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No signs of union movement at Pitt


Football players at Northwestern have been given the go-ahead to create the first labor union for collegiate athletes, but their Pitt brethren aren’t showing a lot of interest in going along for the ride.
Reporters spoke to quarterback Chad Voytik, center Artie Rowell and coach Paul Chryst after practice Thursday, the sixth of 15 spring sessions, and the subject eventually arose. From the players’ remarks concerning the NLRB ruling that opens the door for labor unions to form at private institutions, there doesn’t appear to be much enthusiasm for following Northwestern down its trail-blazing path.
Play for pay? Nobody seems all that interested, probably because it seems like such an unattainable dream for Pitt players consumed with more immediate concerns — the final days of the semester and the rigors of football practice.
The most interesting and intelligent comment came from Voytik, the rising sophomore who will be Pitt’s starter this season.
“Truthfully, I feel like we are compensated enough,” he said. “We get a free education.”
Thank you.
The value of a college education, which can open doors to a variety of lifetime riches, goes far beyond a nominal paycheck that may not even cover every players’ needs.
Do football players get more than tennis players because they fill huge stadiums with paying customers? And, if so, is that sending a message that the NCAA really doesn’t care that much about those athletes in minor sports?
Of course, Voytik and Rowell indicated they wouldn’t turn down pay, if offered, but Rowell made a good point.
“You go play for pay and you are going to get into the Johnny Manziels and those guys getting way more money than what I’m going to get,” said Rowell, a junior who ascended to the starting job last  year after impressing coaches with his work ethic — a work ethic that didn’t need the lure of a paycheck to manifest itself.
Voytik and Rowell are only two voices — albeit from two of the brightest players on the team — but they said there hasn’t been a lot of union talk in the locker room since the NLRB ruling Wednesday. After all, the ruling only applies to private schools at the moment.
Predictably, Chryst had no interest in offering an opinion as pre-occupied as he is with getting the team ready for the 2014 season.
“There is so much I don’t know about it,” he said. “I was actually more excited to get on the field (for practice).”
Pitt officials offered this statement (again no surprise):
“The University of Pittsburgh remains committed to the concepts of amateurism and student-athletes that have always been the foundation of our athletic endeavors. We do not believe that treating student-athletes as employees will be beneficial for the students.”
My feeling? OK, since you asked:
Giving the players bigger stipends as part of their scholarships wouldn’t be a bad idea. And if the union can team with the NCAA to increase concussion awareness and deal with other medical issues nationwide, I would be on board with it.
But a players’ strike? It never will happen in collegiate sports. I know never is a long time, but I’ll repeat: Never.
Players have a limited number of games to showcase their skills to the NFL. No one wants to further deplete those opportunities that, for some players, may only occur a dozen times in their four-year careers.



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