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Research: NCAA football exploits players in 'invisible labor market'
Date:8/23/2012

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. College football exploits players in an "invisible labor market," and the only plausible way for student-athletes to address their interests is the credible threat of unionization, according to research from a University of Illinois expert in labor relations and collective bargaining in athletics.

Since traditional collective bargaining is impractical for student-athletes, an "invisible union," derived from what labor scholars call the "union substitution effect," could be a viable way to circumnavigate the amateur-professional boundary that has become increasingly blurry in the multi-billion-dollar sport, says Michael LeRoy, a professor of law and of labor and employment relations at Illinois.

"College football players participate in an invisible labor market, meaning that the NCAA monopolizes their services by strictly limiting and allocating the labor force needed to play competitive games," he said. "So without a credible threat of unionization by student-athletes, the NCAA has no reason to confront the fact that it is professionalizing college football."

Although the NCAA's contractual relationship with student-athletes provide grant-in-aid scholarships, it's also a model premised on the belief that players are amateurs a view that's hard to square with the heavy commercialization of NCAA football, including a new championship series that will generate a new and immense revenue stream, LeRoy says.

"While schools reap billions of dollars from TV and licensing agreements, championship tournaments, bowl games and ticket sales, players rarely receive enough aid to pay in full the cost of attending school," he said. "And when TV deals coordinate NCAA and NFL schedules from August through January to minimize competition and maximize revenues, it is also hard not to conclude that Division I college football players are in the same product market as their professional counterparts."

While the NCAA
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Contact: Phil Ciciora
pciciora@illinois.edu
217-333-2177
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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