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Cerabino: FAU football team’s sacrifice deserves compensation

By Frank Cerabino - Palm Beach Post Staff Writer



The football team at Florida Atlantic University ought to consider forming a union.

A recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board found that football players admitted on sports scholarships at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., were actually “employees” of the university, not “student athletes,” as the National Collegiate Athletic Association has contended for the past 60 years.

The Northwestern ruling was instigated by the team’s quarterback Kain Colter and the College Athletes Players Association, which successfully argued that football players ought to have the right, as school employees, to hold a vote on whether to form a collective-bargaining unit.

The university is appealing the ruling, which has ramifications that go far beyond the Northwestern team.

Which made me think of FAU.

The overwhelming majority of college football players don’t get to convert their collegiate experience into a lucrative career in the NFL. They’re more likely to be injured-former football players than rich professional football players.

This is especially true at Florida Atlantic University, which is ranked 112th of the 128 teams in this year’s preliminary rankings of Division 1 teams, according to CollegeFootballNews.com.

And as has become custom, the Owls will start its season getting manhandled by two football powerhouses. This year it will be the University of Nebraska and The University of Alabama.

Both are away games for FAU, which is by design. Nebraska and Alabama have scheduled the smaller FAU team for home games in the beginning of their seasons as a kind of warm-up to the real competition.

Two years ago, FAU’s players served as chum for the Universities of Georgia and Alabama, losing those back-to-back games by a combined score of 96-27.

The practice of the best teams seeking out the worst for an easy win is lousy for the fans, a showcase for poor sportsmanship, and a dangerous afternoon for the players.

But it helps the highly ranked schools to maintain their pristine records, while it allows FAU to be paid handsomely for offering up its players for slaughter. FAU got paid $2 million for its double-beatdown in 2012.

The College Athletes Players Association says collective bargaining is needed in college football, in part, to establish funds for former college players with sports-related medical expenses.

This seems especially relevant to FAU as long as it continues its practice of leading its players to slaughter.

Two years ago, FAU linebacker Yourhighness Morgan stopped playing after getting at least five concussions on the team. And last year, FAU defensive back Winfred Strickland, ended his season in September after lingering symptoms following a concussion.

So FAU players might want to pay attention to what happens on April 25, when the Northwestern University football players are scheduled to vote on whether to form a union.

If they do it, the Northwestern players will be disappointing their head coach, Pat Fitzgerald, who says that his players don’t need a union.

Well, Fitzgerald certainly doesn’t. He’s the university’s highest paid employee, making $2.2 million a year.

The current system is working fine for him. When college athletes get treated like the school employees they really are, the system might start working for them too.


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