Reality Check: Paying student athletes

(FOX19) - Northwestern University football players are scheduled to vote this Friday on whether they want to be represented by a union as part of a groundbreaking decision that could lead to college getting paid at schools all over the country, including here in Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, the NCAA's Board of Directors is set to meet this week to talk about improving life for college athletes. They will discuss issues like better meal plans and new transfer rules while student athletes are talking this week about getting paid.

Here are some of the highlights from last month's ruling by the head of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago.

  1. Northwestern football players spend more time on athletics, (40 to 50 hours of football related activities per week), than they do on their studies.
  2. Football players performed a valuable service for Northwestern which generated $235 million in football revenues between 2003 and 2012.
  3. Scholarship football players are now employees of Northwestern University.

Not only have Northwestern football players won the right to unionize, they can bargain collectively for better health benefits, even salaries. When you consider how much money college football and basketball programs rake in, players have reason for optimism.

The TV contract for the new college football playoff system alone is worth more than $7 billion over ten years and the current deal to broadcast the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is worth $11 billion over 14 years.

The Labor Board's decision does NOT impact public universities like UC, but could bring big changes to private institutions like Xavier University - home to one of the richest college basketball programs in the country.

Last year FORBES estimated the value of the program at over $13 million. FOX19 asked Greg Christopher, Xavier's Athletic Director, to comment on the decision. He says it's too early given the fact that Northwestern University plans to appeal the ruling.

However, the bottom line is this: For the first time, scholarship athletes at private universities everywhere, including Xavier, are looking at the possibility of getting compensated beyond room and board.


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