Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Notre Dame Football [Print without images]

Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Kelly sees all sides of potential union

By Matt Fortuna

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Visiting Northwestern on Tuesday to hear the reaction to the decision by the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board that the Wildcat players qualified as employees was certainly eye-opening, if only because of all the differing public opinions.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald offered little beyond what he has already publicly stated and some players were more open to the idea than others.

One private-school figure who has been fairly receptive is Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, who addressed the issue on Saturday. Of course, this is a long way from becoming his problem, and he and his players will not be peppered with questions about this endlessly the way the Wildcats certainly will for the foreseeable future.

Here was Kelly's reaction when asked this past weekend:

"I think we would respect anything that our players would want to do relative to their creativity, their ability to want to talk about things of that nature. I think that’s one of the great things about being in the university setting. You’re never going to squash or hold students back from that kind of dialogue. But as it relates to me personally, I’m a teacher, I’m an educator. I’m more interested in relationships based on player-coach than employee. As much as we want to be in an atmosphere where we create a learning environment, I also want to be individually in a place where I’m an educator and a teacher. Wherever that meets is where I stand on it and I think there’s a long way before we have to get to that point where a decision needs to be made. I’m not at a point where I’m going to meet with our football team to discuss the pluses and minuses of putting a union together, I can say that."

Asked if a players' union would be good or bad for college football, Kelly said: "I think I looked at more of a bigger picture thought process and I haven’t really thought about it in its real terms as whether it would be positive for college football or detrimental. I think I’ve looked at it more as a microcosm. Like, do they tax your scholarship? I’ve looked at it that way and I haven’t looked at it in a big picture sense."

It's certainly a hot topic around college football, and one that likely isn't going away anytime soon. It also hits a little closer to home for Notre Dame, as the school, like Northwestern, is private.

Ivan Maisel and Matthew Barrie had West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck and me on the ESPNU College Football Podcast on Tuesday to discuss the topic. You can listen here.