Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald Advises Players to Vote Against Unionization

R. Cory SmithSenior Writer IApril 5, 2014

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Starting a movement is one thing. Getting others on board is a completely different task altogether.

For Northwestern and the National Labor Relations Board's fight to change the landscape of college athletics, there has been plenty of pushback. One influential person strongly against the notion of a union for college athletes is Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern's head football coach.

Fitzgerald spoke about the decision on which his players have to decide by April 25, urging them to vote against the potential union, per Adam Rittenberg of

I believe it's in their best interests to vote no. With the research that I've done, I'm going to stick to the facts and I'm going to do everything in my power to educate our guys. Our university is going to do that. We'll give them all the resources they need to get the facts.

... Right now, we have great protocols in place, and we haven't been forced to do that by any third party. I know our guys trust me. I've been pretty clear with my support. 

The ninth-year coach is not allowed to promise players any sort of benefits they would receive if they choose to vote against unionizing. Fitzgerald made his stance pretty clear, but it seems he's not the only person in the program that opposes the union.

Ryan Baker of CBS Chicago reports that many players are siding with their coach rather than Kain Colter, a former quarterback for the Wildcats:

While Baker notes several players are on Fitzgerald's side, offensive lineman Brandon Vitabile, a member of the team's leadership council, also believes many of his teammates will side with their coach, per Rittenberg:

I think a lot of guys feel the same as I do. Coach Fitz has done everything in his power and been a voice for us and he has gotten changes. He goes to [American Football Coaches Association] meetings and does act in our interests. I've had conversations with him before all this happened.

Guys have to realize the ramifications of what may occur.

Colter is still fighting for the rights to a union in college athletics, and despite the resistance from Fitzgerald, he remains very fond of his former coach:

It is difficult to predict what will come of all of this. Colter is working hard to make his voice heard, but Fitzgerald and others certainly have a well-founded case.

Moving forward, Colter hopes that he can give college athletes the rights that they deserve, including a visit to Capitol Hill. The vote on April 25 will determine whether the Wildcats are allowed to unionize and could be a game-changer in college athletics.

With just 20 days remaining before the ultimate ruling is handed down, both men will stand up for their cause in a public battle. And while they each have a valid opinion, the outcome can only satisfy one of them.

Could this be a movement that transforms the game forever or one that falls flat on a national stage? We'll find out on April 25.


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