Northwestern University Coach Pat Fitzgerald urges 'no' vote on union

Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald sided with his university against the formation of a players union in his first public comments Saturday, repeating what he already told his team: "I believe it's in their best interests to vote no."
April 5, 2014 4:16:03 PM PDT
Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald sided with his university against the formation of a players union in his first public comments Saturday, repeating what he already told his team: "I believe it's in their best interests to vote no."

Fitzgerald's comments on Saturday come after the National Labor Relations Board said the players could bargain collectively.

Northwestern players hit the practice field wearing game uniforms for the first time since the ruling last week allowing them freedom to join a union.

While many consider it a victory for college athletes in general, and Northwestern football players specifically, the players still have to vote on whether to actually exercise the right to unionize. And that's far from a sure bet.

''I don't support it, I don't think a union is the answer for my team,'' said Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian.

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald says he has been a big advocate for change and helping student athletes. But he says unionizing is not the way. A former northwestern star player himself, Fitzgerald says he wanted to address the subject with his players before talking to the media about the ruling. He's not allowed to tell players how to vote, but he says he's tried to educate them about the issues.

"I believe it's in their best interest to vote no, and get the facts,'' Fitgerald said.

Players will vote on the issue later in April. Several players and former players argued they are employees of the university who work more than 40 hours a week on their sport. And they say they should be treated as such rather than as students.

The value of a four-year scholarship to Northwestern has been estimated at more than $250,000. The players who were willing to come forward on the subject at practice say they believe unionization is not the answer.

US Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said at a NWES conference in Des Moines Saturday that he will respect the decision by the National Labor Relations Board that players have the right to unionize.


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