Tuesday's statement from the 14 Big Ten presidents was in response to the Ed O'Bannon trial and the debate over whether student-athletes should be paid.
But the proposals laid forth by the presidents instantly brought to mind a different part of the college athletics fight: former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter and his College Athletes Players Association.
The four bulleted proposals in the presidents' lengthy statement almost completely mirror the main goals Colter and CAPA outlined at a press conference announcing the Northwestern unionization attempt earlier this year. The Big Ten presidents have proposed guaranteeing four-year scholarships for student-athletes, including even in instances when athletes leave college to pursue a professional career. Expanded financial coverage for injuries, as well as scholarships covering the complete cost of a four-year education were also included in the proposals.
These are the exact things that Colter and his group were fighting for, and it has to be a definite positive to see these adopted by those running the system.
But is it a victory?
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Perhaps the main goal of Colter's efforts has been left off this list: the general "seat at the table" for student-athletes. It was the end to which the unionization means were meant to achieve. Collective-bargaining rights for student-athletes were the hoped-for result. The Big Ten and Northwestern have remained staunchly opposed to players forming a union — as well as the more over-arching payment of players. Colter was smart to not bring up the payment of players in his initial arguments, asking for a seemingly reasonable list of requests. Those requests have now been adopted by the Big Ten's decision-makers as a part of an official attitude toward reforming college athletics. But has it come at the cost of that so-called seat at the table?
Colter's unionization plan seems increasingly unlikely to happen at Northwestern, though the results of the player vote won't be released until the university's appeal to the National Labor Relations Board is settled. And, even if the NCAA adopts the Big Ten presidents' proposals, the continued stance against the implementations of unions seems to implicate that collective-bargaining rights could be right out, as well.
So, as with most things, the true answer seems to lie right in the middle. Yes, the goals that Colter and CAPA were hoping to see realized have backing from some of college athletics' most powerful figures. But at the same time, it seems those same figures still hold most if not all of the cards in the NCAA's potential reformation. That seat at the table for student-athletes Colter so adamantly spoke about might not be a part of the plans.