The players at occasional football power Northwestern have obtained National Labor Relations Board concurrence with their request to be regarded as employees, and represented by the Steelworkers.

Writing for The Nation, Dave Zirin suggests that Northwestern's administration fears the countervailing power of unions where paying market wages to support staff is concerned, while conference and National Collegiate Athletic Association pooh-bahs fear the countervailing power of market options to the one-size-fits-all indenture athletic scholarship that binds players to a university for four years (one year in the case of some basketball programs).

The teachable moment: market forces are not always friendly to capitalists or entrenched interests.  Academics on the left ought to be alert to the potentially liberating features of neoliberal economics.

At Minding the Campus, James Piereson notes that running a business implies paying attention to hard budget constraints.
If it is upheld, the ruling threatens to obliterate the major assumptions governing college sports and could even bring about the end of big time college athletics altogether.  Given the expense and liability of maintaining athletic programs on a semi-professional basis, many institutions will fold them up altogether and proceed with on-campus athletics on a club or recreational basis.
So far, nobody has contemplated the tax considerations.  Perhaps institutions of higher education could run sports programs according to a business model, in such a way as to be able to pay their employees, in the same way that non-profit hospitals can conduct charity drives while competing in the relevant markets for neurosurgeons and radiologists.

Otherwise, raising money for the positional arms race in football becomes harder.

This is the Chessick Practice Center at Northern Illinois University, the result of a successful fund-raising campaign.  That it looks like a suitable structure for holding a continuous casting machine or a pickling line is serendipitous.  But running a spur from Union Pacific across the Lincoln Highway into a steel mill would not be cheap.

Instead of a plant gate, though, there's a ceremonial plaza.

Donated artwork, and additional naming rights.  That works for a university, it works for a hospital, and it works for an art gallery.

But then there are the tax benefits to buying seat licenses.  Not even at occasional BCS intruding Northern Illinois can you drive to the neighborhood of Huskie Stadium on game day and park wherever you want.  Season ticket holders must make an additional "donation" to Intercollegiate Athletics in order to secure the most convenient parking spots or tailgating locations.  (If you have a blue faculty and staff permit, there are a couple of ways to beat the system, which for a cup of coffee -- this being Illinois -- I will show you.)  How long will the tax-deductibility of these mandatory contributions last, if college football and basketball become more explicitly businesses?

No comments: