semi-pro teams providing players for the NFL."
And that sentiment has been echoed by two players from Florida State who suggest that college football teams play the role of "farm teams" for major league baseball organizations, except that they are paid nothing.
Said a player from Notre Dame who wanted to be anonymous:
"The idea that we go to a major university to be a student athlete is a joke. College athletes play football, practice football, watch football, game films and play football videogames, We put in 40 hour weeks. We're too tired after practice to study. We're after the large salaries if we can make it to the pros. Come on, most of the players in college ball speak sub-standard English. Look at what they say when they're interviewed on TV," he said.
The anonymous player further stated, "Sure, they're exceptions like Pat Hayden who was a Rhodes scholar. But he's just the exception who proves the rule. There are very few of us."
"That football coaches should be paid more than college presidents shows that it's all assbackwards. The purpose of a college is to educate not field football teams. But the coaches earn 50 times more than the professors."
But the question of unionizing the worker-players wouldn't have to be dealt with if we just followed the suggestion of the late educator Robert Hutchins.
Back in the 1930's, Robert Hutchins said it would be better if the colleges got rid of football altogether. Instead they should have racehorses and have races with one another. The horses could carry the school colors and the students could let off steam and wildly cheer the way they do now and drunk afterwards at horse race parties.
The advantage would be that the horses would not have to attend classes and pretend to be "scholar athletes." Hutchins pointed out that under the present system it was possible to earn 12 letters without learning how to write one. A task so difficult for many football players would not have to be imposed on the hoses.
Following along the lines of Hutchins' suggestion colleges could hire professional boxers or cage fighters to wear the school colors and compete for alma mater.
Whether the NCAA would allow them to have a union we would have to see.