Local college athletics officials weigh in on unionization vote

By Jim McCabe on April 7 at 1:03pm

As Northwestern University football players get set to vote on the creation of a union, NCAA Division III schools like the two in Jacksonville are in “wait and see” mode.

The National Labor Relations Board has set April 25th as the date for the players to vote on authorizing a union to represent them in collective bargaining with Northwestern. The players will cast ballots on whether to organize under the College Athletes Players Association.

The NLRB ruled two weeks ago that Northwestern players were employees and could therefore unionize.

Matt Wing, the Sports Information Director for Illinois College, says the implications of what this will mean for Division I, II and III schools are unknown.

“There are no athletic scholarships in Division III athletics, so I think the initial thought is that Division III won’t be impacted, but this is a very new thing and there’s a lot still to determine,” he says. “For instance, the Title IX implications, implications regarding sports where revenue does not exceed expenses, how those sports will be impacted.”

Wing says if the players do vote to unionize and the ripple effect does work its way down to Division III, it will take some time in doing so.

“The argument could be made that Division III athletes- through their participation in athletics- inspire goodwill and warm feelings that may inspire a potential donor to make a gift to a college, and that may put this in line with kind of a situation that these Northwestern football players are in, where they are arguing that they are bringing in money to the college and they’re an employee, in essence,” says Wing.

“But I think we’re still a very long ways away from that argument being made, and definitely a long ways from that argument being accepted. I think there’s a lot to be discussed there.”

IC has twenty varsity collegiate sports, while across town, MacMurray College has ten.

Northwestern University officials have indicated they will appeal the National Labor Relations Board’s ruling in Washington, D.C.

NCAA president Mark Emmert said on Sunday that the unionization attempt is “grossly inappropriate” and that such a move would blow up everything about the collegiate model of athletics.