Kain Colter Is the Right Person, but Northwestern's Wrong School to Be Test Case

Andrew Coppens@@andycoppensContributor IFebruary 19, 2014

College Athletes Players Association  designated president Ramogi Huma, right, and Northwestern University Wildcats' outgoing senior quarterback Kain Colter make their way to the beginning of three days of hearings before the National Labor Relations Board Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Chicago. The NLRB is scheduled to begin witness testimony on whether to approve a bid by Northwestern University football players who are trying to unionize. Colter is among the key witnesses in the case. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
M. Spencer Green/Associated Press

The latest step in the movement to unionize college football took place on Tuesday, as Kain Colter went before the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago to argue that Northwestern players should be able to form college football's first union

Colter and the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) attempted to show how the system of college athletics, along with Northwestern, were holding down players and acting like they were employees. 

However, what became abundantly clear in Colter's testimony is that while he may be a great spokesman for his cause, his experience at Northwestern may be the worst example of how the "system" is getting it wrong. 

That's because Northwestern does things right for its players, and the value of an education was shown to be far more than just the scholarship a student-athlete gets.

In Colter's case, a Northwestern education gave him a leg up in landing a summer job at Goldman Sachs and more. 

Colter and CAPA's problem is they are going up against a university that values the educational benefits of a scholarship. When they talk about student-athlete, they mean it. 

Did Colter have to give up some things to play football? You bet, including a premed track because of the rules set forth by his coaches on the football team. 

Is anyone really shocked that choosing to participate in a sport has a trade-off or two? 

However, this isn't a situation unique to Northwestern and Colter—making a trade-off because you want to do something else isn't unique to college athletes. 

Additionally, Northwestern isn't some fly-by-night school out to make a quick buck off its student-athletes, and then chuck them by the wayside when it is done with them. 

Just look at the case of former quarterback Dan Persa and his history at Northwestern.

Persa ruptured his Achilles tendon throwing the game-winning touchdown against Iowa in 2010. He attempted to come back for the start of the 2011 season, but doctors held him out until an Oct. 1, 2011 game against rival Illinois. 

On Tuesday, he even weighed in on the subject, flat-out saying there is no need for a union at Northwestern and that he never was mistreated medically at the school. 

That last part is a very big point, because Colter and CAPA are arguing that they want changes to medical coverage and research surrounding football.

Colter's testimony brought up a major point of contention on the medical side—how things are paid for upfront.

According to an article by Seth Gruen of the Chicago Sun-Times, Colter contended that Northwestern hadn't paid for an MRI up front. But the university is actually in the process of paying for it after the fact. 

In exposing those situations, that's where Colter is doing a service to his cause. Shining a light on some of the behind-the-scenes issues the general public never knows about is important in the PR sense.

However, in this case, Northwestern once again proved to be doing the right thing. 

Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune may have put this whole thing best with one simple tweet on Tuesday:

Apply Colter's words to a place like Arizona State or other schools with more of a "football factory" reputation, and the point Colter and CAPA are making has a lot more merit. 

While there are certainly issues that need to be worked out in college football, arguing that players at Northwestern see no benefit of getting an education at the school is proving a difficult task. 


*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for Big Ten football. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens