College

Stanford Football Coach Questions Unionizing College Athletes

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STANFORD (CBS / AP) — Stanford coach David Shaw is questioning what’s behind the union movement by Northwestern football players, saying everything they are asking for is already being provided by most universities.

Shaw said following Stanford’s spring practice Monday night that he’s “curious what’s really driving” the union. He said his players are given an athletic scholarship worth about $60,000 annually and have never had to pay for a health care service.

“I’m as confused as anybody as to the importance of this,” Shaw said. “I’m curious what’s really driving it. I’ve seen everything, and everything that’s been asked for, my understanding is it’s been provided. I think Northwestern does a phenomenal job providing for their kids, and it’s weird to try to unionize but still compliment Northwestern and compliment their coaching staff on being taken care of. Those things don’t seem to go hand in hand.”

Shaw’s comments came after last week’s ruling by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board that Northwestern’s football team can be considered employees and have the right to form a union. The school is appealing.

Shaw also fired back at outgoing Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter’s comments that Stanford rescinded a scholarship because of an injury. Shaw, who personally recruited Colter out of his Colorado high school, said he couldn’t elaborate on Colter’s situation but he’s never rescinded a scholarship from a player because of an injury — and never will.

“I went to his high school. I talked to his high school coach. I sat there and talked to him for an hour-and-a-half and watched all the kids’ film,” Shaw said. “There was no way we dropped a scholarship offer because he got hurt.”

The College Athletes Players Association, or CAPA, has said its specific goals include guaranteeing coverage of sports-related medical expenses for current and former players, reducing head injuries and potentially letting players pursue commercial sponsorships.

Critics have argued that giving college athletes employee status and allowing them to unionize could hurt college sports in numerous ways, including raising the prospect of strikes by disgruntled players or lockouts by athletic departments.

For now, the push is to unionize athletes at private schools, such as Northwestern and Stanford, because the federal labor agency does not have jurisdiction over public universities.

Shaw said he’s had some “preliminary conversations” with his players regarding the Northwestern ruling but will wait to see how things develop before discussing the matter further with them. He also said neither he nor his players have been approached by the union or talked about forming a football players’ union at Stanford.

“If this is a cost of attendance thing, we’ll do whatever the NCAA allows us to do,” Shaw said. “But I’ll tell you this: I know we’re preparing these young men for more than just football. We’re not using them for anything. We’re giving them an unbelievable education, unbelievable contacts. Hopefully they have a phenomenal experience here, athletically and academically and socially. And hopefully they go on to influence this great nation. To insinuate that there’s anything we’re doing to harm these young men, I think it’s not correct.”

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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