Kelcy Quarles: Union not the best answer

Former Gamecock believes players should be paid, fears union would disrupt unity

jkendall@thestate.comMarch 26, 2014 

Kelcy Quarles at South Carolina's spring football practice Friday, March 21, 2014.

DWAYNE MCLEMORE — dmclemore@thestate.com

The National Labor Relations Board took a step Wednesday toward greater power for college athletes, but former South Carolina football player Kelcy Quarles thinks it’s the wrong one.

The NLRB ruled in favor of the College Athletes Players Association, a group led by Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, and deemed Northwestern’s players as employees rather than the NCAA’s preferred categorization of student-athlete. The ruling means the Wildcats are free to unionize and negotiate for more rights as a group.

“I don’t agree with that. I don’t agree with that at all,” Quarles told The State on Wednesday evening. “That’s causing too many problems on a team. What if you have a certain group of guys who wants to go with this union and then you have another group of guys saying, ‘I don’t want to be a part of it.’? That’s going to create division on the team first of all, and it’s going to create problems and you can’t even focus on football.”

Quarles played defensive tackles for the Gamecocks from 2011-2013 and left after last season with one season of eligibility remaining to enter May’s NFL Draft. Quarles believes college football players should receive more than they get from their current scholarships but says “a union would not be the way to go about it.”

“That’s nothing but a problem waiting to happen,” he said. “If you don’t have everybody bought into a system, you are not going to have anything successful so why would you consider anything like that?”

The NCAA and Northwestern agree. The university plans to appeal the decision and college sports governing body released a statement Wednesday condemning it.

“While not a party to the proceeding, the NCAA is disappointed that the NLRB Region 13 determined the Northwestern football team may vote to be considered university employees," read the statement. ‘We strongly disagree with the notion that student-athletes are employees. We frequently hear from student-athletes, across all sports, that they participate to enhance their overall college experience and for the love of their sport, not to be paid. Over the last three years, our member colleges and universities have worked to re-evaluate the current rules. While improvements need to be made, we do not need to completely throw away a system that has helped literally millions of students over the past decade alone attend college. We want student athletes – 99 percent of whom will never make it to the professional leagues – focused on what matters most – finding success in the classroom, on the field and in life.”

South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening, but Steve Fink, the school’s assistant athletic director for media relations, issued a statement that read, “At this point, we don’t have anything to add to comments already made by the NCAA.”

The ruling won’t change anything in the SEC, or at any public school, right away because it only applies to private schools like Northwestern. Quarles hopes the NCAA finds another way to handle the situation before unions make their way into further into the system.

“You are getting a free scholarship and school free, but at the end of the day you are still a human being. You have needs,” he said. “You have bills you’ve got to pay. Some people’s family doesn’t have the means to take care of them. I do feel like college players should be paid.”

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