EVANSTON — Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald finally had a chance to meet with his team Wednesday to address the possibility of the players forming a union.
While the players will have a chance to vote on forming a union April 25, Fitzgerald’s stance on the issue is pretty clear.
‘‘I believe it is in their best interest to vote no,’’ Fitzgerald said Saturday.
Scholarship players participating in team activities are eligible to vote. Early enrollee Parrker Westphal is the only incoming freshman allowed to vote.
Fitzgerald said his message Wednesday was meant to educate the players.
‘‘I’m sticking to the facts and the things that I know over eight years that I have accomplished, that our program has accomplished, that our athletic administration has accomplished and what this university has accomplished without any third party being involved,’’ Fitzgerald said.
The university can’t make promises or threaten anything contingent on the vote.
‘‘Between now and April 25, it’s educating yourself on the situation,’’ Wildcats running back Venric Mark said. ‘‘We really all don’t know because we haven’t really sat down and said, ‘Hey, what are we all going to do?’ We’ve just all talked about it, and everyone is going to formulate their own opinion and take their own stance.’’
The university plans to appeal the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board’s ruling that granted the players the right to form a union. The ballots will be impounded until a decision on the appeal is rendered. If the appeal is denied and a majority of voters don’t want a union, the issue is dead for a minimum of 12 months.
Quarterback Trevor Simian said he doesn’t support a union.
‘‘I’ve been treated unbelievably, far exceeding my expectations,’’ he said. ‘‘What’s important for this team is to be able to win a Big Ten championship. That’s why we came here. I don’t think a union can do it for us.’’
Fitzgerald said he supports positive changes for athletes.
‘‘I am incredibly proud of the courageous nature of stepping up; I just do not believe this is the mechanism to do it,’’ he said. ‘‘We do not need a third party in between our players and our coaching staff, our athletic department and our university. And I’ll stand upon our track record.’’