Pitt sides with NCAA in student-athlete unionization dispute

In light of the National Labor Relations Chicago Branch’s decision to allow Northwestern University student-athletes to unionize, Pitt released a public statement Thursday evening renewing their commitment to the ideals of amateurism in college athletics.

Because it is a public university, Pitt, among many other universities, remains unaffected by the NLRB’s decision, but still decided to voice its opinion against treating student-athletes as university employees.

“The University of Pittsburgh remains committed to the concepts of amateurism and the student-athletes that have always been the foundation of our athletic endeavors,” the statement read. “We do not believe that treating student-athletes as employees will be beneficial for the students.”

Pitt Associate Athletic Director E.J. Borghetti declined to provide further comment.

Peter Sung Ohr, regional director of the NLRB, issued a decision on the case Wednesday, finding “the grant-in-aid scholarship football players are employees under the NLRA (National Labor Relations Act) and has directed an election to take place,” according to the NLRB’s website.

Those who filed the suit have until April 9, 2014 to file with the NLRB in Washington, D.C. a “Request for Review of the Decision.”

“The basics of the case centered around whether the scholarship football players at Northwestern University were employees or not,” Ohr said. “It was decided that if someone provides a service that is [generating revenue] that person is deemed an employee under the law. That was the case here.”

Ohr declined to comment further on the potential outcomes of the case, and whether any drastic changes within college athletics programs–including Pitt–could occur in the near future.

Pitt quarterback Chad Voytik expressed to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he has a school-first mentality, and that the possibility of unionization hasn’t been a heavily discussed topic in the Pitt locker room.

“Truthfully, I feel like we’re compensated enough,” Voytik said. “We get a free education and all that.”