NCAA President Mark Emmert says the union model would "blow up everything about the collegiate model of athletics." (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, Texas -- NCAA president Mark Emmert believes the debate over the possible unionization is one that will proceed through courts and drag on for several years.
It also should be no debate, in Emmert's view.
"To be perfectly frank, the notion of using a union-employee model to address the challenges that do exist in intercollegiate athletics is something that strikes most people as a grossly inappropriate solution to the problem," Emmert said at a news conference Sunday at the Final Four. "To convert to a unionized employee model is essentially to throw away the entire collegiate model for athletics. You can't split that in two. You're either a student playing sports or you're an employee of a university. It would blow up everything about the collegiate model of athletics."
Emmert was joined on the dais by Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and other college presidents and chancellors, all of whom attempted to emphasize that many of the changes spotlighted by Northwestern's unionization movement have been under consideration for some time. Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch said a template to improve the student-athlete experience should be voted on in April and possibly in place by August.
One item apparently on the agenda: "autonomy" for "better-resourced" programs -- i.e. those five power conferences that play football -- that won't lead to a split of the 350 programs in Division I. "Our goal is to keep that as one division," Hatch said. "That has great advantages."
"Our world is not the same," Southern Illinois chancellor Rita Cheng added. "We don't have the resources. So long as as we know we can be competitive in the tournament and our athletes can have opportunities, it is appropriate for us to say, your world is different than our world and let's make sure our student-athletes are taken care of."
Meanwhile, expect those student-athletes to be playing on stages as big as AT&T Stadium in the near future.
"We all love the confines of a nice, tight arena," Emmert said. "The reality is, you get 80,000 people in to watch a game and that's pretty exciting. Maybe people like to be in a tighter arena, but not the 60,000 that wouldn't be there."