Advertisement

 CHICAGO (AP) - Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter testified Tuesday that he was essentially paid to play via his scholarship as the National Labor Relations Board opened a closely watched hearing on a bid to form what would be the first union for college athletes in U.S. history.
From a witnesses stand in a federal court building, Colter characterized playing college football as a job and said schools make clear to incoming players that athletics are a higher priority than academics.
Colter, a co-founder of the newly formed College Athletes Players Association, said players adhere to grueling schedules, putting in 40- to 50-hour weeks on football during and before the season. During August training, he said, players wake at 8 a.m. and often only finish practice at 10 p.m.
''It's a job, there is no way around it - it's a job,'' said Colter, a 21-year-old senior whose college career is over.
Asked why Northwestern gave him a scholarship of $75,000 a year, he responded: ''To play football. To perform an athletic service.'' Later, he said players earn the money, in part, ''by sacrificing our bodies.''
Whether the players qualify under federal law as employees is the core question for the NLRB to answer. If they are deemed employees, they would have rights to unionize. Whatever ruling the panel makes can be appealed.
The Colter-led bid, which is supported by the United Steelworkers, is seen as a test case that could transform the landscape of college athletics. The NCAA and Big Ten Conference, which includes Northwestern, both maintain that college students are not employees whatever their participation might be in athletics.
During his opening statement, an attorney representing the university, Alex Barbour, challenged the notion the players are employees. He said academics are at the center of a football player's college experience.
''Academics always trumps athletics at Northwestern,'' he said. ''Northwestern is not a football factory.''
But during his testimony, Colter said he abandoned his hopes of entering a pre-med program because of time demands Northwestern makes on football players. He said chemistry was invariably offered at times that conflicted with football practice.
''You fulfill the football requirement and, if you can, you fit in academics,'' he said. ''You have to sacrifice one. But we can't sacrifice football. ... We are brought to the university to play football.''
Devoting more time to academics at the expense of his football, he added, could result in the loss of a scholarship. Asked if coaches ever told players to leave practice and go study, Colter said no.
Another Northwestern attorney, Anna Wermuth, asked Colter whether playing football was, in itself, part of the education process. Does it help players learn to ''critically analyze information?'' she asked.
''We learn to critically analyze a defense,'' said Colter, who ended up studying psychology. Football also taught values, including perseverance, he added.
''But that does not mean it helps you earn a psychology degree,'' he said. ''It makes it harder.''
Northwestern spokesman Bob Rowley declined to comment on Colter's suggestion that school made football a higher priority than academics in some cases. He said the university's own witnesses later this week could address that and other questions.
The university and its attorneys have repeatedly pointed out the Northwestern has one of the highest graduation rates for football players in the country - of around 97 percent.
Colter said most of the team's 85 scholarship players support forming a union, though he has been the only one to step forward publicly with the support of the Steelworkers, the players association and its leader, former UCLA linebacker Ramogi Huma. Huma was also expected to testify, possibly on Wednesday.
Supporters say a union would provide athletes a vehicle to lobby for financial security and improved safety, noting that players are left out of the billions generated through college athletics. They contend scholarships sometimes don't even cover livings expenses for a full year.
University attorneys are expected to call their own witnesses later in the week. A decision by the NLRB could come soon after the testimony concludes.
For now, the push is to unionize athletes at private schools, like Northwestern. Public universities, which are subject to different regulations, could follow later.
---
Follow Michael Tarm at https://twitter.com/mtarm

Recent NCAAF Discussions

sun night play on Sun, Sep 2016 by Michael Cash
1/2 plays pro for sun. sun sept. 25th on Sun, Sep 2016 by Michael Cash
2nd set pro plays on Sun, Sep 2016 by Timmy1961

NCAAF Headlines

More inNCAAF News  

NCAAF Top Stories

Thumbnail College Football Week 5 Odds Week 5 of the College Football Season features some very big matchups between top-10 teams. Here is a look at...
Thumbnail Arizona tries to contain explosive Washington No. 9 Washington utterly obliterated its first three opponents of the season. Will the good times continue in the desert?
Thumbnail Sun Devils, Bears primed for fireworks show With California and Arizona State set to do battle, should fans on the West Coast expect an offensive blitzkrieg tonight?
Thumbnail Arkansas vs. Texas A&M Prediction Will Arkansas pull off the upset or at least cover the spread when it takes on Texas A&M at AT&T Stadium at 9:00PM ET tonight?
Thumbnail Louisville vs. Marshall Prediction Will Louisville avoid a letdown tonight when the Cardinals visit Marshall at 8:00PM ET?
More inNCAAF Articles  

NCAAF Team Pages