Gene Budig: Unionization in college sports not the answer
I am adamantly opposed to the unionization of college athletics.
As one who served as a university chancellor/president for 22 years, I ask these unavoidable questions:
1. Who will cover the mountain of bonding debt that colleges and universities have amassed over the years for new and refurbished athletic facilities, especially for men’s football, basketball and baseball?
2. And what about increased borrowing for women’s basketball, track, and softball and other non-revenue sports?
3. What happens to the principles of equity as envisioned by the federal government through Title 9?
4. And what happens to the idealistic commitment to college athletes and the many minorities in their ranks, especially in men’s football and basketball and in women’s wide array of sports?
5. What happens when network and cable television executives decide that they can no longer justify such extravagant, long-term deals with the major schools and conferences, with a diminished product?
6. What happens to the massive football and basketball venues?
7. Do such facilities become relics of a society that forgot the value of sport and settled for an endless stream of entertainment?
8. And what happens to needed private giving programs at colleges and universities, ones that provide direly needed scholarship monies for students and support for faculty research and professorships?
Many affluent individuals and successful businesses and corporations have become involved in major college giving because of introduction through successful athletic programs. Few are pro-labor.
All parties must realize that inadequate state government budgets will not be bailing out college athletics, although elected officials delight in being seen and professing loyalties at high profile sporting events.
The threat is real and the public is ill-informed on the matter and its consequences.
Ideally, the NCAA and college presidents should give a sympathetic ear to student athletes and come up with some reasonable modification that protects vital interests. All must understand long-term implications.
The NCAA and the college presidents should be commended for initiating many needed academic reforms, but they have been slow to act on other fronts. And I was one of them for a long, long time.
But unionization is not the answer.
Gene Budig was chancellor/president of Illinois State University, West Virginia University, and the University of Kansas and president of Major League Baseball’s American League.