Could college basketball players become unionized? 

February 6 — A regional office of the National Labor Relations Board, in New England, ruled yesterday that the Dartmouth College men’s basketball team will be allowed to unionize. 

This is the first ruling of its kind in the United States where the NLRB has determined that a college sports team can unionize. 

Dartmouth might appeal this to the national NLRB for further review. 

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “If this holds, you’re looking at a sea change in the way college athletics operates because you can already envision these big division one football and basketball programs, players would get together, unionize. The Dartmouth union would be the SEIU. These players can start demanding all kinds of new terms related to practice hours, scholarship, whatever other benefits they might want to try to negotiate. So this could be a really big deal.”

The University of Southern California has a similar case pending that has not been decided yet. 

Barkdoll said, “But based on this decision yesterday, you now wonder is this the way things are going to start going?”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM asked, “Could you tie it to, alright, you hit a 4.0 and sure. Can you tie whatever they’re asking for to a 4.0?” 

Barkdoll chucked, “It’s an interesting point. You would imagine, does that become part of the negotiation? If you look at the NLRB decision, the NLRB is saying that these players technically meet the legal definition of an employee. They are being paid, i.e. in the form of scholarships or NIL deals. In exchange, they’re being required to work. They must show up for X number of practices. They must show up for X number of other events, games, of course, during the year. So this is an interesting situation and it really could force changes in the way these colleges would operate.”

Ryan said, “If the teachers or the instructors are unionized and we’re rolling back the standards on testing anyway, anybody could hit a 4.0.” 

“Grade inflation is a huge problem in the US,” Barkdoll agreed.