Union, fans monitor fallout from Northwestern ruling

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Is it a victory for amateur athletes, or the beginning of the end for college athletics as we know it?

That question is up for debate after the National Labor Relations Board ruled Wednesday the football players at Northwestern University are eligible to form a union.

The ruling only effects 12 private college institutions, but there is a fear at NCAA Headquarters that this could be just the beginning.

It is highly unusual when the biggest victory of the year for a college football team would come off the field. The National Labor Relations Board declared Northwestern football players as employees and thus eligible to form a union.

"When you've got basically a corporation like the NCAA making billions of dollars, there is no reason why they can't take care of these kids. It's exploitation," Brett Voorhies, the new state president of the Indiana AFL-CIO said.

Eyewitness News spoke to Voorhies in his new office. He formerly worked for the Steelworkers as the union laid the foundation for this challenge.

"If you break your ankle, sorry, scholarship is gone and by the way we will not pay for your medical bills, either. It's not fair," he added.

The NCAA reacted swiftly, issuing a statement disagreeing with the notion that student athletes are employees.

"We frequently hear from student-athletes, across all sports, that they participate to enhance their overall college experience and for the love of their sport, not to be paid," the statement said. "We want student-athletes, 99% of whom will never make it to the professional leagues, focused on what matters most - finding success in the classroom, on the field and in life."

We asked some college basketball fans in Indianapolis for the NCAA basketball regionals what they thought.

"Amateur, yes. Professional. College takes care of them, stuff like that. Now they want money. It's a little more involved then," Shawn Scott from Indianapolis said.

"I think the game of college athletics has changed in the last 10-20 years. I think television revenue and media attention is a very big part of that," Brian Nicol from Green Bay, Wisconsin observed.

"I think it's crazy. College athletes get paid through tuition and go to school for free. I don't think they need to be paid until they get to the professional level," Lee Howard remarked.

The one thing we know for sure in this debate is this case is headed for appeal.