clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Thoughts on Colter's Testimony, CAPA Hearing

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

The first day of testimony at CAPA's hearing to unionize against Northwestern was about as eventful as a monotonous day of testimony can be. Kain Colter took the stand and gave his case for why Northwestern football players are employees, and why they deserve the right to unionize and engage in collective bargaining. I wrote about the proceedings for USA TodayJosh Rosenblat did the same for The Wall Street Journal and Chris Johnson covered Colter's statements for Sports Illustrated, so catch up on the formalities and quotes there, or by reading our Twitter feed at @insidenu. Here, we'll give you a more informal, conversational look at the biggest things to come out of Tuesday's testimony.

- Northwestern prides itself on "doing things the right way." Of course, the school isn't as perfect as it leads on, and even the portrait painted today is of a university that does more things "the right way" than most. However, some of Colter's allegations attack academic principles that the university and the football team claim to maintain. For instance, Colter said players are advised to take certain classes and avoid demanding schedules early in their careers. He said he wanted to pursue NU's pre-med track but couldn't because advisors took him off track for the requirements. He also claimed that NU created an extra section of a Swahili class just to accommodate the needs of football players — a major accusation.

This was obviously all said to make a point that football takes precedence over academics, but if these allegations are true, they hurt the image that Northwestern has of itself and that the general public has of Northwestern. That isn't to say NU is a "football factory" by any means, just that the school may, in fact, cut academic corners in order to win more in football. There will certainly be counterpoints, and you can't conclude anything after just one day of testimony, but one thing is for sure: Colter didn't hold back from painting NU in a bad light.

- Basically, Colter said today what he wasn't allowed to say when he was with the team. We found out that he doesn't think Pat Fitzgerald's beloved leadership council is very effective — he apparently "got some flack" for not wanting to even be on it his sophomore year. Colter also said that he wouldn't have been accepted to NU without football, which isn't exactly the image the Wildcats want radiating from their star quarterback.

- The medical issues were big, and as Colter said, they're "in dispute." NU says it pays for all of its players' football-related medical expenses for a year after their playing days are over. CAPA wants that expanded, but that's more than is required right now. Colter said that he needed to have an MRI done on his ankle and that the university refused to pay for it, offering to reimburse him only after the MRI found major damage that led to surgery. He said they did that to try to "make things right." That looks like the biggest point of contention right now, as the university claims it helped Colter out as much as it was obligated to.

- Northwestern's attorneys hammered down the point that they won't be able to give the players much in collective bargaining under NCAA rules. Both sides agreed that the NCAA is not a joint employer, meaning the players won't be able to collectively bargain with the organization. Colter said that they won't break any NCAA rules with what they're asking for, but two of CAPA's listed demands — increased representation in due process and the right for players to market themselves — fall outside of NU's jurisdiction. Colter said there are still things CAPA can bargain for, and he's right — remember, this likely won't affect the decision of whether athletes are employees — but this is one of many reasons why collective bargaining with the university may not be the best solution for the players (though it's admittedly a great start).

- The university is going to use the 2004 Brown University case as precedent. In that case, teaching assistants were found not to be employees, reversing a previous decision involving NYU. However, the board is arguably more union-friendly now, and you could argue that athletes have a better case than the TAs, because their work falls further outside of the academic enterprise. CAPA lawyer John Adam did a good job showing that today, talking about how Colter would not have been admitted to the university without football and showing that Colter's scholarship is tied to football.

- In one of the funnier moments of the day, Anna Wermuth, who represented NU and did the cross-examination, asked Colter if academics played a role in his college decision because he was committed to both Stanford and Northwestern at different times. He said no, and offered "proof" of that by saying he nearly committed to Nebraska.

- Colter was very difficult answering questions and didn't answer a lot directly, but Wermuth established that Colter does not pay taxes on his scholarship. Therefore, she explained, it is not income.

- The first part of Colter's testimony was a look at how many hours per week athletes spend on football, compared to how many hours the NCAA actually counts. Ramogi Huma handed out an interesting set of documents during the lunch break showing the discrepancy. You can view those documents here.

- Colter said that the combination of his scholarship and stipend checks was worth $75,000 per year. The lawyers seemed to correct him later and say it was $76,000.

We'll have more as this progresses later in the week. Stay with InsideNU on Twitter to get updates as they happen.