Chicago, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that Northwestern football players are employees of the university and should therefore be entitled to be represented in collective bargaining.
The ruling Wednesday by regional NLRB director Peter Sung Ohr opens the door for the players to unionize in what could be a landscape-changing decision in college athletics.
Northwestern said it was "disappointed" by the ruling and plans to appeal.
"Northwestern believes strongly that our student-athletes are not employees, but students," the school said. "Unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by student- athletes."
Former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, who helped bring the petition to the labor board with the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) and United Steelworkers, called the decision "a huge win for all college athletes."
Ohr wrote that Northwestern football players on scholarship should vote on whether or not they want to be represented in collective bargaining by CAPA.
He said players receiving grant-in-aid scholarships fall under the common-law definition of employees.
The case has taken its place in the discussion over whether or not athletes should be paid for their part in the increasingly lucrative business of college athletics.