Three and Out: Darth Vader vs. Saul Goodman

Colleges have no competition and all the power, good luck, APU

Published: September 25 2013 | 10:52 pm - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 8:58 pm in
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1. The whole APU thing -- Kirk Ferentz was asked during Tuesday's Big Ten teleconference about the "All Players United," which gained steam last weekend when 28 players wore "APU" written on their wrist tape. It's a rallying cry for the National College Players Association, which has formed over the last couple of years to give a players a voice in the financial industry that is college football. The movement was relatively obscure and then "APU" happened last weekend.

Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter added credibility as one of the leaders of the NCPA players' council who helped develop APU. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany doesn't agree. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, a former all-American linebacker, doesn't necessarily agree. It's made some waves at Northwestern. "I’m fully in support of what he’s doing,” Fitzgerald said, “but I’d like it to be in the team structure. That’s what I talked to him about.”

"Nobody's brought it up here," Ferentz said. "I haven't given it a lot of thought, to answer your question."

Iowa athletics director Gary Barta is open-minded, but sticks to the scholarship model. “I have been, and continue to be, open to discussions about expanding the definition of the scholarship,” Barta said.

2. But . . . -- Iowa linebacker James Morris has his face on a billboard heading south on I-380 coming out of Cedar Rapids. He's also a decorated political science student who can extemporaneously go into depth on everything from stopping a power offense to free market capitalism. He didn't come down in support of APU, but he didn't dismiss the idea.

"I guess you could say I'm not getting directly, what are the things I'm getting indirectly?" he said. "There is certainly compensation for things like that [the billboard], it just doesn't come in terms of a dollar amount, right? That's the state of college football that we're in right now. Speculatively, what's right, what's wrong? What's in line with free markets and labor negotiation, all those things I try to stay away from and just worry about football.

"But obviously, there are questions."

3. What is the play? -- Delany is smart and a former guard at North Carolina under legendary Dean Smith. He this this political football (or basketball) right into the laps of the leagues that benefit most from colleges developing athletes -- the NFL and NBA.

"Maybe in football and basketball, it would work better if more kids had a chance to go directly into the professional ranks," Delany said Wednesday. "If they're not comfortable and want to monetize, let the minor leagues flourish. Train at IMG [International Management Group, a major player in sports marketing], get agents to invest in your body, get agents to invest in your likeness and establish it on your own.

"But don't come here and say, 'We want to be paid $25,000 or $50,000.' Go to the D-League and get it, go to the NBA and get it, go to the NFL and get it. Don't ask us what we've been doing."

And with that, Darth Vader has crushed the rebellion. Let's just cut to the chase with the eventual lawyering up. Darth Vader vs. Better Call Saul Goodman? I'm in.

The players' stance is undefined. No one really knows what to do or how to really manifest a movement beyond the O'Bannon video game case. Would players ever stage a walk-out? Delany's opening salvo didn't leave any room for negotiation. It was a verbal Berlin Wall.

Right now, the leagues Delany references don't exist (not for football and barely for the NBA). Monied college sports don't have competition. Delany, for an intents and purposes the face of major college in this matter, can be Draconian. Would APU believers step across the line? Would there be any sympathy for that? Probably not and probably not.

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