Northwestern University

FILE - In this Sept. 18, 2010, file photo, former UCLA basketball player Ed O'BannonJr. sits in his office in Henderson, Nev. Five years after the former UCLA star filed his antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA, it goes to trial Monday, June 9, 2014, in a California courtroom.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Because of the Northwestern University football team’s recent vote on whether to unionize, momentum both for and against further financial compensation to college athletes has increased dramatically. Citing a need for broader health care as well as fully guaranteed scholarships, supporters of the at least partial unionization of college athletes argue that some college athletes deserve further compensation, “compensation” that extends farther than the reaches of a scholarship as presently constructed.

Detractors, on the other hand, find a number of reasons not to compensate. They argue that amateur status paired with sentiments of “love of the game” define our romantic notion of what a volunteer student-athlete ought to represent. 

And yet both sides of the argument revolve around perceptions of fairness and whether or not we are treating equals equally.

The real answer should lie somewhere in the middle, however, where athletes first receive full scholarships before any further compensation is granted. 

USA Today recently reported that University of Texas athletics amassed $165.7 million in operating revenue in the academic year 2012-2013, $109.4 million of which arrives directly as a result of the football program. This was the largest revenue-producing year in the history of UT athletics, and when we consider the increasingly profitable Longhorn Network, not to mention the excitement surrounding new head coach Charlie Strong, we can reasonably conclude that that $165.7 million number won’t be a record for long. 

Further complicating the issue is the Edward O’Bannon case. In O’Bannon v. NCAA, former UCLA basketball standout Ed O’Bannon sued the NCAA over a violation of antitrust laws. He argued that because his UCLA likeness was still being used without compensation, the NCAA was treating him unfairly. In other words, UCLA should not be able to continue profiting from images of Ed O’Bannon in a UCLA uniform without O’Bannon receiving some form of compensation. 

On Aug. 8, 2014, District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favor of O’Bannon.

The ramifications of this decision are as yet unknown. Surely, as a result of the O’Bannon decision, instances such as Johnny Manziel’s autographing controversy will eventually become a thing of the past. After all, it seems fair that a popular college athlete ought to make money off his or her own likeness without fear of losing his or her scholarship.

Unfortunately, we are dealing with a case wherein presumed equals are not at all equals with regard to their significance to the university as a whole. Particularly, there are 109.4 million reasons — roughly two-thirds of the entire UT athletics revenue production — why UT football players ought to receive more financial compensation for their work as opposed to other UT students and even other UT student-athletes. This is not at all to say that, among UT student-athletes, only UT football players deserve further compensation. Rather UT football players most deserve more compensation. 

Considering the extreme amounts of money brought to the university directly from the football team, as well as the finding that Northwestern football players expended “50 to 60 hours of football-related work per week” during training camp, not to mention the “40 to 50 hours per week to football” during the regular season, it seems mostly unfair that UT college football players — and student-athletes from high revenue programs across the country — are not further compensated. 

Which then leads to an even more controversial and complicated issue: What constitutes “further compensation”? Broader health care? Guaranteed, four-year tuition? A four- or five-figure salary? Or, more relevant to our own football program: Should players be able to accept free dinners from potential sports agents? 

It is easy to understand why the notion of “pay for play” makes many uncomfortable. At the end of the day, students make a choice whether or not they want to be a student-athlete and are free to quit whenever they want. In this context, the current system seems appropriate, as a scholarship to many is payment in and of itself. But even this thought experiment is too simplistic. What if a player who could not otherwise afford to pay tuition decides to quit football and thereby loses his scholarship? What if a freshman football player on scholarship suffers a career-ending injury and his scholarship is revoked? For many players football is a choice and for many others football is the only choice, the only avenue to a college education and social mobility. For most, only the football-playing journey ends in college. 

Among all these gray areas lies one glaring fact: the current system of scholarship-granting with regard to UT football players and college athletes as a whole (who help bring in a giant amount of their school’s financial pie) is inadequate. Instead of derailing what is becoming a more important issue each day with socially and politically charged words like “entitled,”  “unionize” and “exploitation,” let us first ask ourselves whether that kind of temporal and physical devotion with that incredibly large amount of money on the line is fair without, at the very least, four years’ guaranteed tuition. 

Sundlin is an English and radio-television-film senior from San Antonio.

A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled Wednesday that scholarship players of the Northwestern University football team are employees of the University and have the ability to form unions, setting a precedent that could have implications across college athletics.

While the ruling, which comes as the NCAA is facing increased scrutiny over the compensation of athletes, will be appealed in front of the board in Washington, it represents a larger trend in the evolution of college athletics and its players.

Peter Ohr outlined his decision in a 24-page report that sided with the College Athletes Players Association, which has been led by former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter. A petition filed in January by the CAPA and heard in front of the board for the past two months provided enough evidence for Ohr that the players are presented as employees of the university.

For years, the NCAA has functioned with players as student-athletes, offering scholarships for their tuition, room, food and books in exchange for athletic competition for their universities. But Ohr found, given the number of hours dedicated to their sport, their payment in the form of scholarships and the amount of revenue they generate for their school, the Northwestern football players should have the ability to form unions since they are “not primarily students.”

“If you think of the life of a college football player, they have very little choice of how they run their life,” said Thomas Hunt, an assistant professor in the College of Education focusing on sports law and history. “So since the power of the students to run their own lives is greatly moderated, I think that’s the primary reason why they decided to seek unionization.”

If the decision is upheld, it could potentially change how the NCAA compensates its athletes as schools bring in millions of dollars each year from their athletic programs. While the ruling only applies to Northwestern football players, it has the ability to extend to other universities across the country.

“I think we’re actually on the cusp of something major,” Hunt said. “I think the general move of things, in terms of other decisions and the financial implications for student-athletes, as well as this, show a pretty strong trend that the landscape of college football is moving.”

Any final decision reached by the NLRB will not affect any public schools, including UT. Instead, players at state schools would have to appeal to state labor boards if they wanted to follow in the path of Northwestern’s players.

It will likely be at least months before a decision will be seen from Northwestern’s appeal in front of the full NLRB. But the decision comes as another major case is taking form. This summer, a case by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon will be heard over athletes’ inability to monetize their image and representation.

“I don’t think many student-athletes need to do anything more,” said public relations lecturer Stephen Wille, who focuses on sports communication. “Right now, the wind is blowing in the direction of positive change for them.”

The UT edition of Spoon University is an online food publication created by students to provide alternative choices to the options in campus dining halls and cafeterias. 

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Spoon University, a food publication created by college students for college students, made its Texas debut in the city of food trucks, breakfast tacos and barbecue last month. The magazine is currently on 22 college campuses around the country and started its UT branch in January.

Spoon was created at Northwestern University in 2012 as a resource to aid students in the pursuit of cheap, healthy food. After a freshman year of junk food and cafeteria meals, co-founders Sarah Adler and Mackenzie Barth quickly realized the need for more knowledge and wisdom when it comes to eating. 

UT is the first university in the state of Texas to launch Spoon, but Sarah Strohl, editor-in-chief of the UT branch, thinks more Texas universities will pick up the publication soon. Strohl and her partners, Christin Urso, photography director, and Jenna Jarnagin, business director, accepted applications throughout November to put together a team of more than 30 students who are passionate about food. 

The UT edition of Spoon covers a variety of topics, some of which are tailored to the Austin area, such as a
review on the best Austin food truck phone app and a breakdown of the best three local happy-hour locations.

Other articles are more general, but focus on college students, such as a tutorial article that gives instructions for making microwaved brownies in a coffee mug.

The team worked throughout winter break to prepare the site for its January launch. For now, the magazine will remain online, but Strohl hopes that, like its predecessor at Northwestern, UT Spoon will eventually make the transition to print.

“I am passionate about this publication because — let’s face it — who doesn’t love food?” Strohl said.

Kathryn Stouffer, Plan II and nutrition sophomore and Spoon writer and photographer, works for Spoon because she wants to pass along her knowledge of food to others. 

“Writing gives me an outlet to be creative with recipes and explore new avenues in the food world,” Stouffer said. 

Spoon staff photographer Kathleen Lee, a natural sciences student, discovered her interest in food photography in fifth grade, when she filmed a sushi how-to video.

“I love food because there are infinite possibilities in taste, texture and presentation, which can really culminate in something beautiful,” Lee said. “I love photography because pictures provide a physical memory of my life and act like a journal for me to look back on later.” 

What sets Spoon apart from other food publications is its specific focus on college students, Stouffer said.

“Everyone should read and follow Spoon because it caters to everyone’s needs,” Stouffer said. “It is geared toward college kids and is written by your peers, so the pieces aren’t dry and boring, [but] relatable and helpful
to you.”

To celebrate its launch, Spoon is hosting a party Saturday at Love Goat at 8:30 p.m.

Linda Hicke, the newly appointed dean of the College of Natural Sciences, said she is looking forward to just about everything that Austin has to offer.

“The scope and activities and the happenings of the University are fundamental and exciting,” Hicke said. “I’m looking forward to Austin itself and I’ve heard tremendous things about the town.”

Hicke, who currently serves as associate vice president for research at Northwestern University, was appointed to the position of dean of College of Natural Sciences Tuesday afternoon. She will be taking over the position of Mary Ann Rankin, which has been filled by interim dean David Laude during the search for a new head of the college. Hicke said her first goal when she gets to UT is to learn everything she can about the college, which she said will require interaction with the faculty, staff and students.

“It’s a very large place, there is a tremendous amount going on and I want to spend a reasonable amount of time just learning about what people think is working really well at the college,” Hicke said. “I want to know what the strengths are, where are their opportunities to really leapfrog and grow, and what are some of the issues that need to be addressed,”

Hicke said she wanted to approach the issue of teaching large, introductory science classes at the University, which she said was going to be one of her challenges.

“There is a lot of research, and new approaches that have risen in the last decade or so,” Hicke said. “UT is at the forefront of many of those, but we need to implement those so we fundamentally make science classes super engaging and take advantage of everything that we’ve learned about how students really deeply engage with science.”

Hicke said she was ready to work around the budget cuts UT had been facing by focusing on the college’s priorities.

“One thing that I found that I think people need to do is think hard about what the top priorities really are,” Hicke said. “I think it is still possible to do a lot of budget cuts without fundamentally affecting the quality of research and education that is happening at the University.”

Chemistry professor Peter Rossky said Hicke had energy and an appreciation for modern interdisciplinary research.

“I think she can further accelerate the growth of the college and the participation of the scientist in the college and the frontiers of research,” Rossky said. “I also think that she has full appreciation of the importance of the undergraduate education, including undergraduate research, and the education of an individual going into modern science and medicine.” 

Printed on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 as: Dean of CNS addresses goals, future challenges