April 4, 2014 // Notre Dame Football

Duranko’s Digest: Kain Colter and the Unionization of Northwestern players

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Jan 28, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; (From left to right) CAPA president Ramogi Huma, Northwestern University quarterback Kain Colter, United Steelworkers (USW) national political director Tim Waters, and United Steelworkers (USW) president Leo W. Gerard during a press conference for CAPA College Athletes Players Association at Hyatt Regency. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 28, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; (From left to right) CAPA president Ramogi Huma, Northwestern University quarterback Kain Colter, United Steelworkers (USW) national political director Tim Waters, and United Steelworkers (USW) president Leo W. Gerard during a press conference for CAPA College Athletes Players Association at Hyatt Regency. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

William Wallace defied Longshanks “authority”.
Martin Luther, a Catholic priest, promulgated, and then stood by, 95 theses.
French commoners stormed the Bastille (more symbolic than AbuGrabian, it had only seven prisoners at the time).
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton demanded to vote.
Gandhi introduced non-violent protesting against the Brits.
Branch Rickey placed a call to Jack Roosevelt Robinson.
Rosa Parks sat down in the front of the bus, thank you.
Curt Flood sued baseball over the Reserve Clause.
Moses Malone, left Petersburg, VA High to sign a professional basketball contract with the St. Louis Spirits, bypassing college and the ready and waiting Charles “Lefty” Driessel.

In large things and small, war games and the sports and games people play, in government, in society, there occur tipping points that mark the beginning of a change in the way things are.  Kain Colter’s move to lead the unionization of Northwestern players (giving potential new meaning to the term “Wildcat Strike”!) is a triggering event.

Now don’t major in minors and don’t get caught up in the thick of thin things.  The toothpaste is out of the tube.  Northwestern may prevail on appeals at the NLRB or in the court system.  But the light bulb has gone on for athletes in all the Divison 1 and smaller schools.

Know this: Before a decade passes, college players at the revenue producing schools will, WILL be paid.  Holler, weep, hold your breath till you turn blue, even gnash your teeth  if you are in a Lenten, biblical mood. But change gonna come.

Many colleges, not the one sitting under the protection of the physical and spiritual image of Christ’s Mother, have been overworking, and undereducating athletes and skimming the money from the efforts with an audacity and ruthlessness that would make Carlo Gambino blush.  Change is not easy, particularly for the exploiter (again, Notre  Dame is a proud and shining example of non-exploitation)) when the exploitee starts to untilt the playing field.  Longshanks didn’t like it, the Pope didn’t like it, the French royals didn’t like it, USA men didn’t like it, the Brits didn’t like it (hell, they have not been the same since we freedom-slapped them and tossed their tea in the harbor), Dixie Walker didn’t like it,  the KKK, Bull Connor and George Wallace didn’t like it, baseball owners didn’t like and the NCAA didn’t like it.  Too bad if you are on the wrong side of history!

“There is nothing more  powerful than an idea whose time has come.” Victor Hugo.  Sure emotions will temporarily overwhelm logic and law and principle. Nostalgia will be more comforting than change.  The NCAA? Hah! Its pharisaic, filthy, hypocritical ways were never more clearly revealed then when they devilshily agreed to a devilish bargain with the devil himself-David Stern-and adopted the one and done rule, An affront to personal freedom, a travesty of student athlete, and the fulcrum that enabled John “I knew nothing about Marcus Camby’s issues and was in church with my mother at the time of Derek Rose cheating on the entrance exams” Calipari.  Teflon John is tailor made for the new 1 and done.

Except it’s not one and done.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but the Kentucky players and most other one and doners quit classes about when they start practicing  for the Conference tournaments.  The NCAA will get dumptrucked in the courts, the Congress and in the court of public opinion.  So now thanks to this bargain, Canadian knucklehead Justin Bieber can come into the US and make tens of millions as a teenager, but Mitchell Wiggins cannot.  Send your thank you note to the NCAA, Mr. Wiggins!

Now remember this about triggering events.  It is never a straight line to the final solution.  There will be twists and turns.  But even last Fall, Steve Spurrier, morphing into a staestman as he nears twilight, recommended that players get paid and mentioned that his large salary could be reduced to pay a portion of it.  THIS IS NOT YOUR FATHER’S FOOTBALL.

Once upon a time in St. Joe County, Notre Dame players showed up in September, and concluded the season after Thanksgiving.  We didn’t play in bowl games. Some lifting,with Father Lange, a few weeks of Spring football, then home for the summer, and a job, after classes. ended in May.  No summer school.  No early entry.  Now it’s full time.  Enter early, high school seniors report in June, classes and Longo, bowl practice, then winter conditioning and more Longo before Spring Practice.  $500 a month?  $1,000  a month?  The discussion ought start there.

Oh sure, Colter’s action was about safety, insurance and such, not pay.  But it follows as night the day.  There are two sides of history.  The right side and the wrong side.  Which side are you on?  And let us hope that Our Lady’s University shows some enlightened and compassionate leadership on the issue.

Go Irish!!

Comments to this Article

  • westcoastirishfan commented on April 4th, 2014 at 8:46 am

    I don’t dispute any of your positions; however, a few things I see complicating the issue are:

    – the cost of college…anyone who’s ever had to repay a college loan will certainly tell anyone that wants to listen how much they would have given to the universtity to get their college for free. Why that’s not considered compensation, I just don’t know.

    – the demands on players in other sports are just as high. In fact, in some cases I’ll argue it may be higher because of travel schedules and the like. These sports may not generate the revenue of football, but the demands on the athletes are similar. Do they get paid, too? Although, this discussion topic is not new for union “leaders.”

    I don’t see an easy solution, yet I also don’t think people realize how much preferential treatment athletes get on campus. From class schedules to meals to free tutoring to SWAG, college athletes are, by and large, treated like gods.

    As for kids graduating with no official skills or going the one and done route, I put that on the kids and their families more than the schools. At some point in time, a kid just has to take some responsibility. And, naturally, one of the arguments in this vein is simply to raise academic standards. The trouble here is that higher standards always have led to traditional Black Leadership yelling that elevated entrance and ongoing standards are penal for their constituents.


  • Shazamrock commented on April 4th, 2014 at 9:13 am

    I absolutely love your line…

    “Many colleges have been overworking and undereducating athletes and skimming the money from the efforts with an audacity and ruthlessness that would make Carlo Gambino blush” Awesome!

    At least the Big Gambino had enough business savvy to make sure everyone associated with the operation, from the Capo’s to the foot soldiers, were all allowed to wet their beaks. He made sure they all got a piece of the pie. He knew how to keep em fat and happy and in control.

    Let’s also not fool ourselves into thinking that the mighty Steel workers union decided to step up and back up a bunch of 18-21 year old college students out of the kindness of their hearts or because of a sense of righteousness. is Kain Colter the bright, good looking kid from Northwestern who had the guts and brain-child to finally stand up for players rights, or is he a poster boy who looks and sounds great in front the microphone and camera’s flanked by influential union officials?

    I can tell you this, they know what you know. They know what I know. They know what everyone knows, especially the NCAA it’s self… that major college sports has become a colossal cash cow.

    The Union’s backing is first and foremost a way for the union to gain a piece of the action. Don’t doubt it.

    And the NCAA isn’t about to let players and their union backers (or anyone else for that matter) draw water from the well without a fight.

    I’m not saying that the players don’t deserve better, they most certainly do. Or that a union won’t help them get it, they will. Or that someday the true College Student Athlete will have gone the way of the Dodo.

    I’m just betting that when all is said and done, when the dust finally settles, and when we as fans sit down in our living rooms on a Saturday afternoon and turn on the TV to watch a game, it’s going to cost each of us a whole lot more to do so.

    As Nicky Santoro said in the movie Casino… “Always the dollars”


    Kansirkid replied on April 4th, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    The way I see it, you cannot have it both ways. Let’s make them employees, pay them and they can then pay state and fed. taxes. social security and so on. However, to make it equal footing. the players need to give up their scholarships and live off their football income. If an athletic goes to ND. Stanford, Duke, Northwestern and so on they, over 4 years, will receive close to $250.000. Isn”t that enough payment?


    SteelFanRob replied on April 4th, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    Hello, Kansirkid,

    Here’s how it can be both ways. The Bamas and other academically challenged Special Ed conference athletic programs and those of their ilk can go (semi-)pro and let them take the joke that is the NCAA with them. Schools like ND, which can’t morally go the (semi-)pro route, will start their own league. I like what “jimbasil” proposes as ground rules for this new venture. Then, go back to geographically and logistically sensible conferences. With a reduced number of teams a true 8-12 team play off can be had or simply go back to a mythical nation champ after bowl games.

    Right now the hypocrisy of the NCAA is getting out of hand. At some point, barring serious NCAA reforms, ND will have to decide whether it can be both in the world and of the world. Ultimately, I don’t think should or could serve two masters.

    Go Irish!


  • jimbasil commented on April 4th, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Should this go through and grow to all colleges I hope it isn’t money they seek but conformity in all colleges/Universities for example all must offer 4 year scholarships – no “Grey-shirting” – an even education for all athletes across the nation – Schools must graduate better than 90% of all athletes or they lose schollies for that endeavor 1 per percentage point below 90%. If an athlete leaves of his on volition he/she must repay their education fees the same as regularly enrolled students. No names on shirts or all monies gained from memorabilia where an athlete is identified (jerseys with a number) those funds go directly to a general scholarship fund to be used for students in other endeavors like Science and Art and not for building buildings or payout salaries for profs.

    I don’t think in anyway a student athlete should be paid cash (stipend) for going to school and playing a sport.


    storespook replied on April 5th, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    I am also in line more with your thought, jimbasil. To me, if you cross the point of “officially” paying college student athletes, to me, you have made them a status of professional, even if it’s a $100. A 4 year scholarship for a student to access an education and voluntarily participate in an athletic function is more than fair compensation. Regardless of money generated, student athletes are students. “Professionalizing” college athletics through pay to me is just not the way to go. Start minor league football (like baseball) and make scholarships legal binding with financial payback if they are not honored because maybe someone else out there would have benefitted truly if they would have received a scholarship and wanted to stay 4 years instead of this one (two) and done stuff that goes on. You accept a scholarship for 4 years and jump to the pros, you start paying back to the college your years you didn’t hold up to. I know that will never happen. If college players are expecting to be given “employee” type privileges, then treat them as such, tax them on pay and/or other financial benefits received, including scholarships. I know this is a topic open to a lot of debate/opinion. It’s rather unfortunate I believe.

    On a brighter note,I am excited about the upcoming season.

    Go Irish!


  • George commented on April 4th, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Colter’s uncle got hurt playing college football, and the evil USC didn’t shower him with money for it. So now this vicious act needs to be rectified. GIMME, GIMME, GIMME


  • Jeff commented on April 5th, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    There’s one basic flaw to your argument. You are basically saying that change is coming and fans have to get used to it. But you are missing the fact that the fans are the ones supporting the current system with their dollars, and they’re doing it because they like it how it is. They are passionate about it because they are playing for something besides money. School spirit, playing for your school, the pageantry, that all goes away when you start paying them. And so will the fans. It basically becomes a farm system at that point, and how many people watch minor league baseball, or the NBAs D-league? I am as passionate of an ND fan as there is, but I will stop watching the moment they get paid. I can watch a higher level of paid football on Sundays.


  • duranko commented on April 5th, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Huh? Who appointed you Lord and Master of Notre Dame’s Morality, Rob?

    I must have missed the memo.

    Further there is a difference between service to Mammon and not burying your talents. Quid Vide.

    I send you out as a sheep among wolves. I read that somewhere.

    Further, if you truly examine Christ’s simultaneous admiration of John and the Essenes with his ministerizing Peter and the people who were in the culture and the vulgus, you can discern quite a bit about Christ’s choices.

    Withdrawal is neither Christ’s way nor Notre Dame’s way.

    Your arrogance toward Alabama and the glibness with which you use “Special Ed” as a toy is something which I shun and must distance myself from.

    Whatever courage my family and I have shown pales, dimly, in comparison with the love loyalty and courage of families with special children. I learned that lesson, both humbling and inspiring, from my maternal grandmother and have seen it throughout. And I have seen it repeated, glorisouly and with great edification, on a number of blessed occasions.


    Ron Burgundy replied on April 5th, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    I gotta admit that I’m highly anticipating the retort from Roberto.


    Damian replied on April 7th, 2014 at 10:14 am

    You need to get a sense of humor :). Ok, maybe Rob’s comments were a bit offensive to those in Special Ed, being compared to Alabama after all.

    But in all seriousness, his point in a way goes back to your point in the article. ND tries it’s best to do things the right way. They expect academic excellence from their players. You are not going to play for ND and be in some sort of general studies major. Also, behavior is expected.

    How many schools would really have kicked the starting QB off the team? For the whole season no less. Would Alabama have kicked off their QB off the team under the same circumstances? Those are fair comparisons to make. ND expects better and there are some roads to an NC they will not take.


    SteelFanRob replied on April 7th, 2014 at 11:14 pm


    Forgive me for being too slow on the uptake. I just now got how utterly LOL your second sentence really is! Great stuff, brother. But don’t be surprised if those on here who only laugh at their own jokes come down hard on you for being insensitive.

    Go Irish!


    SteelFanRob replied on April 7th, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    “Lord and Master of ND Morality” Now if that isn’t an example of the pot calling the kettle black, Duranko! Physician, heal thyself!

    I was obviously being sardonic and making a play on the words with the SEC’s abbreviation. I, too, know and love men, women, and children with special needs. But I guess some people on here only think that their own brand of humor is acceptable and tolerable. Who is the morality police again, Duranko?! Please remind me, because I’m sure no one hear has ever, ever heard you come off as a self-righteous prig.

    If things go the route of the NCAA openly endorsing semi-professionalism, then ND will have to abstain. ND cannot and should not endorse any plans that legitimate the corruption and patent abuses already rampant in college athletics. At some point if ND stands for anything at all anymore, it will have to decide whether it can continue to serve two masters.

    I for one hope ND will always be a beacon on a hill.

    Perhaps that makes me too moral for Duranko=thought police=hypocrite!


  • Damian commented on April 7th, 2014 at 10:07 am

    I agree with the article. It may take several years, but at some point, players in the big sports (football and maybe men’s basketball) will be paid.

    There will be some consequences for this. First, I think this will likely lead to a new football/basketball subdivision. Let’s face it, Alabama and USC can afford to pay players better than say a school like Cincinatti or San Diego State. And if your an elite football player, where are you going to go, USC that might pay you, or Cincinatti that might not be able to pay you anything. And unless there are some regulations about parity in pay, some players will go to the schools that pay the most.
    This will likely exacerbate the haves and have-nots. I don’t think you’ll see the Boise States of the world break into top tier bowls anymore.

    The only way will be to create a new division for the pay schools.

    Also, how will this impact Title IX requirements? Some schools on the borderline may have to sacrifice some non-revenue generating sports to not only maintain pay requirements, but also Title IX requirements.

    Finally, how will this impact ND ultimately? Eventually if you have Alabama, USC, Florida, etc. paying players, won’t ND have to pay its players to be able to complete for top recruits? Will ND pay it’s players? ND does things right, they expect academic excellence and better behavior from its players. But ND will inevitably be affected by whatever system is created.


  • duranko commented on April 7th, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    There is, when change occurs, always collateral damage and unintended consequences.

    Franklyt, is Notre Dame lessened if we scratch golf, tennis, track, rowing, volleyball, fencing, cross country. How do those sports benefit the student body generally, beyond a few nice kids on scholarship.

    Once upon a time I saw the great Dick Arrington obliterate some
    opponents in wrestling, but is Notre Dame the less for having dropped wrestling?

    I have myriad MYRIAD suggestions as to how colleges can find some ready revenue to increase their dollar pool, though some may be controversial.

    The first and easiest is to let ticket prices rise, even if different per game, to drive Stubhub and scalpers out of the market. That is merely capitalism and free market economics. But there are many more.


    Damian replied on April 8th, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    I think any school would be lessened. Schools first and foremost are institutions of learning. These other programs give students opportunities to grow. Sports are also supposed to be learning experiences.

    I think these are all symptoms of the main problem. Too many colleges and universities have become football and/or basketball factories. That is not how it’s supposed to be.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with college fb/bb, as long as they are kept in perspective that these are first institutions of learning.

    In ND’s case, football is important. But being an institution has always been and I hope always will be top priority. That’s partly why I love ND so much. They prove it’s possible to win by doing what they are supposed to be doing.


  • duranko commented on April 8th, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Club sports, unsupported by athletic scholarships, et al. ND has a rich tradition, rugby and such. The school provides the facilities. Notre Dame once had the Rock as ground zero for pickup hoops, a weight room and swimming. Heck, I played hoop against, inter alii, Tom clements (which made me understand why Dean Smith offered him a basketball scholarship) and All Staters Jimmy Webb of Adams, both at the convo, and when he was a kid, Lynn Mitchem, at the Rock.

    Then along came the convo. And there are other traditions like Bookstore Basketball.

    Sport is nice, sport is good, but scholarship contraction lessens nil.


  • Kiwifan commented on April 9th, 2014 at 5:44 am

    I went to ND when the real Pete Duranko and Dick Arrington, Alan Page etc were there. It was a different, better school than it is today. We knew who we were and what we were about. Today’s ND has a split personality and is in denial. It wants to be the holier than thou winner of the graduation championship, and deluded itself into thinking it can compete consistently for the football championship. Ain’t gonna happen in the age of parity.

    As for unions, they’ve destroyed virtually every industry they’ve touched in America, and are only growing in the government sector, home of mediocre performers. I’ll lose interest entirely when the players are unionized—”union work rules say we don’t have to play today, too wet, or too hot, or too cold or too hard”. ” better not run for 1000 yards, you’ll make the rat of us look bad” etc.

    And Duranko, would you please stop with the preachy, “I’m so erudite” style? Some of the stuff you write is good content, but slogging through your flummery is like going to the dentist.


    Shazamrock replied on April 9th, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Alan Page graduated from ND 48 years ago.

    If Knute Rockne had lived, he would have probably said ND was better in his time than yours… you know, your time being the 60′s and all.

    Peace out!

    “And it’s one, two, three.. what are we fighting for?

    Don’t ask me I don’t give damn…

    next stop is Vietnam…

    And it five, six, seven open up the pearlie gates…
    there ain’t no time to wonder why… WHOOPIE… were all gonna die!


    Kiwifan replied on April 10th, 2014 at 7:51 am

    Your point being? Maybe you should lay off the drugs for awhile, clear your head.


    Shazamrock replied on April 10th, 2014 at 9:26 am


    Ya know, that rug really tied the room together.

  • Kiwifan commented on April 9th, 2014 at 5:46 am

    That last line in the union paragraph should say the “rest” of us, not the “rat” of us. Fat fingers, sorry.


    Ron Burgundy replied on April 9th, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    People who went to ND before you had smaller thinner fingers and were better.

    G’day mate!


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