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Document reveals Northwestern's effort to "educate" in advance of union vote

Earlier this month, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald told a group of reporters at a spring practice that he believed it was in the players’ best interest to vote against forming a union. Fitzgerald said he doesn’t believe players need a third party to advance their agenda and that he would attempt to “educate” them about the regional director’s landmark ruling, the ramifications of unionization and the alternative mechanisms players can use to effect change.

As an employer, Fitzgerald is allowed to urge players to vote no, so long as he follows NLRB protocols that prohibit him from making threats and promises. Part of his and Northwestern’s effort to fight The College Athletes Players Association’s effort to form a union involved circulating a 21-page document answering questions posed by players, parents and staff.

The document was obtained by CBSSports.com and verified by a Northwestern spokesman and covers topics such as whether players would still be employees if the union is voted down and how they can help persuade voters to side against unionizing. If a requisite majority of 76 scholarship players vote yes in the secret ballot election scheduled for Friday, Fitzgerald said they would be “stuck” with a union.

When asked about non-union mechanisms for change, Northwestern cites the looming NCAA changes giving power to the five major football conferences and the school's longstanding advocacy for student rights -- leadership in maximum allowable benefits to student-athletes, the team's "Leadership Council," the school's participation in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Fitzgerald's position on the AFCA board and athletic director Jim Phillips' election as president of National Association of Collegiate Athletic Directors. Voting no would help players "pursue this alternative path to continue the national discussion," says Northwestern, adding that electing a union will not give players immediate access to NCAA reform. "I ask that you let history be your guide, and give Northwestern and me an opportunity to prove that we deserve your trust and confidence as you consider your vote."

In the document, Northwestern explains other avenues players have available to them to enact changes.

When asked about non-union mechanisms for change, Northwestern cites the looming NCAA changes giving power to the five major football conferences and the school's longstanding advocacy for student rights -- leadership in maximum allowable benefits to student-athletes, the team's "Leadership Council," the school's participation in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Fitzgerald's position on the AFCA board and athletic director Jim Phillips' election as president of National Association of Collegiate Athletic Directors. Voting no would help players "pursue this alternative path to continue the national discussion," says Northwestern, adding that electing a union will not give players immediate access to NCAA reform. "I ask that you let history be your guide, and give Northwestern and me an opportunity to prove that we deserve your trust and confidence as you consider your vote."

CBSSports breaks down the document in greater detail. It’s worth a read.