All posts by Hayden Gehr

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NLRB Decision Sparks Student Athlete Union Debate

 

The NCAA has long denied college athletes the right to be viewed as employees, but as of late, a change in the system is looking more and more likely.

On March 27 in Chicago, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that football players at Northwestern University can legally form a union. The ruling, which came in response to a petition created by ex-Northwestern football player Kain Colter along with the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA), also described the athletes on Northwestern’s football team as “employees.” This was a surprising decision that placed the power to make history in the hands of the Northwestern players, who can now form the first ever student athlete union in college sports.

The NCAA voiced its disapproval of the decision, as did Northwestern. At press time, Northwestern had yet to request a review of the ruling, but the private Illinois university has made clear that it intends to issue an appeal. Many fear that this will take the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court, and will greatly postpone any resolution. In the meantime, Northwestern football players may form a union as soon as April 25, when the athletes will vote for or against unionizing under CAPA.

In the wake of the NLRB’s verdict, opinions have been divided as to whether or not student athletes should be seen as workers who can be part of a labor union. A common argument is that athletes dedicate the same amount of hours to their sport as employees do to their occupation, and also that they deserve better medical coverage and more in-depth injury testing, which a union could help secure. Moreover, USF legal studies professor Robert Elias points out that student athletes should to be rewarded for serving as a means of revenue for their wealthy bosses, their schools, and the NCAA.

“These employees are not paid for any of the income they generate, and they also have no other benefits that employees would normally be able to secure for themselves, especially if they were to unionize,” Elias said. “If the initial NLRB decision holds up, then it means that college athletes will have a basis for getting some piece of that enormous income, in exchange for their labors.”

In contrast, there are many reasons to believe that labor unions are unnecessary for college athletes. Some argue that since players already receive many benefits from their schools, such as guaranteed housing and scholarships, they should not be paid for their efforts. Others acknowledge that there may be problems with the treatment of college athletes, but that they should be solved by the team itself, instead of enabling unions and potentially reforming the NCAA’s system. Northwestern’s head football coach, Pat Fitzgerald, sees this method as the best possible solution.

“All this can be handled with communication. It’s about trust,” Fitzgerald told the press on Saturday. “I just do not believe we need a third party between our players and our coaches, staff, and administrators…whatever they need, we will get them.”

Despite the clashing opinions that have arisen from the aftermath of the NLRB ruling, some have attempted to find a middle ground. Larry Scott, the commissioner of the Pac-12 conference, is open to an alteration in how the NCAA currently functions, but does not feel that student athletes should receive salaries.

“We absolutely should do more and I’m going to continue to push for us to do more,” Scott said in an interview with ESPN.com. “It just can’t cross that line of starting to get paid a salary or negotiating through collective bargaining. That’s a pro model, completely different.”

While it is clear that disagreement is abound and that many are hesitant to accept student athletes as employees, the reality is that by allowing Northwestern football players to unionize, the NLRB pushed us a step closer to a world where college athletes are paid to do what they do. Since the March 27 decision, multiple players from other schools have shown interest in unionizing, according to United Steelworkers member Tim Waters. If the Northwestern players do indeed vote to become a union on April 25, intrigue from players at other universities will surely increase.

The historic decision also has implications for USF and other private universities. Since the NLRB’s rulings can only cover private schools, it would be much more difficult for unionizing to be made possible at public universities, but it is conceivable that another private school could follow in Northwestern’s footsteps in the near future.

Sophomore business finance major Kenneth Lapuz is unenthusiastic about the prospect of student athletes being paid at USF.

“Going to a school where athletes are paid or are part of a union would be somewhat disastrous,” Lapuz said. “The student athletes will express no admiration for their institution whatsoever. They will merely be paid to receive an education and to play on an athletic team, not to mention the amount of power they possess since they are unionized.”

 

 

Bay Area teams such as Feel Projection, the Hungry Bumz, and Live SF joined VarCity on the dance floor. (Photo Courtesy of Margret Valdes)

VarCity Puts on Sizzling Show at Homecoming Showcase

Excited crowd members filled the seats in the Education Building’s Presentation Theater around 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 22, but the buzz they created was nothing compared to the energy that was about to be unleashed. The eruption came about 30 minutes later, when the VarCity SF dancers found their spots and ignited a flurry of music and movement. As Sean Paul’s “Get Busy” blared through the speakers to kick off the Homecoming Hip-Hop Dance Showcase on an upbeat note, USF’s official hip-hop dance club effortlessly eased into its rhythmic zone.

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Dons to Switch Name to Pink Fairy Armadillos

Goodbye Dons. Hello Pink Fairy Armadillos.

In response to a new system set in place by the West Coast Conference that requires all teams to be named after animals, USF has made the bold decision to represent itself in the form a small, burrowing Argentine mammal. The school’s name, logo, and mascot was approved by the Rev. Stephen A. Privett, S.J. on Sunday, March 23, and the change will be put into effect at the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year.

“I could not think of a better way to end my tenure as president of the University of San Francisco,” Privett said. “This is a day that will be etched in the books of history for years to come.”

Last month, as part of its Animal Awareness Among Athletes campaign, the WCC released an initiative stating that all schools in the conference must have names that are “free of human influence.” All teams with human-centric names were given 30 days to select a new name and design a new logo. On March 20, Portland became the first team to declare a brand new school title, changing from the Pilots to the White-faced Saki Monkeys. This move opened the floodgates for other schools, and by the next day San Diego and Pepperdine had become the Blobfish and the Dumbo Octopi, respectively. The St. Mary’s Gaels were slow to catch on, however, and failed to meet the March 23 deadline, resulting in the termination of their athletic program.

Although the USF soon-to-be Pink Fairy Armadillos will not complete the transition until August of 2014, the campus is already supporting the choice to discard “Dons,” and is brimming with excitement at the prospect of a new school signifier.

“I’ve never really lived the life of a Don,” said a USF student who requested to remain anonymous. “I think my life is much more similar to that of a miniscule, worm-eating creature. I must say I’m proud to be a Pink Fairy Armadillo.”

While students are showing enthusiasm, USF’s Name Selection Committee is taking a much-needed week off after enduring the painstaking process of deciding upon a new title. The committee, headed by Athletic Director Scott Sidwell, spent many sleepless nights in a dark-lit room in War Memorial Gym attempting to settle on the right animal, an experience Sidwell compared to “discovering the meaning of life.”

In the end though, the committee, along with the rest of the school, seems to be happy with the final result.

“The Pink Fairy Armadillo truly embodies everything that our athletics program stands for,” Sidwell said. “It is a very small animal, which characterizes USF’s position as an underdog-type school. Also, the Pink Fairy Armadillo’s strong protective armor is representative of the attitude that these student athletes have. They’re tough as nails, they never give up, and they compete every day.”

Another factor that contributed to the selection of the Pink Fairy Armadillo is the animal’s Argentina location, which will undoubtedly help USF in its quest for cultural diversity.

“I fully expect that this will increase our presence in South America,” Privett said. “There is lots of untapped academic potential in Argentina, and it would be great if we could bring some of that to the Best City Ever.”

According to an unnamed source, a USF advertisement reading “Our Pink Fairy Armadillos Are Better Than Yours” was spotted on the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina just three hours after the name change was approved.

On top of the cultural incentive, USF also capitalized on a new trend in modern sports. Just last year, the New Orleans Hornets of the NBA became the New Orleans Pelicans, going from a fairly normal insect to an awkward-looking, large-beaked water bird. However, as evidenced by decisions at USF and other WCC schools, this sort of transformation has become quite popular.

“Changing your name to an obscure animal that should never be associated with sports is definitely a cool thing to do right now, so I’m glad we could be a part of that,” USF men’s basketball head coach Rex Walters said on Sunday. “It’s important to move forward as a program, and we definitely did that today.”

Along with the name change, the all-new USF Pink Fairy Armadillo logo has been designed, and the school’s pink and brown uniforms will be unveiled in just 20 days. As the school prepares for this momentous occasion, mascot tryouts were held at Negoesco Stadium on Monday, March 24. However, the tryout session ended unresolved, and was called off when a student fainted from exhaustion after walking on all fours in a pink fairy armadillo costume for two hours. Other students also reported experiences of severe nausea, prompting the athletic program to turn to four-legged creatures as the primary mascot candidates. A tryout consisting of cats, dogs, and several meandering deer found wandering in Golden Gate Park is scheduled for this Saturday.

DISCLAIMER: This piece was printed as part of The Foghorn’s April Fool’s Day issue on April 1st, 2014. This article is intended to be satirical.

USF’s 1954-55 National Championship Team. Photos courtesy of Dons Athletics

Life-Long Dons

USF basketball players from the 1950’s “Golden Era” share their memories and discuss how teammates turned into friends

Last week, Bernie Schneider made a trip from San Francisco to Lake County to visit his friend, Ed Slevin. Since they met each other nearly 60 years ago, their focus has moved from basketball courts to golf courses, but the importance of their friendship has not diminished at all.

During Schneider and Slevin’s time as basketball players for USF from 1955 to 1959, they witnessed what was undoubtedly the most decorated era in the university’s sports history. From experiencing the 1955 NCAA Championship victory to practicing against all-time greats like Bill Russell and K.C. Jones, to playing as seniors in the first year of War Memorial Gym’s existence, the two players were present for countless legendary moments, all the while developing special, long-lasting relationships with other teammates.

“The friends that I met at USF are still my friends,” Slevin said. “My teammates are still my closest friends.”

The Dons were on top of the college basketball world in the mid 1950’s, winning USF’s first NCAA Championship in 1955, and then repeating as champions in 1956. These San Francisco teams were led by future NBA Hall-of-Famers Russell and Jones, as well as standouts such as Hal Perry, Gene Brown, and Warren Baxter. With coach Phil Woolpert at the helm, the Dons won 55 consecutive games between 1955 and 1956, coming in third place in the country in 1957, after Russell and Jones had headed to the NBA.

“It was kind of a golden era at USF,” Slevin said. “They really had a powerful bunch of guys there.”

Slevin came to USF on a scholarship in 1955 and played on the school’s freshman team during his first year as a Don. In the 1950’s, USF had freshman, junior varsity, and varsity basketball teams, and even though Slevin didn’t play for varsity until the 1958-59 season, he lived with all of the other basketball players on campus in Phelan Hall. Here, Slevin quickly got to know his teammates.

“If you were on scholarship, you had to live in the dorms, so we all lived together, and we all lived on basically two floors,” Slevin said. “It was just like a bunch of good friends living together.”

Eating countless meals together and holding ping-pong tournaments bonded the team together. Some of the players, such as Perry, were also gifted musicians, and the team would often hold their own “jam sessions”.

Slevin lived one floor below Russell and Jones, who were roommates, and he remembers them as intense competitors during games, but genuinely nice people off of the court. Once, Slevin recalls, he walked up to their room and asked them if they could provide tickets for his friends who wanted to attend their next game. The game, which was against St. Mary’s at the infamous Cow Palace was sold out, and neither Russell nor Jones had any extra tickets. However, they thought of a gesture that would be nearly as meaningful. They each wrote notes on a copy of a Look Magazine issue that they had been featured in, apologizing to Slevin’s friends that they were not able to give them tickets. They then gave the magazine to Slevin and told him to send it to his friends.

“That’s the kind of guys they were,” Slevin said.

While Slevin had plenty of time to socialize with his fellow Dons in the dormitories, Schneider lived off campus during his time at USF. However, both got to play with the best team in the country during practice. At the beginning of their first years, the freshman team scrimmaged against the varsity squad in a game for the media before the season got started. Right off the bat, Slevin and Schneider were forced to get used to competing against the nation’s top talent.

“It was fun being on the same court as them,” Schneider said. “I can say I had my shot blocked by Bill Russell, so that’s a claim to fame. I also scored one basket over his fingertips that I’m pretty proud of.”

Slevin remembers marveling at Russell’s “fantastic athletic ability,” as well as the mean streak that the team had when they stepped onto the court.

“You didn’t want to screw around with Russell on the court, or any of them,” Slevin said.

By 1959, USF’s top players from  the “golden era” had graduated, and the team was no longer a NCAA Championship contender. However, the 1958-59 season was still a memorable one for Slevin and Schneider. Along with their good friends John Cunningham and Dave Lillevand, they made varsity and were key contributors to the first USF team to ever play in War Memorial Gym, which remains the Dons’ home to this day.

Even though Slevin and Schneider were never star players in their careers as Dons, their time spent as USF athletes profoundly affected the way they would lead their lives after college. After graduating, Schneider went on to coach basketball at Marin Catholic High School, and later Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, Calif. He then became a teacher until retiring in the 1990’s.

“My experiences at USF prepared me for a coaching and teaching career,” Schneider said. “I feel that my life would have been a lot different were it not for what I experienced at USF. I was very lucky, and my kids have enjoyed playing basketball also.”

Schneider’s children have certainly taken after their father in terms of their athletic interests. He has a son that coaches at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose Calif., and another that works as a referee for high school games. Schneider also has two grandchildren that play high school basketball.

“Our family has been very much involved in the basketball scene,” Schneider said. “We’re very fortunate that way, to have great joy from the game of basketball.”

Basketball is not just something that has been instilled in the family lineage of USF players from the 1950’s – it is also a sport that has brought a group of men together and created bonds that remained strong long after they left college. Each Fourth of July, four players from the 1950’s teams, including Schneider and Cunningham, travel to Slevin’s Lake County residence to celebrate and spend time together. When they were younger, this special occasion would consist of shooting hoops and playing golf, but now, according to Slevin, the former Dons “just sit around and drink beer.” No matter what activities they engage in, though, they ensure that at least once a year, they will unite just as they once did on the basketball floor.

Slevin, Schneider, and the other Dons from the class of 1959 recently attended their 50th college reunion. This was another event that brought former USF basketball players together, and Slevin found the reunion valuable in that it rekindled his appreciation for the team and the school itself.

“It brought back a lot of fond memories, and renewed the love for the University of San Francisco, which you never lose once you’re there,” Slevin said.