In their attempt to unionize college athletes, the Northwestern football players and the recently formed College Athletes Players Association scored a major victory on Wednesday.

In a decision that could eventually have a major impact on the future of college athletics, Peter Sung Ohr, the regional director of the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board, ruled the Northwestern players under the CAPA have the right to unionize against their university.

Kain Colter, Northwestern's former quarterback and the leader of the CAPA had this to say following the ruling:

"Ramogi" refers to Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA linebacker who is the founder and president of the National College Players Association. Huma helped Colter found the CAPA in January 2014.

Colter followed up his first tweet with this:

The NCAA, as you might guess, was not as happy:

Also disagreeing with the ruling was the Big Ten and other major conferences. The Big Ten released a statement that read: "While we respect the process followed by the National Labor Relations Board, we disagree with the ruling. We don't believe that student-athletes are university employees. The issues raised during the hearings are already being discussed at the national level, and we believe that students should be a part of the conversation."

As ESPN reported, "It was a sentiment shared by all of the big NCAA conferences, including the SEC."

"Notwithstanding today's decision, the SEC does not believe that full time students participating in intercollegiate athletics are employees of the universities they attend," Michael Slive, the SEC commissioner, said in a written statement.

Other critics argue that allowing college athletes to unionize could hurt college sports in other ways -- including by raising the prospects of strikes by disgruntled players or lockouts by athletic departments.

The ruling comes less than two weeks after the university and CAPA submitted their briefs to Ohr for his consideration. According to the USA Today, "Northwestern released a statement on the precedent-setting decision, saying that it is disappointed in the ruling and plans to appeal to the National Labor Relations board in Washington, D.C."

More from USA Today:

Tim Waters, the political director of the United Steelworkers, who are funding CAPA in this endeavor, called it a "complete victory" for the players, saying that "the board ruled in their favor on every question."

The main question is whether the athletes are employees, but Ohr also ruled in favor of CAPA on other smaller questions, including whether CAPA is a labor organization and whether the unit of players represented is appropriate.

Other supporters include the Drake Group, a group of faculty members from colleges around the country, who said in a statement: "The unionization of college athletes is a natural outgrowth of the NCAA’s 1973 decision to replace four- year scholarships with one-year renewable grants that can be canceled for just about any reason."

So just what is the impact of all this?

Clay Travis, a popular sports blogger and Fox Sports Columnist who holds a law degree explained it well:

The ruling is limited to students who attend private institutions and are, henceforth, subject to the National Labor Relations Board if they also seek to unionize. Public school athletes would be governed by state law, which, given that 24 states, including most of the South, are right-to-work jurisdictions, means that the vast majority of major college football teams could not unionize as Northwestern has. The Southeastern Conference, for instance, has just one private institution among its 14 schools.

You can read Travis' entire breakdown here.

While Wednesday's ruling is a major victory for the CAPA, this case is far from over. Many speculate it could eventually reach the United States Supreme Court and it could be years before a decision is reached.


The NCAA makes billions, Johnny Manziel gets suspended for selling his (as in HIS) autograph. Tell me how the dice hasn't been loaded against college athletes from day one. The NCAA and the big conferences will fight this all the way but the handwriting is on the wall (see Union, Soviet)
If college athletes wish to unionize then they should follow the same basic rules that those of us out here working in the real world for 50-60 hours a week adhere to...their scholarship should now be considered INCOME, and that income should be taxed at the federal, local and state levels. Contributions should be made to medicare, social security, healthcare, unemployment compensation and of course, their union dues. At that point if their EMPLOYER (the college or university) wishes to allow them to opportunity to participate in profit sharing, so be it; that will be the employers decision. If the athlete wishes to be treated on par with the rest of the American workforce and be protected by their union, then they should also be required to pay their fair share of the tax base.
Keith, you make a great point. And that's what makes this really complicated. Is if the student-athletes are "employees" they would have to pay taxes. And what happens if the players strike or they were locked out? How would they pay for tuition if their income stopped? Many wouldn't be able to.
Bingo Michael. My point exactly. These kids (and they are kids) have no clue about how big, bad and unfair the real world is. Most of them are insulated and believe that the world revolves around them exclusively. It is going to be a very sad situation for athletics as a whole should this issue not be ironed out. And unfortunately, its not going to be just football; what about baseball, hockey and women's sports. I'm really curious to see how this will all shake out.
Personally, I hope the unionization thing never pans out (despite yesterday's ruling.) I understand student-athletes need to be represented. They need a "seat at the table" so-to-speak. I've worked in a major college athletic department and seen firsthand how taxing being a student-athlete can be. But that said, from everything I've read, unionizing sounds like it will do more harm than good.
Sorry guys, I think you are missing the point in all of this. Unionizing isn't the real goal--this is just a very smart group of kids who came up with a way to force their way "in." The money in major college sports has reached ridiculous levels--millions of dollars for coaches? Really? For coaching a bunch of kids in a kids game? The NCAA (the self described "protector" of the student-athlete) makes tens of millions a year. Everyone makes money--except for the kids responsible for putting on the show? The pie has gotten HUGE but the athletes still get the same "reward." What about the kid with a second grade reading level who gets admitted to college because he can throw a football better than anyone else? Or the kids who are steered (by the University) into certain classes that keep the eligible? Sorry--the kids deserve a say in this (what if I don't want a degree, what if I want to be paid "real" money"--you guys are setting the rules and making the kids play by your rules while capitalizing on these same kids) and these kids have found a way to force everyone's hand. The system is going to change--one way or another.
Rob, I completely agree that the student-athletes need to have a say in things. Agree with just about everything you said, I just don't think unionizing is the way to go about it.
I don't think unionizing is the way to go about it either, but, let's face it--these kids are smart! It was the best (if not the only?) way to force the schools and the NCAA to come up with some ideas now. Otherwise, they would have dragged their collective feet for years to come.