Big Ten Conference commissioner Jim Delany doesn’t think college athletes should be paid, but he’s not against giving them a greater voice regarding the governing of their sports.
Delany, who was speaking at the City Club of Chicago on Thursday, was responding to a question about former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter and his quest to form college athlete labor union. Colter spoke in front of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago this week in an attempt to classify college football players as employees by federal law. If the National Labor Relations Board recognizes Northwestern football players as employees, they can unionize and be paid.
Currently, the union would only apply to Northwestern college football players, but if successful, would likely become a nationwide movement. The group is asking for scholarships that cover the cost of living and tuition as well as greater safety measures.
"Everybody's sensitive to the points that are being made," Delany said. "It's unchartered territory. It reminds me a lot of 1968 because you've got traditions that are 100 years old that are being challenged, and I think in some cases, some of the challenges are proper. For me the time, the number of games, are issues.
"I think we need more seats at the table, for sure. And I think that we'll get that. I think that we'll get that as we restructure the NCAA. I feel certain that at institutes and conference and NCAA level, there will be more opportunity for points of view, and I hope to give them not only a voice but maybe a way to weigh in."
Delany said if college football players were able to unionize, the NCAA would likely seek congressional guidance to help determine the future of college athletics.
"Somebody with a clear crystal ball would have to describe what it might look like," Delany said. "I think there would have to be some congressional understanding of how these laws relate to anti-trust and how it would relate to Title IX and laws that relate to funding and whether a person is somebody that could be employable. ... It doesn't seem to me an easy and smooth response.
"At the end of the day, we respect the individuals, we respect the system. Ultimately, it will evolve."
It will be interesting to see just how much college athletes evolves especially as it continues to increase its profitability.
Delany also addressed – and ultimately quashed – any talk of the Big Ten playing on Friday nights outside of Thanksgiving and Labor Day weekends.
"Beyond that, I don't think while I'm around here you're going to see Friday night games," Delany said. "Down the road? Who knows?"
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