Advisory committee: SU should plan for possibility of student-athlete unions

Regardless of the merits of a federal agency’s ruling that football players at Northwestern University can unionize, Syracuse University should begin planning if the decision is upheld, according to an advisory budget committee.

That statement is included in a 12-page, wide-ranging report from the University Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Affairs, which was presented on Wednesday. The senate is an academic governing body made up of faculty, staff, administration and students.

The budget committee’s report said the March 26 decision from a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board’s Chicago office has “serious potential implications” for athletic departments at private universities, though it is too early to speculate what will eventually happen with the ruling. Those implications include more resources being spent on football and basketball — something that would disrupt how sports that do not make money are financed, according to the report. The labor board’s decision would also require that questions about paying athletes in these “non-revenue” sports be addressed.

Football and men’s basketball generated the most revenue out of SU’s different sports last year, according to numbers reported to the U.S. Department of Education. Football generated $33,213,622 in revenue and men’s basketball took in $26,039,030. That’s compared to $22,663,307 and $13,788,271 in expenses, respectively.

SU Athletics chief communications officer Joe Giansante did not return four calls and an email about the budget committee’s report.

Herman Frazier, deputy athletics director and chief of staff, talked briefly about unionization on Tuesday in a REL 103: “Religion and Sports” class that was open to the public. He cited possible concerns with taxes and “employee relations” — such as if 50,000 tickets were sold to an event and athletes did not show up.

At SU, Frazier said, student-athletes are getting an education valued at more than $200,000. They will also not leave school with a medical bill from a sports-related injury and have access to tutoring, he said.


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