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Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | APRIL 09, 2014 5:00 AM

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Re: UI mulls Northwestern case

I have been adamantly against the “paid” student-athlete, but [UI Athletics Director Gary] Barta’s thought regarding the potential firing of a student-athlete gives me thought. There have been some student-athletes we would have liked to fire. What if the process for firing existed?

First, it is silly to believe a union-student-athlete may be fired. It is difficult to fire non-exempt union labor and make it stick. At best, such an athlete would not clock in for work while the case for his firing is reviewed. Suppose the time in which the athlete is off work carries him through exams. The athlete would fail, as he is off work. Now, eligibility to “work” is lost due to failing grades.

Suppose there is cause to fire the athlete just prior to very important work, a.k.a. the Big Game. (I know, I know, this would never occur.) Would the supervisory senior managers look the other way, or postpone disciplinary action? (I know, I know, this would never occur, either.) This underscores what we already know. And about what the formation of the unionized student-athletes is all about. The colleges and universities need these athletes more than the athletes need the colleges and universities (and the money generated through their toil and fame).

Firing could work to the advantage of both the fired athlete and the university. Suppose the in-coming freshman QB is a real productive worker. He was highly recruited by the competition. He will work behind the junior-to-be QB. Now, under union rules, the junior has “seniority,” so the immediate supervisor must work him first. But, this supervisor also knows of the superior production of the freshman. So, the junior QB work is deemed under-performing and his is fired.

(The supervisor wants better production in hope of his promotion, and the corporation wants a new wing on the hospital.) Worst case, the junior’s case hearing is delayed long enough for the freshman to perform superbly during a time when production is critical (think Homecoming game or Big Ten Tournament). Because of the freshman’s production, the consumer interest in the product skyrockets, and sales of the product boom.

Not all is lost for the junior. He may choose to drop defense of the deemed under-performance, for which he was fired and take up employment elsewhere. He keeps his seniority because, as a unionized student-athlete, seniority transfers with him. Under current NCAA rule, there is a clause of no work for a year (non-compettition) but under union rules, the worker may take up employment immediately. He could even work against his former employee the next week. The athlete would miss minimal work and be able to put food on the table. The employers (old and new) have a windfall week because of the hype generated by heightened interest in their competition.
Hmm, perhaps this system may work (pun intended). The possibilities.

Ross Rayner


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