Smith Reacts To Union Decision

Smith Reacts To Union Decision

Today, a federal agency granted student-athletes at Northwestern the right to unionize if they desire, something that could have far-reaching ramifications across college athletics. Gene Smith responds, while BSB also talked to Ohio State wrestling coach Tom Ryan about a related topic today.

Previously, Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith told BuckeyeSports.com that he does not believe that college athletes should be viewed as employees.

Smith still believes that even after today's decision from a regional branch of the National Labor Relations Board that granted Northwestern student-athletes the right to unionize should they desire.

NU will appeal the decision, which came about after arguments heard between the school and members of what is being called the College Athletes Players Association – including members of the school's football team, led by QB Kain Colter.

"I'm disappointed in the decision and look forward to see how the appeal progresses," Smith told BSB via text.

The decision doesn't quite overturn the way college athletics are run – it applies right now only to Northwestern, has no affect on public schools like Ohio State and still must stand on appeal – but it is another signal that the current way of doing things is likely on the way out.

As Smith detailed in the above story, college athletics has been slow to react to the massive influx of revenues in recent years, and there are major structural changes afoot that will likely result in cost-of-attendance stipends going to big-school athletes while loosening some of the archaic student-welfare restrictions in the current NCAA model.

Still, with cases such as the Ed O'Bannon suit as well as a new class-action antitrust suit filed, it's going to be an interesting few months and years for NCAA, universities and college athletics in general.

There are a lot of balls in play and this story is far from over, and the Northwestern case seemed to be less about compensation and more about athlete welfare. CAPA's platform has included increased financial coverage for sports-related medical expenses, an educational trust fund to help former players graduate, independent concussion experts on the sidelines and "due process" before a coach could remove a player's scholarship because of a rules violation.

Still, Colter was excited when the ruling came down today.

The NCAA, meanwhile, was on the other side of the coin, as extensions of the decision today, if upheld, could completely change the way college athletics is administered.

Tom Ryan Talks Bonusgate
Smith, of course, has also been in the news thanks to the clause in his new contract signed in January that provides him with a one-week salary bonus every time an OSU team and individual wins an NCAA championship.

That, of course, happened Saturday when junior wrestler Logan Stieber won the NCAA crown, his third in a row.

Today, wrestling coach Tom Ryan had to laugh when the subject was brought up.

"It's nice that Logan is officially the most recognized national champion in American history because everyone has picked it up," Ryan said. "It was on the cover of the paper in Virginia Beach. I have people sending me articles from all across the country – Logie Bear wins, AD gets the bonus."

On a more serious note, Ryan said he understood why some people were taken aback by someone like Smith profiting off the accomplishment of a student-athlete, but he defended both the situation and what Smith has done to help Stieber to the top of the nation.

"It's not that I don't understand why they would say that (it's unfair)," Ryan said. "I understand that. But the reality is, I try to go to scripture, and I think scripture is pretty right on (Matthew 20:1-16). (Smith) made a deal with the board of trustees. Two people made a deal. Whether anybody on the outside thinks it's right or wrong, two people made a deal, and the deal was if you run a program of excellence, if you create extraordinary opportunities for young people, you're going to get rewarded for it, and he's done that.

"He's done that for me. He did not have to put a new wrestling complex on the master plan. He did not have to do that, and he did it. He did not have to do a lot of the things that he's done since I've been here. He did not have to increase some salaries so that I could put a great staff together. He did not have to warmly welcome the opportunity for the Olympic training center to be here. He did not have to do any of those things.

"The reality is that Logan is the recipient of an amazing place with amazing people, and I'm not saying he wouldn't have done it in a remote place in the middle of nowhere with a small wrestling program, but you hear Logan speak – he says it over and over again, and it's not lip service – his workout partners and the staff and his environment are critical to his success, and Gene provides it. At least that's my feeling."

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