Univeral Amplifier

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College Athlete Unions Cast Shadow On Games

Each year, March Madness and the Final Four are a celebration of men’s college basketball. The capstone story for this year will, of course, be whoever ends up winning the final game on April 7. But the 2014 tournament will also be remembered for off-court stories, too. And, even with Warren Buffett’s billion dollar bracket bet, I would argue the most important news the media has homed in on has been the evolving issues of college athlete unions and the idea of compensating student athletes with a salary . . . someday.

Universal Information Services measures news and PR to gauge impact

College basketball and football are always the focus on compensation stories. Those two sports are high profile, and provide millions of fans with hours and hours of entertainment. Colleges and universities at the pinnacle of the NCAA Division I sports benefit financially, and the salaries of coaches and staffs at that level can be staggering. Recent news and commentary has underscored that the issue of paying college athletes is closer to becoming a reality than ever before.

The first day of March Madness was March 20. The current round of discussions about college-athlete salaries and a possible union actually started about two months ago when a group called the College Athletes Players Association went to the National Labor Relations Bureau in Chicago with a petition asking that Northwestern University’s football team be recognized as a union. At the end of March, with NCAA basketball in full swing, a NLRB director agreed that the football players had the right to organize. Appeals are, of course, being planned.

Since that decision, news and sports reporters (and many pundits) have been writing and broadcasting on the topic . . . which easily links itself to the college basketball tournament. Here’s a lead from a story that posted to usatoday.com on March 25 – “During March Madness, college athletes make millions of dollars for the NCAA and universities. But they see none of it.” The story itself asked readers to weigh in on the topic via the publication’s social media sites.

Universal Information Services measured the news media comparing the Final Four and Student Athletic Unions

Share of Voice

That story was the tip of the iceberg, since March 20 there have been 8,026 media mentions focused on student athletes and pay. Mention of the Final Four during the same time period yielded over 57 thousand media mentions. As you can see the media exposure of paid college athletes has not yet eclipsed the actual games. But will the student athletic union issue draw attention away from the games or will the thrill of the sport prevail? We will be watching and measuring.

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