Hurdles remain for players, schools

Another former Northwestern quarterback, C.J. Bacher, released a statement that there is "overwhelming consensus" among the former Wildcat student-athletes with whom he has spoken that they have a "great deal of concern" about what could happen to their alma mater.

The ruling glosses over or ignores a lot of other issues that, while they might not concern Ohr, certainly concern the rest of intercollegiate athletics.

Ohr waves away the idea that football provides academic benefit. The other benefits that the game provides -- "character, dedication, perseverance, and teamwork" -- might be valuable but, he says, they are not academic.

The NLRB only administers private employers. There are, Ohr wrote, 17 private institutions with FBS football teams. Are they to live under a different set of rules than the 100-plus public colleges and universities they compete against? What is the NCAA's role?

Ohr ruled that the grant-in-aid is compensation for athletic services, and just because Northwestern doesn't call it taxable income doesn't mean it isn't. If it is taxable income, the players might have lost by winning. On the other hand, how many members of Congress will sprain an ankle or tear an ACL rushing to provide an exemption?

On the grand landscape of legal issues facing intercollegiate athletics -- Northwestern, the O'Bannon case -- the one that universities ought to be the most concerned about is the antitrust case filed recently by former West Virginia running back Shawne Alston against the five equity conferences.

Alston charged the schools' refusal to pay the full cost of attendance is a restraint of trade, and it's hard to imagine how he's wrong. That's about $2,000 per athlete per year before you get into treble damages.

In other words, the battle over unionization might be a skirmish compared to what else is out there. Settle in -- the next few years might become the most momentous in the history of intercollegiate athletics.

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