Northwestern NLRB sparks discussion, but no action from Duke football

GREENSBORO, N.C.—With Duke's first game still 39 days away, people aren't wasting too much time talking X's and O's at the annual ACC Kickoff. Instead, the event allows the conference's media members to examine the broader questions that are shaping the college football landscape.

Without exception, one of the primary talking points this year has been the topic of unionization following the National Labor Relations Board's ruling in March that Northwestern football players are employees of their university.

When redshirt senior linebacker Kelby Brown received the inevitable question about unionization, he made it clear that Duke players are not considering following in the Wildcats' footsteps.

"I don't think anyone on our team would be serious enough to take those step," he said. "Of all schools, it would be somewhere like Northwestern, but that's some real stuff they did. I don't know if we really care enough to be part of it."

From an academic standpoint, the Wildcats are to the Big Ten what Duke is to the ACC. Northwestern was ranked tied for 12th in U.S. News and World Report's 2014 rankings of the nation's top colleges (Duke was seventh). On the gridiron, the Wildcats ranked second in the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate metric in 2012-13 with a score of 991—one point behind the Blue Devils, who led the nation at 992.

Brown acknowledged the complexity of labor relations issues and said Northwestern's case was thought-provoking for Duke, but nothing more.

"I don't think guys on our teams would even know where to start. I wouldn't," he said. "I think from a compensation standpoint, it definitely brought up a lot of discussion."

Issues concerning likeness and scholarships covering full cost of attendance will continue to be an ongoing discussion in the coming months. For now, the only thing Brown said he wishes Duke could cover is something that no employer would foot the bill for—parking tickets.

"I don't think we're ever going to get that one covered," he said.


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