Unionizing NCAA invites more troubles

Unionizing NCAA invites more troubles

By Gene Budig

I served for 22 years as a university president or chancellor and am adamantly opposed to the unionization of college athletics.

Recognizing that unions bargain both compensation and work rules, I ask these unavoidable questions:

Who will cover the mountain of bonding debt that colleges and universities have amassed over the years for new and refurbished athletic facilities, especially for men's football, basketball and baseball?

And what about increased borrowing for women's basketball, track and softball and other nonrevenue sports?

What happens to the principles of equity as envisioned by the federal government through Title IX?

And what happens to the idealistic commitment to college athletes and the many minorities in their ranks, especially in men's football and basketball and in women's wide array of sports?

What happens when network and cable television executives decide that they can no longer justify such extravagant, long-term deals with the major schools and conferences, with a diminished product?

What happens to the massive football and basketball venues?

Do such facilities become relics of a society that forgot the value of sport and settled for an endless stream of entertainment?

And what happens to needed private giving programs at colleges and universities, ones that provide direly needed scholarship monies for students and support for faculty research and professorships?

Many affluent individuals and successful businesses and corporations have become involved in major college giving because of introduction through successful athletic programs. Few are pro-union.

All parties must realize that inadequate state government budgets will not be bailing out college athletics, although elected officials delight in being seen and professing loyalties at high-profile sporting events.

The threat is real, and the public is ill-informed on the matter and its consequences.

Ideally, the NCAA and college presidents should give a sympathetic ear to student athletes and come up with some reasonable modification that protects vital interests. All must understand long-term implications.

The NCAA and the college presidents should be commended for initiating many needed academic reforms, but they have been slow to act on other fronts. And I was one of them for a long, long time.

But unionization is not the answer.

Gene Budig is the chairman of News-Gazette Inc. He was chancellor/president of Illinois State University, West Virginia University and the University of Kansas and was president of Major League Baseball's American League.

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Sid Saltfork wrote on May 14, 2014 at 4:05 pm

What is the reason for attending college?  Are colleges, and universities in the sports business; or the educational business?  I used to see the U of I Probation, and Drop Lists at the completion of each semester.  Well known names of university athletes would end up on the Drop List at the end of their eligibility.  Get the hypocrisy of the NCAA out of education.  Based on the logic expressed in the article, the production of porn movies would be an educational endeavor to support research, and academic salaries.

If student athletes are going to be exploited for money; pay them, insure them, and do not place academic standards on them. 

mjerryfuerst wrote on May 15, 2014 at 10:05 am

 Mr. Budig's piece is most uninformative and poorly argued because it does not explain  how unionization could lead to any of the circumstances he suggests.

He also tells fails to explain what overdue reforms the NCAA is now taking.

To answer some of the question he raises:

Who will cover the mountain of bonding debt that colleges and universities have amassed over the years for new and refurbished athletic facilities, especially for men's football, basketball and baseball?  Whether or not some  NCAA athletes unionize, ticket sales and donations will cover this  

And what about increased borrowing for women's basketball, track and softball and other nonrevenue sports?   Whether or not some  NCAA athletes unionize, ticket sales and donations will cover this  

What happens to the principles of equity as envisioned by the federal government through Title IX?    Such princilpes will continue without change

And what happens to the idealistic commitment to college athletes and the many minorities in their ranks, especially in men's football and basketball and in women's wide array of sports?   Any union of athetes will embrace a similar committment

What happens when network and cable television executives decide that they can no longer justify such extravagant, long-term deals with the major schools and conferences, with a diminished product?      Unionization will not sigificantly diinish the product.   Long term deals will continue to be binding on the parties.   The network and cable and in-house sports infrastructure will continue to hype interest in college atheltics.    

What happens to the massive football and basketball venues?  Nothing

Do such facilities become relics of a society that forgot the value of sport and settled for an endless stream of entertainment?  No

And what happens to needed private giving programs at colleges and universities, ones that provide direly needed scholarship monies for students and support for faculty research and professorships?  Those who contribute to colleges and universities in support of academics and atheletics will continue to do so.