Look for the Union Label? Ramogi Huma's Collegiate Athletes Association is organizing Division I players

Aug. 13, 2001
Aug. 13, 2001

Table of Contents
Aug. 13, 2001

College Football Preview 2001

Look for the Union Label? Ramogi Huma's Collegiate Athletes Association is organizing Division I players


This is an article from the Aug. 13, 2001 issue Original Layout

To: Cedric Dempsey, Executive Director
From: Stuart Lickspittle, Director of Field Intelligence
Re: Collegiate Athletes Coalition

With the kids coming back to campus, thought I'd pass along an
update on this outfit (a.k.a. the CAC), which is trying to
organize student-athletes around the country into a kind of
Division I players' association. As you know, the United
Steelworkers are bankrolling and advising the group. One of the
CAC's founders, a former UCLA linebacker named Ramogi Huma, is on
the phone to Pittsburgh two or three times a day. The CAC folks
say it's not a union, only "a student advocacy group," but it
could have a local on every campus by Christmas.

For now, anyway, the organizers don't want anything radical. All
they're asking for is health insurance during off-season
"voluntary" workouts (with the recent deaths at Florida State and
Florida during such workouts, this issue takes on particular
urgency), more generous life insurance coverage, the elimination
of all employment restrictions during the academic year, and a
modest bump in scholarship stipends to reflect the actual cost of
attending college. On that last count it doesn't help us that in
1995 we suspended one of Huma's teammates, linebacker Donnie
Edwards, now with the Kansas City Chiefs, after $150 in
unsolicited groceries showed up on Edwards's doorstep, allegedly
sent by an agent who had heard him complain on a talk show about
not being able to make ends meet in Westwood.

We can't demonize Huma as a revolutionary, even if his shaved
head, bulldog tattoo and earring make him look the part. The guy
should be doing one of our treacly promos during March Madness:
He was Pac-10 All-Academic before a hip injury ended his career;
he just got his master's in public health; he wants to open a
group home for troubled kids. When he sits in his apartment
(which doubles as his office) in Sherman Oaks, Calif., and points
out how we waste our TV rights money, he sounds like a friggin'
fiscal conservative. Huma never fails to say that the CAC's
proposals would boost graduation rates and "enhance
student-athlete welfare." (Honestly, Ced, where do people learn
to talk like that?) "I think our goals are modest, feasible and
attainable," he says. "They'd go a long way to help but wouldn't
strain the system."

No coach is going to speak out against "enhanced student-athlete
welfare," and athletic directors and presidents may get behind
Huma too--as UCLA chancellor Albert Carnesale, athletic director
Pete Dalis and football coach Bob Toledo all have. "It's
important that we get direct, continuous access to the NCAA
management council and board," Huma says. "When the
student-athlete has to worry about where his next meal is coming
from, at a time that $3 billion is flowing into the system
between football and basketball, something needs to be
addressed." Not only that, but Huma has got our Division I
Student-Athlete Advisory Committee smoked out as the sham that
it is--a tiny oligarchy selected by the schools and the
management council that can't even introduce legislation, much
less vote on it.

I don't think the CAC will go nuclear on us. "We're not
interested in striking," Huma says. "Not playing is something
student-athletes don't want." Yet he won't say what they'll do
if we don't meet with them in good faith and take up their
concerns. "We'll definitely have tactics that, if necessary,
would be effective enough to bring about changes," Huma says.
"We're being tight-lipped in case we have to use them."

Sounds as if he's read Sun Tzu's The Art of War. "If I were
Cedric Dempsey," Huma says, "I'd say to myself, 'They're backed
by the United Steelworkers, who have years of organizing
experience. It's inevitable that there will be a national
players' association in the near future. In every challenge lies
an opportunity.' If the NCAA makes the decision to work with us,
there can be a great degree of cooperation."

I know these guys make you nervous, Ced. Back in March you said,
"They need to consider [unionization] carefully because the
repercussions may go well beyond what they anticipate." But if we
call in the Pinkertons when the proles are asking for so little,
I can't say for sure where this will all lead. What say you book
the next flight for the Coast and hear the guy out?

"Our goals are modest, feasible and attainable," Huma says. "They
wouldn't strain the system."