Former college and pro football players weigh in on possible uni - - Jackson, MS

Former college and pro football players weigh in on possible union in college athletics

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - High school athletes all over the country receive significant athletic scholarships each year from NCAA Division I universities. With head coaches making millions of dollars, and NCAA TV deals bringing in billions more, many student athletes want a piece of the cut. East Texas sports took a look at a great debate, should the student athlete be treated like an employee?

Is a full ride scholarship enough for a college athlete? Or do they deserve more? Those are a few questions that have the sports world talking and it's something football players from Northwestern University have acted on.

In March, the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of the Northwestern football players who are attempting to form a union. But, things are at a stand-still. The university appealed and asked the U.S. Labor Agency to review the decision made by one of its regional directors.

The Northwestern football team did vote on April 25th on whether they wish to unionize and become employees of the university or not. Because of the on-going appeal process though, we won't know the results for quite some time.

So, should college athletes benefit by being an employee, or is their free education enough? It depends who you ask. "My scholarship was  never enough, and I barely met ends at the end of the day," former Northwestern Louisiana football player Destry Hasskew said.

APEC director Bobby Stroupe who trains college and pro athletes added,"They get an opportunity to live somewhere, they get free food, and they get an education,"  "Kids dont need money, they need money and an education." Former Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Williams said," All college players are broke, all college students are broke, just pay the guys."

Another benefit the pro-union football players would like to receive is long term medical care if they were to suffer a career ending injury while in college. Most former players support that stance.

"Injuries like head trauma and stuff like that which is going to linger on into your further life then I think they should help compensate for those type of injuries," former Texas A&M Kingsville football player Cornelius Shackleford said. Hasskew added,"They take care of your injuries while you are in college, but once you are gone, you dont get taken care of anymore. I have a shoulder injury now that I have to deal with on my own."

Athletes need to keep in mind, becoming an employee instead of a student athlete means the university could fire you, thus putting your education in danger. "That's what you don't want to lose, to have a chance to get an education," Texas head coach Charlie Strong said. "So, you look down the road, what is going to take you a long way? That education will.

Shackleford added," A lot of people get by because of a scholarship even though they don't produce as much, but they can't get fired because they are on their scholarship and they are getting their school paid for." He went on to say,"If you are an employee though, you could get fired and your scholarship is over and your parents would have to find a way to pay for your school."

Most agree a union will actually never be formed. However, former college and pro stars including former Cowboys and Texas A&M cornerback Kevin Smith feels there are a few steps the NCAA can take to better the life of a college athlete. "Maybe create a clothing allowance or create a grooming allowance," Smith said. "You just create a pool of money that you can give to the kids."

Former Cowboys linebacker Dixon Edwards added,"As far as improving the life of the athletes while they are there, I do think the colleges owe that to them because there is a lot of money being made."

Regardless of how the vote turns out, the College Athletes Players Association will likely continue to push the idea of unionization, possibly changing the landscape of college athletics.

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