College football 2015 kicks off this week.
Item 1 — Minnesota Football Coach Jerry Kill last week received a $300,000 raise to boost his annual salary to over $2 million. He now joins his conference copatriots as a card-carrying member of the millionaire coaches club.
Proper perspective 1 — The Gopher head coach makes more than the U.S. president. Does this mean that Kill, or for that matter any big-time college football coach, is more important than the elected leader of the free world? Even if it were below other Big Ten coaches, was Kill’s former base salary similar to a McDonald’s worker who’s fighting for at least a $15 an hour minimum wage, paid sick time and fair scheduling?
Item 2 — Northwestern officials are “pleased” after it was announced that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decided not to address a petition filed last year by the College Athletes Players Association to represent the school’s football players as a union.
Proper perspective 2 — Contrary to media reports, the NLRB did not say that college football players can’t unionize but “left the door open for other plaintiffs to come forward and to argue this case again,” stated Drexel University Professor Ellen Staurowsky.
As a result, the “David vs. Goliath” battle still is on as college players or unpaid laborers remain key components in a billion-dollar industry “built on the backs of athletes,” noted the sports management professor and longtime advocate for fair compensation for college players who spoke to us last week in an MSR phone interview.
These players are essentially 21st Century Norma Raes slaving for the Boss Hoggs — I mean coaches disguised as front-line supervisors who impose mandatory expectations on unprotected employees with little or no benefits.
The only ones cashing checks with multiple zeros and commas, in no particular order, are coaches, school officials and conference television entities, while players get by with “full scholarships” negotiated only by the school, which sets all agreement terms and renews or not based solely on the coaches’ whim and fancy.
“People for decades would hear athletes would receive full scholarships, not knowing that athletes still had additional educational expenses” not covered by such grants-in-aid, explained Staurowsky. “When you read the headlines — ‘Athletes cashing in big’ — I think it’s truly a mischaracterization of what’s going on here.” Such mischaracterizations are willingly propagandized by the NCAA, their member schools, and the mainstream media over and over again.
Staurowsky succinctly points out that the Northwestern football players’ attempt to unionize was “an uprising” similar to what Sally Field did to rally her fellow coworkers in Norma Rae. But as we read the printed statements from one of the school’s vice-presidents and other officials who applauded the NLRB decision as they vainly promoted their ‘care about their athletes’ jazz, the professor warns, “There is no victory when you have uprisings coming from the labor force. If they took joy in that, especially on Labor Day weekend, then we have serious things to think about.”
Meanwhile, as Gopher fans hopefully cheer the football team to a season-opening win Thursday, do these same fans realize that they are rooting for the unpaid ‘field hands’ who are poorly compensated and whose values are “suppressed” in a century-plus Ponzi scheme called college sport. Where’s the outrage over escalating coaches’ salaries that rival those of corporate CEOs?
Meanwhile, efforts by such individuals as Staurowsky, the College Athletes Players Association, the NW football players who tried to unionize, and other advocates for players getting paid continue to be cast as the actions of rabble rousers.
“It is such a distraction from what’s actually going on,” concluded Staurowsky.
Visit the MSR website where a parent with two college football-playing sons shares his thoughts on this week’s “View” subject.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.