EVANSTON – Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald finally had a chance to meet with his team and address the possibility of a players union Wednesday morning.
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 the message during Wednesday’s meeting was 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.
Northwestern can’t make promises or threaten anything contingent on the vote.
Fitzgerald read a letter to the players Wednesday. He also sent it to them and their parents.
“Between now and April 25, it’s educating yourself on the situation,” 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.”
Northwestern plans on appealing the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board’s ruling which granted the players the right to form a union. The ballots will be impounded until the appeal decision 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 does not 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’s a supporter of positive change 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.”