Temple's Rhule 'waiting for next step' in union process

Posted: April 04, 2014

IT HAS BEEN a week now since football players at Northwestern legally won the right to be called "employees" of the university and form a union to negotiate their compensation/working conditions. That decision came from a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board.

Exactly what that's going to mean, nobody really knows for sure. It's probably the beginning of a lengthy process that will make some lawyers a lot of money. Yet it also has the potential to change - dramatically or otherwise - the landscape of college athletics. It's a story line with way too many layers to digest in one sitting. Still, there's no denying it's finally out there.

Temple coach Matt Rhule, who played at Penn State in the mid-1990s, can see both sides of the discussion. He believes his coach, the late Joe Paterno, would have been in favor of so-called student-athletes having a say. He also understands the NCAA's obvious rebuttal that a scholarship in itself is indeed compensation enough for what young men and women give to the institutions in return.

"To be quite honest, I'm just kind of waiting for the next step to get a better idea of what it all entails," Rhule said. "Obviously I'm in Philadelphia so I support unions and support labor relations. I just don't know what the ramifications are, how it affects us.

"I think to give the players a voice, have them come together, that's a good thing. They can have a chance to stand up and talk about issues that affect them. I think that's commendable. Whether that means they're employees . . .

"I do know this: There are people in countries fighting and dying for the chance to have an education. So I value the education that scholarship athletes get. I see it changes people's lives. I think that's a great tradeoff. Should there be more than that? Those are the questions I'm not smart enough to probably have an answer about right now. But I do think having a voice and a place to talk about issues is important."

When asked what his worth as a linebacker might have been, the All-Academic Big Ten honoree joked: "I wasn't very good. I might have got fired."

Safety Alex Wells just transferred to North Broad from ASA College in Brooklyn. When asked for his perspective on all of this, he was candid. And at this point it could be an opinion shared by most in his position because there's simply too many unknowns.

"I'm really not familiar with the whole thing that's going on in Washington," he said. "I don't even know what's going on in March Madness. Honestly, I'm actually trying to stay in my books and my plays. It's kind of hard on my time. By the time I get home, I try to put my feet up and relax."

He did admit he doesn't think of himself as someone who needs union representation. At least not at the moment.

"I mean, we're still kids," he said. "NFL players, they do that because that's their job. That's what we want to be. We're kind of still living our lives. We came here because we love this. If you get to the NFL, you're getting paid for it because you want to make your work [situation] as comfortable as possible."

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