clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Northwestern, CAPA file briefs to NLRB ahead of decision

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

Both Northwestern University and the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) released briefs Tuesday that outlined and put into writing many of the arguments presented in the formal hearing last month.

While a final decision on the case won't be made by Regional Director Peter Ohr for a month or two, this was the last attempt by both parties to further their cause to Hearing Officer Joyce Hofstra, who will make a recommendation to Ohr.

Neither side presented anything truly novel in their respective briefs and the controversy at the center of the case remained the same: the employment status of Northwestern's football players.

A significant portion of each brief dealt with athletic scholarships as Northwestern argued that they are not compensation for athletic activity and CAPA argued that they are.

"Athletic scholarships are purely that—scholarships—and as such they are not treated as compensation for purposes of income taxes or withholdings," Northwestern's counsel wrote.

Further, the University reenforced that the football players' relationship with Northwestern was an academic, not economic one, building upon the precedent set by the Brown University case.

On the other hand, CAPA wrote extensively about what they feel is the compensatory status of an athletic scholarship.

"The 'athletic aid' provided to the Players is explicitly provided in return for their services to the football team," lawyers representing CAPA wrote. "The scholarship offer states that it is being made by 'the Northwestern Football Staff and [Coach Fitzgerald].' It recites that the Player 'understand[s] this tender may be immediately reduced or cancelled' if he becomes 'ineligible for intercollegiate competition' or 'voluntarily withdraw[s] from [the] sport at any time for any reason.' A scholarship can also be cancelled if the Player '[a]buse[s] team rules as determined by the coach or athletic administration.' ... In short, an individual must be on the football team to continue to receive a football scholarship."

CAPA went on to write about how if a player left the team, their scholarship would be revoked, in an attempt to prove how the athletic financial aid was directly tied for participation in athletic activities.

Both briefs also covered the role academics plays in a student-athlete's life and where academics falls in the hierarchy of collegiate activities, that is to say whether it is more or less important than football.

For a more in-depth look at the briefs, including the two briefs in full, be sure to check out Kevin Trahan's piece for USA Today.