There is no need to wait until March for college basketball to take the spotlight thanks to a recent ruling issued by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). On Monday, a regional official ruled that Dartmouth’s men’s basketball players are University employees and ordered an election for them to vote on unionization.

Dartmouth basketball team’s unionization attempt

On September 13, 2023, the Dartmouth team filed a petition to pursue unionization. The NLRB’s Regional Director concluded that “because Dartmouth has the right to control the work performed by the Dartmouth men’s basketball team, and the players perform that work in exchange for compensation,” the players are “employees within the meaning of the [National Labor Relations] Act.”

Dartmouth’s unionization efforts and collegiate sports history

This development is not the first of its kind in collegiate-level athletics. In 2014, for instance, a petition was filed on behalf of the Northwestern University football team. The NLRB dismissed the football team’s petition, holding it did not have jurisdiction over public schools, against which Northwestern often competes.

Name, Image, Likeness and unionization

There have been significant changes across the college sports landscape in recent years, including developments related to Name, Image and Likeness (NIL). Certainly, most people would agree that the collegiate sports model based on amateurism is crumbling. 

As an aside, so too is Dartmouth’s hopes for an Ivy League championship – the ‘Big Green’ are 1-5 in the Conference and 5-14 overall.

Key takeaway

While the NLRB’s recent ruling will likely be appealed, the idea of college athletes being deemed “employees” raises all sorts of employment issues. 

This matter will not be resolved within the next month, however, so turning your attention to filling out your bracket is an appropriate focus on college basketball for the time being.