Letter to the Editor: Student-athletes or athlete-employees?

Norman C. Wang, McCormick '94, Feinberg '98

Dear Editor,

As an alumnus of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Feinberg School of Medicine, following Northwestern University athletics is a way to feel connected to the university. It serves as a medium to maintain ties to fellow classmates. Integral to that relationship is the understanding that the players are student-athletes. During my undergraduate years, I knew student-athletes from several teams and counted some as friends. Although athletically talented, they were not much different than the rest of us. Most cared deeply about academics and their future. Kain Colter and members of the football team now seek to change that relationship so that student-athletes are recognized as employees.

I have no doubt that Kain Colter has the best of intentions. He was a recognized leader on the field and is now a leader off the field. The topics that he has raised are important and have not been adequately addressed by the NCAA. It was only a matter of time before these issues came to the forefront. The influx of money in college athletics, particularly football and men’s basketball, and the increasing recognition of long-term repercussions of sports-related injuries make the need to address these concerns a pressing necessity. In fact, I am proud that NU has become the focal point of this debate.

The day that student-athletes become recognized as employees, however, is the last day I will care about college athletics.

In 1954, former president and chancellor of the University of Chicago Robert M. Hutchins authored an article in Sports Illustrated titled “College Football Is An Infernal Nuisance” to explain why the university abandoned football. He stated, “The university believed that it should devote itself to education, research and scholarship. Intercollegiate football has little to-do with any of these things.” Individuals who are primarily athlete-employees are not students and do not have a place within the realm of academia. NU can and should divest itself of this nuisance should that time come to pass.

Sincerely,

Norman C. Wang, M.D., M.S. 
McCormick School of Engineering ‘94
Feinberg School of Medicine ‘98