Saban's Union Support Is Qualified

College athletes in favor of a union could find themselves with quite an advocate, the nation's number one college football coach. But before they head on down to the union hall to pick up the "STRIKE" signs, they might want to pay close attention to everything Nick Saban said about current benefits.



Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, "I've always been an advocate of players' rights. I've always been an advocate of players being compensated the best that we can to help them. Whatever the NCAA rule is and whatever they decide to do, I've always been an advocate of the player and the quality of life that a player has. I think that having a voice in what happens is something that the players probably ought to have.

"I'm not really opposed to that at all."

The short-form background of this story is that last week the National Labor Relations Board ruled that players at a private university (Northwestern) can be considered employees of their university and have the right to form or join a union for the purpose of collective bargaining.

There are many possibilities -- benefits and ramifications -- to be hammered out in the future, perhaps in court.

As Alabama's coach said, "I do think that it's not what it seems."

Saban then made what could be viewed as a case for the status quo.

Saban pointed out that it is easy to determine what a scholarship is worth. That, though, is not the full value of what a student-athlete receives.

Saban said the calculation should include "on a per-player basis, what we invest in the plaeyr to try to help him be successful.

"We spent like $600,000 last year on personal development programs; all things that directly affect the player having a chance to be successful. I can't even tell you what our academic support budget is, trying to invest in a player and what is the value of him getting an education and graduating from school here? Not just the value of the scholarship. What's the value of him getting an education?

"How much do we actually reinvest in quality of support staff to help develop players that may have a chance to go on and play at the next level, have great college careers, have a chance to win a championship? Pretty significant budget around here, that if you look at it, it really is invested back in the players.

"I don't think that the players just receive a scholarship. I think a lot of players really realize that, understand that, and appreciate that.

"We can't pay them but we can reinvest in trying to help them be successful in their future, which I think we do a marvelous job here at The University of Alabama. I think a lot of people do. I think that's what makes great programs. I think that's why players want to come and be a part of the program, because we do reinvest in the future and their chances of being successful, and we do care. And it's not just about football.

"So there's a lot of value that players get from the experience that they have as college student-athletes, that really benefit their chances of being successful. I know that the fact that I played football and got a scholarship…but all the things that I benefitted from have helped me be very, very successful. And I can't really tell you what the value of that is, but I think it's pretty significant."

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