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Drake Group Supports NLRB Ruling in Favor of Athletes at Northwestern

Release Date:
3/27/2014 12:00 AM
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March 27, 2014

Drake Group, features  In residence at the University of New Haven College of Business

For more information: Allen Sack, President
203-932- 7090 office; 203- 389-5284 home
asack@newhaven.edu

WEST HAVEN, CONN. --The Drake Group, a group of faculty members from colleges around the country, said today it supports a National Labor Relations Board ruling that will allow Northwestern University football players to form a union and bargain collectively.

“The stand taken by the Northwestern athletes is a courageous one,” said Drake Group President, Allen Sack, a professor of sport management at the University of New Haven and a player on Notre Dame’s 1966 National Championship football team.  

“The NLRB ruling supports the Drake Group stand that student athletes are treated more like professional athletes than like students,” he added.

A regional director of the NLRB in Chicago ruled Wednesday that football players at Northwestern “work” nearly 50 hours a week on football and that they are more like employees than amateur athletes.  The ruling resulted from action by the players and the National College Players Association (NCPA).

“The unionization of college athletes is a natural outgrowth of the NCAA’s 1973 decision to replace four- year scholarships like the one I had at Notre Dame with one-year renewable grants that can be canceled for just about any reason,” Sack said.

That means, he said, that like employees, college athletes can be “fired.”

The Drake Group, founded in 1999 to defend academic integrity in higher education from the corrosive aspects of commercialized college sports, believes colleges must create campuses that encourage personal and intellectual growth for all students, and demand excellence and professional integrity from faculty charged with teaching.

This year, the Drake Group has proposed congressional legislation (“CAP Act”) that would cause a radical restructure of the NCAA. 

During the past four decades, says Sack, “the NCAA has crafted a scholarship payment system that provides a relatively cheap and steady supply of blue chip athletes for the burgeoning business of collegiate sports and gives coaches the kind of control over them that employers have over employees.”

But unfortunately, when a players’ scholarship is cancelled “because he doesn’t perform well or is injured, his ability to continue as a student is jeopardized,”

Both the Drake Group and the National College Players Association support providing educational and medical benefits for college athletes, although they disagree on the Drake Group’s support for granting a limited antitrust exemption to a radically restructured NCAA.

The Drake Group believes an exemption is crucial to bringing excessive spending, on things like coaches’ salaries, under control, and funneling TV media revenues back to college athletes in the form of educational and medical benefits, Sack said.

The Drake Group has outlined its stand in proposed federal legislation, called the CAP ACT (highlights below).  Among the conditions that would be linked to a proposed antitrust exemption are providing multiyear scholarships (five year maximum) that extend to graduation and which cannot be reduced or canceled on the basis of performance, contribution to a team’s success, illness, or injury.

Full cost of college attendance (COA) scholarships would be allowed in the Drake Group proposal for athletes in the NCAA’s most competitive division. Enhanced academic standards, as well as remedial education would be mandated. Faculty- only oversight committees on each campus would insure that athletic department rules are consistent with student welfare best practices and an athlete welfare advocate would provide independent legal advice to college athletes at no cost. 

Drake Group President Elect David Ridpath said, “The goal of the CAP Act is to maintain athletes as an integral part of the student body and to create a clear line of demarcation between college and professional sport, a goal that the current NCAA has totally abandoned.”

Highlights of the Drake Group’s proposed legislation:

COLLEGE ATHLETE PROTECTION ACT – Section by Section Summary

Section 1-3. Short Title; Findings; Definitions; Sense of Congress. To amend section 487(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to ensure that higher education institutions that receive federal funds provide students participating in commercialized athletic programs with sufficient health, medical, academic support, and due process protections that prevent their academic or financial exploitation. The unprecedented commercialization of these intercollegiate athletics programs threatens the academic success of college athletes and the integrity of higher education institutions and creates excessive institutional expenditures and burdensome student fees. The Act (1) provides remedies addressing these issues, including increased scholarship support and injury and medical benefits to college athletes, (2) restores the ability of national governance associations to combat commercial excesses and maintain a clear line of demarcation between collegiate and professional sport, and (3) better enables institutions to comply with the athletics provisions of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Section 4. Program Participation Agreements. In the case of four-year institutions of higher education that have an intercollegiate athletic program with total generated revenues in excess of $1 million annually, the institution will not be a member of a national nonprofit college athletic association (“Association”) unless the Association conforms to the following minimum standards which shall be applicable to all of its members:

(A) Limited Antitrust Exemption. Conditioned on enforcement of all standards specified in this Act and available only to Associations with membership of at least forty percent of all institutions of higher education in the U.S. with at least one third of all members generating revenues in excess of $1 million. Provides Association with antitrust exemption limited to any rule adopted whose primary purpose is to enhance educational opportunities for athletes, protect athlete health or welfare, or make athletic programs compatible with the educational missions of member institutions.

(B) Independent Governance. Requires Association to be governed by a Board of Directors consisting of expert “independent directors” not currently employed by any member institution reflecting the interests of all athletics program stakeholders (presidents, trustees, athletic directors, tenured faculty, and college athletes) and diversity of gender, race and ethnicity.

(C) Due Process Protections. Requires specific due process protections before suspending a coach, athlete, or other athletics personnel from participation or suspending institution’s telecommunications privileges except for ineligibility based on properly determined graduation, normal academic progress or other academic requirements.

(D) Revenues from Collegiate Athletic Events.

(I) Allows institutions, conferences, national governance association and third party event hosts to sell media rights, event tickets, and event sponsorships and retain these and other event-related revenues conditioned on Association having sole authority to offer national championship or play-off events and requiring Association to use highest football division championship revenues to fund: (aa) cost of additional due process protections; (bb) a basic national athletics injury insurance and medical cost program that removes current reliance on student and parent provided insurance and expense coverage; (cc) basic and annual enhancements to catastrophic athletics insurance; and (dd) subsidize institutional members of highest competitive division to enable them to provide athletic scholarships covering the full cost of education under federal definitions.

(II) Require the Association, conferences and member institutions to retain five percent of gross annual media rights fees to establish an Academic Trust Fund to be used to disburse education-based grants to permit college athletes to complete baccalaureate or advanced degrees following completion of athletic eligibility and provide fund for non-athletes’ financial aid.

(E) Commercial Use of Names, Likenesses, and Images of College Athletes. Other than use to promote current athletics events, Association, conferences and member institutions may not sell these rights for any other commercial purpose (e.g., video games, apparel, etc.) and athlete may sell their own rights during period of collegiate eligibility as long as neither the athlete’s collegiate sport nor institution is identified.

(F) Minimum Legislative Conditions of Educational Athletic Program.

(i) Maximum full athletic scholarships to athletes in highest competitive division set at full cost of education under federal definitions.

(ii) “Whistle blower” protections to college athletes, faculty and other institutional employees who disclose unethical behavior or rules violations.

(iii) Required institutional participation in Association “certification” program.

(iv) Athlete academic counseling and support program must be under direct control of institution’s academic authority.

(v) Limitation on compensation and outside income of coaches and athletic

(vi) Athletes must have cumulative GPA of 2.0 to participate and if lower, are restricted to maximum of 10 practice hours per week.

(vii) Athletes whose cumulative GPA falls below 2.0 for two consecutive semesters shall not be eligible for athletics financial aid which may be restored upon return to 2.0 standard.

(viii) Freshman ineligibility for any incoming student with high school GPA or test scores more than one standard deviation below academic profile of entering class, limit of 10 hours of practice per week and required academic skills remediation.

(ix) Institutions not in compliance with Title IX shall not be eligible for Association post-season competition unless deficiencies remedied with one year.

(x) Institutions must adopt policies approved by their respective faculty senates to minimize regular season athletic contest schedule conflict with class attendance and prohibit such contests during final exams.

(xi) Construction and exclusive use of “athletics only’ practice, competition, conditioning, academic support, housing, dining and other facilities is prohibited.

(xii) All athletics-related financial aid extends to graduation of maximum of five years and cannot be reduced or cancelled based on athletics performance, physical condition or injury.

(xiii) Institutions must have faculty only Committee on Academic Oversight annually reporting to its faculty senate.

(xiv) Institution may not use mandatory student fee revenues to support athletics without vote and consent of student government (at least once every four years).

(G) Annual Report to Congress. Via Association online reporting system, each institution provides specified publicly accessible data on certification status, audited financials, and academic performance of student-athletes and Association provides data on distribution of funds to member institutions.

(H) Institutions Seeking to Separate from National governance Affiliation. If an institution with an athletics program annually generating $1 million or more voluntarily discontinues Association membership, the Secretary of Education is authorized to find the institution out of compliance with the Higher Education Act of 1965.

(I) Implementation. Requirements shall be met within one year of enactment.

(J) Secretary of Education Oversight Responsibility. Secretary authorized to approve timetable exceptions, promulgate regulations clarifying Act requirements, and exempt certain institutions.

Revised 3-15-14