The landscape of college football is changing, and the Northwestern Wildcats are playing one of the largest roles so far.
An ESPN.com story published Tuesday reported that an "overwhelming majority" of Northwestern football players -- led by former quarterback Kain Colter, who finished his senior season this past year -- have signed union cards with hopes of creating a union of college athletes that would have collective-bargaining rights.
A petition has been filed on behalf of the National College Players Association with backing from the United Steelworkers union to the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board, a part of the federal government that recognizes such organizations. If recognized, the union formed would be called the College Athletes Players Association and would include college football and basketball players, with hopes of expanding to include athletes from other sports.
According to the report, Colter put the wheels of these events in motion by reaching out to the NCPA almost a year ago with these intentions. Colter was one of several players from several different schools, including a few Northwestern teammates, to wear the phrase "APU" on a wristband during a game last season. APU stands for All Players United and served as a protest for the rights of college athletes to be treated as employees.
This is the latest and one of the more forceful moments in the debate over whether college athletes deserve a share of the NCAA's haul of billions of dollars each season. Though, according to NCPA president Ramogi Huma, who was quoted thoroughly in the ESPN report, any new union would seek the same things his organization has sought since he founded it more than a decade ago. Those include better protection from concussions, as well as the reformation of scholarships to include the full cost of university attendance and be guaranteed in case of injury.
As far as payment of players goes, that is not an initially stated goal but had not been ruled out, according to Huma.
The report made a point of saying that any decision by the NLRB board might not be the final say in this situation. The board's decision could be appealed and fought in court over the next several years.