By Joe Mathieu, WBZ NewsRadio 1030

BOSTON (CBS) – We’ve heard the question asked before in college athletics. But this time the answer could have a real impact on the way players are managed and compensated.

The National Labor Relations Board has opened hearings in a case led by football players at Northwestern University who want the right to be represented by a college athletes union.

The players argue that they are more than students. And while they get scholarships and other benefits that come with being stars on the field, they say they deserve more.

Like a real paycheck for starters.

After all, college athletes help to generate more than $16 billion in TV contracts, according to Bloomberg, and there are likely billions more when you add-up the sponsorships and the all mighty merchandizing that comes with any franchise.

They’re also pushing for medical expenses for current and former athletes along with a trust fund to help former players complete their degrees.

For its part, Northwestern University opposes the idea, saying its players are students first and that scholarship money is not compensation for playing football. School officials also remind that no student athletes are offered scholarships if they don’t first meet academic standards.

The fact is you never stop learning whether you’re formally considered a student or not. And if these players organize, they may get a quick lesson in collective bargaining – you don’t always get what you want.

Follow Joe on Twitter @joemathieuwbz


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