Big Ten

National Labor Relations Board ends Northwestern union effort


National Labor Relations Board ends Northwestern union effort

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.

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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.

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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."

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately


Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal


Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.