- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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AUSTIN, Texas -- In his meeting with reporters Tuesday, Texas athletic director Steve Patterson addressed a wide range of topics on Longhorn and college athletics. His comments on Texas A&M got understandable attention (you can find those here), but Patterson was far more passionate when it came to the topic of the Northwestern labor lawsuit.
As a college administrator who’s also been a pro sports executive and general manager, Patterson has experience on both sides of the fence here on professionals vs. amateurs.
While Patterson does support the push to raise student-athlete compensation to full cost of attendance, that’s about as far as he’ll go. Patterson is not on board with the Northwestern football players’ attempt to unionize.
Here’s what Patterson had to say when asked if student-athletes should be considered employees:
“When you get into an NLRB process, the presumption is that the plaintiffs are employees and you have to overcome the assumption they are employees. I think it probably was some smart lawyering on the part of the plaintiff’s side, in the path they took and the way they classified it.
“The reality is, though, professional athletics is something completely different. And if you want to go play minor league baseball out of high school, on your way up to the majors, you can make that decision. You can go ride the bus from Biloxi to Beloit, and stay in the hotels that they stay in, and you cannot get an education and you can live on $12,000 a year, if you decide that’s a better existence and a better path to a long-term outcome for your career in baseball and after baseball.
“Even if the one percent of the student-athletes that go to the pros go there, their average career is four years. So they have a half a century, on average, after they’re done. And what are you going to do with that second half-century of their life? If you want to decide that’s a better life, then come to the University of Texas -- even if Augie [Garrido] might get on your tail a little occasionally. God bless you, go do it, knock yourself out.
“If you’re a football player coming out of high school that decides you want to go to the pros, go take your issue with Roger Goodell and the owners and the union. That’s your place to go if you want to go play professional football, if you want to be an employee.
“If you want to go play professional basketball, go to the D-League, knock yourself out. And then go in the draft to the NBA. That’s your place if you want to be an employee, if you want to be a professional.
“This is not your place. And this is a free country, you can make that choice all day long. Knock yourself out. This is student-athlete athletics.”
That stance seems to falls closely in line with what Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and other executives have offered on the topic of paying players.
For the record, Texas coach Charlie Strong said when he was hired in January that paying players is something to “look at” due to the large revenues of football, but also argued the value of a scholarship gets underappreciated.
“If we develop them the right way,” Strong said then, “their payday will be in the end, because they're going to have a chance to compete on the next level."