Swinney talks about college players unionizing

By Will Vandervort.

By Will Vandervort

The Chicago district of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Wednesday that Northwestern football players qualify as employees of the university and can unionize.

So what does that mean to Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney?

“I have no idea. I really don’t know enough about it to comment,” the Tigers’ head coach said after practice.

“What does that mean? Does that mean they don’t practice when they don’t want to practice? What does that mean? I don’t know what all that means?”

What it means is that Northwestern football players can hold a vote on whether they want to be considered university employees. As of right now, this ruling only affects private schools, but it could lead to more changes across the board now that a precedence has been established.

All of this is derived from the notion that college athletes, especially major Division I football and basketball players should be paid or given special benefits because they bring in millions of dollars for their universities. Critics believe their performance on the field is worth more to the schools than their performances in the classroom.

By unionizing, players will be able to dictate when and how like they can practice as well, much like the NFL Players Association does with its CBA. But most importantly, it will allow them to get paid as employees.

“They hardly practice now to be honest with you,” Swinney joked. “I have no idea. I’m just a spectator like all the rest of ya’ll and I just coach.”

Swinney, who supports players receiving a stipend or modernizing the scholarship to fit more into the cost of living in today’s world, did say this is situation that could ruin college athletics.

“There needs to be an adjustment there, but as far as professionalizing college athletics, first of all college athletics would go away,” he said. “I’m 1000 percent against that because we have enough entitlement in this country as it is and it totally devalues an education. It just blows my mind when they don’t even want to quantify an education.”

Public schools like Clemson will not be bothered by this ruling just yet. The push right now is to unionize athletes at private schools like Northwestern because the federal labor agency does not have jurisdiction over public schools.

Regardless, it’s a big deal for collegiate athletics and is something public schools like Clemson need to keep a close eye on. Swinney just hopes people don’t lose focus on why student athletes come to school in the first place, and though they play big-time football that is just a small part of the opportunity that lies in front of them.

“Football is great, but the reality of it is, only 6.5 percent play college football and only 1.6 percent play pro ball,” he said. “The academic side is a huge emphasis for us. I mean, what do you want to pay them? What kind of salary? What kind of number do you put on that? It’s not like they’re not getting anything.

“If you walk around this campus there are a lot of students coming out of college now $100,000 in debt, $70 and $80,000 in debt. I got put on scholarship and I was still $33,000 in debt when I came out of college.”

To say student-athletes get nothing, in Swinney’s eyes, totally devalues a college education.

“This is a topic that has been around a long time,” he said. “I’m passionate about it. I was passionate about it as a player. I’m passionate about it as a coach.

“One of the things you could do is create a minor league for football. The NFL could fund it or whatever, just like baseball. Guys that don’t want to go to school, guys that don’t value an education don’t have to come. Go to work. It is just that simple.

“Guys that are serious about getting an education and changing their life, go to college. That is a simple way to resolve the whole fact. Guys that take advantage of their opportunities and don’t let football use them, they use football, and those guys are very successful.”

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