Division II athletics unaffected by new unionization legislation

In signing Public Act 414 into law Tuesday, Dec. 30, Gov. Rick Snyder explicitly prohibited student-athletes of Michigan public universities and college from joining unions.

Specifically, the legislation keeps the student-athletes of Michigan public universities and colleges from being classified as public employees; this, therefore, prevents any player unionization.

Supporters of Public Act 414 believe the legislation emphasizes that the priority for college student-athletes should be education rather than athletics.

There have been no reported unionization discussions by student-athletes at any Michigan public universities.

However, there have been serious discussions regarding unionization among football players at Northwestern University, which is a private institution.

Those discussions, as well as the recent trend of corporations and universities profiting from the images and performances of their collegiate athletes, may have motivated the passing of Public Act 414.

Although SVSU Athletic Director Mike Watson understands the athletes’ desire for additional compensation, he ultimately agrees with the principle of the recent legislation because it helps reinforce what the main objective is for collegiate student-athletes.

“The mission of the (National Collegiate Athletic Association) is to give young men and women the opportunity to compete in their sport … while they complete their college degree,” Watson said.  “The … focus of student-athletes, who elect to go on and further their education at universities, is primarily to advance their careers.”

Watson said Public Act 414 will have a lesser effect on the athletic programs of SVSU and other Division II schools as they bring in substantially less revenue than their Division I counterparts and already heavily emphasize educational values.

“The Division II philosophy is about life in balance, which means balancing academia, family and life in general, while maintaining an expectation to be competitive and win,” Watson said.

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