The Northwestern unionization movement is officially no more.
Monday, the National Labor Relations Board denied Northwestern football players the ability to form a union, declining to rule on an early 2014 decision that student-athletes qualified as employees and dismissing the players' petition to form a union.
A regional division of the NLRB ruled in January 2014 that Northwestern student-athletes did qualify as employees, giving them the ability to unionize, but the university appealed to the national division, and Monday's ruling went in the university's favor.
Former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter spearheaded the attempt to unionize his former teammates, a step he believed necessary to give college athletes a greater voice in college athletics, which generate billions of dollars annually while student-athletes receive no compensation. His intentions were admirable, as he never mentioned the idea of paying players but instead focused on collective bargaining as a way to better the student-athlete experience through scholarship reform and increasing medical benefits.
[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: How can Northwestern return to winning ways?]
The NLRB initially deemed student-athletes employees, leading to a vote the football team took ahead of the 2014 season on whether or not to unionize. While the results of that vote were never disclosed, several players said last year that they believed a majority voted not to unionize.
Monday, the NLRB decided that no union could be formed, citing mostly the upheaval it would cause in the ranks of college athletics by allowing Northwestern players to form a union while student-athletes at other schools could not. Northwestern's status as a private school was always an issue in this situation.
Last year, the Big Ten announced plans to implement many of the reforms Colter and his group were fighting for, including expanded medical coverage, cost-of-attendance improvements and guaranteed scholarships.
Colter reacted on Twitter after the ruling.
Disappointed by the NLRB ruling. But can't deny the positive changes that were brought about by athletes standing up. Proud of those guys.
— Kain Colter (@KainColter_2) August 17, 2015
[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: Justin Jackson looks to be even better in 2015]
Both Northwestern athletics director Jim Phillips and head football coach Pat Fitzgerald released their own statements through the university.
“Our focus is, was, and will continue to be on delivering a world-class experience — academically, socially and athletically — every day for each of our 494 student–athletes," Phillips said. "Both locally at Northwestern, and broadly as chairman of the NCAA Division-I Council, it has been remarkable over the last several years to witness the rapid evolution of college athletics with student-athlete well-being as the top priority. This outstanding university firmly believes in the paramount importance of the health, safety and well-being of its students and will continue to be a national leader, as it has been over the last several years with guaranteed, four-year, cost-of-attendance scholarships for all 19 varsity teams, extended medical benefits and unparalleled professional development programming.”
“Our young men chose to attend Northwestern to compete on the field at the highest level, earn a world-class education and prepare for the rest of their lives," Fitzgerald said. "They have displayed maturity beyond their years through this process, and the experience has unquestionably brought us closer together as a football family. This group posted the highest cumulative GPA in program history during the 2014-15 academic year, earned a record 38 Academic All-Big Ten honors last season and is excited to return to the field this fall to play the game they love and compete for a Big Ten championship."