Clemson University President James P. Clements said Tuesday he and other major college presidents are examining a stunning labor ruling that could revolutionize college sports, but it isn’t certain how the decision will change intercollegiate athletics, particularly related to academics.
Clements, in an interview with editors and reporters of The Greenville News, said every major university president, as part of a national discussion, is trying to gauge the significance of the decision.
“We’re at Point A — legally, this happened, now we’re here, what happens next?” Clements said. “I don’t know what happens next. There are a lot of lawyers working on that.”
A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board said last month football players at Northwestern University can create the nation’s first union of college athletes.
The decision answered the question at the heart of the debate over the unionization bid: Do football players who receive full scholarships to the Big Ten school qualify as employees under federal law and therefore can legally unionize?
Peter Sung Ohr, the NLRB regional director, said in a 24-page decision that the players “fall squarely” within the broad definition of employee.
Northwestern has appealed the ruling.
Clements said Chip Hood, Clemson’s general counsel and chief legal officer, is tracking the ruling to determine its potential impact.
Still, the ultimate goal for student-athletes or students in general is education, Clements said.
“We want them to graduate. We want them to have a successful career and a successful life,” he said. “Athletics is an important piece of us as an institution and always has been.”
Clements was selected by Clemson’s board of trustees to succeed James F. Barker, who announced plans to retire last year after serving 14 years as president.
Clements came to Clemson after nearly five years as president of West Virginia University, where he helped set records in private fundraising, enrollment and research funding, according to the school’s website.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree in science and Ph.D. in operations analysis from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, as well as a master’s in computer science from Johns Hopkins University.
Prior to his appointment at WVU, Clements was provost and vice president for academic affairs, Robert W. Deutsch Distinguished Professor of Information Technology and vice president for economic and community outreach at Towson University.
Clements told The News his two immediate challenges at Clemson include hiring a provost and several college deans and addressing the university’s facilities needs.
Those needs “are pretty significant” and include student housing that is more than 50 years old, Clements said.
That affects recruiting, he said.
“Students want great facilities,” Clements said.
“They want the nice room and the Wi-Fi and the fitness centers. It’s part of having a healthy campus and a healthy lifestyle for the students. We need to upgrade our facilities.”