Practice Notes 9/25: Kain Colter Addresses APU, Fitzgerald Ready to Bring on NIU

In his four years at Northwestern, senior quarterback Kain Colter has gained a reputation as a Renaissance man. He has been a dual-threat quarterback, a wide receiver, a premed student, a Goldman Sachs intern and a model.

Over the past couple months, Colter has added politician to that list. During the summer, Colter went on record saying players should be able to profit off their likenesses. This past Saturday, Colter took another step by donning a wristband with the letters “APU” (All Players United).

As the battle over pay continues to sway between players and the NCAA, Colter and others are making their views loud and clear. The NU signal caller is involved with the National College Players Association, which serves “as the voice for college athletes in their pursuit to secure basic protections.”

“It’s a group that I started getting involved with early summer,” Colter told the media. “Basically every week, we have a conference call with players from around the nation representing a bunch of different conferences, different schools. The leader of that is Ramogi Huma, who played at UCLA.”

According to Colter, the group of players was brainstorming a series of ideas to get their message out when they decided upon wearing APU wristbands.

“We wanted to come up with a small gesture to represent what we believe in and players coming together for a bigger cause to promote a change I feel like needs to be made,” Colter said. “We came up with the APU idea, all players united, and it just turned out that this week was the week we decided to do it. Guys from around the nation did it and a few guys on our team did it. It wasn’t just me.”

Although Colter may not be entirely comfortable with all the attention he is getting, it speaks volumes to the player he has become. Colter is the starting quarterback in a top 20 program, and when he makes a statement, audiences are intrigued. His noise is loud noise.

Colter’s main qualm with the spotlight is that a focus on him deters from the main point of APU.

“People shouldn’t take it as an individual message,” Colter said. “It’s a sign of players coming together from all over the nation, not just football players, basketball players, tennis players, to be able to have our opinions heard and our needs met instead of having to go through a middle man, having to go through the coaches, having to go through the administration or athletic directors. I feel like we should have the right to voice our opinions and we’re educated we’re articulate enough to voice our concerns.”

Staying consistent with his focus on unity, Colter did not discuss the other Wildcats who wore APU wristbands in the win over Maine. Prior to the game, he notified many of his teammates about his intended actions, but did not pressure others into following suit.

“I asked guys on the team if they felt comfortable, do it, and a handful of guys felt comfortable and a handful of guys wanted to see how it played out. I was happy with the awareness that got raised and the publicity that came with it.”

Although Colter says not every player had knowledge of the APU wristbands before kickoff, “everyone knows about it now.”

If there is any criticism in the locker room for Colter this week, it is ironically that he did not act in a team-first way. Coach Pat Fitzgerald expressed annoyance earlier this week over Colter’s surprise attire.

Pat Fitzgerald via on Tuesday:

“I told him I was disappointed in him, not that he believes in the cause and not that he was taking a role in that but … what we try to do collectively is team focused.”

Colter finds himself in a predicament because he is unsure how his higher-ups would have reacted if he discussed the wristband before the game.

“The whole APU thing, it goes against having to ask permission to voice our opinions,” Colter said “I know that he felt a little bit blindsided by it, but in my opinion, as players, we didn’t need to ask permission from a coach or an athletic director or anything like that.”

On Wednesday, Fitzgerald reiterated he is not in disagreement with Colter’s motives, but he is disappointed in the route Colter took on Saturday. ‘Cats fans need not stress, as it appears there is no icy ground between the coach and quarterback.

“I’m fully in support of what he’s doing. I would just like it to be within the team structure,” Fitzgerald said. “I have nothing but the utmost respect for him as a person, for him as a student and obviously him as a player. I have been pretty steadfast in my comments believing what’s best for the student-athletes. I believe in our guys, I believe in what they support, I think we gave back to about 85 or 86 different causes for about 2000 hours for community outreach last year. Just because this it is a hot topic now, we’re talking about. Quite frankly, I think it’s really positive for the student-athletes. There’s ways that we want to do it within our team and those are the things that him and I talked about.”

Likewise, Colter respects his coach and understands why the coaching staff deems his actions a mistake. He expects more maturity on the part of his teammates and himself in the future.

“I don’t think they’re unhappy with the fact that we did do it, but just the fact that it wasn’t a whole team-wide thing, but the thing is this was our first installment,” he says.

As has been the theme of Fitzgerald’s tenure at Northwestern, he keeps energy on the positive side of the spectrum. Rather than expressing passive aggression toward Colter, Fitzgerald will use the experience to continue growing his quarterback and teammates into men.

“When guys see an opportunity to create change, I’m a big fan of it, but they have to understand what’s in it for themselves and things of that nature and what can come along with it,” he said. “It’s a teachable moment, but I’m fully supportive 100 percent behind Kain.”

Although Colter could not determine the most important monetary issue facing college athletes, he did focus on one particular area of the current legal battle: insurance. With constant injuries at the NCAA level, many of which affect athletes long after graduation, Colter at least wants some sort of guarantee in health money.

“There needs to be a guarantee that players aren’t stuck with medical bills after they leave with long-lasting injuries that they suffer from football,” he says. “Essentially, they’re hurt on the job and then they’re stuck with the medical bills if they do need a surgery down the line. That’s one of the biggest things. With the TV revenue being generated, they could use a portion of that to help out the players in some way. I feel like there needs to be a trust fund generated. I don’t feel like there needs to be a direct compensation, but there needs to a trust fund generated somehow that players can assess after they graduate. I feel like that would put incentive for graduation rates to rise.”

After his concussion in week one, Colter can open a new can of worms with head injuries. The NFL recently settled on $765 million to make up for the concussion marks the league has left on former players. Colter said the NCAA should take a look at what the NFL is doing and use it as a blueprint, especially seeing collegiate athletes do not have their own union to fight with.

“Even Obama has made statements,” Colter said.

Colter and Fitzgerald both agree this is not about the two of them as individuals. Their actions and statements have become a focus of the issues facing college athletes this week, but the duo is just a speck in the big picture.

“This is bigger than Northwestern,” Colter said. “I love Northwestern and I love my experience. I feel like people are making it me vs. Northwestern, us vs. the institution. It’s not that at all. It’s players coming together for a better cause.”

Fitzgerald has eyes locked in to Ohio State.

“It’s got nothing to do with me and frankly right now, it has nothing to do with our team,” he said. “I’m focused on the team and whatever’s best for us to get prepared for our challenges as we move forward and most importantly, for us to improve. That’s my focus and that will continue to be my focus.”

Colter is also gearing up for his first primetime ABC experience when the ‘Cats take on the Buckeyes at Ryan Field a week from Saturday. He says he is unsure if he will wear the wristband during the nationally-televised game. According to Fitzgerald, the team leadership council discussed the APU topic earlier this week.

What is for sure is that Colter is satisfied with his stand versus Maine.

“It got a lot of publicity and a lot of recognition,” he said. “It was a small thing. I didn’t think it was going to get blown up as big as it did. I’m glad it did. I’m just glad it’s sparking conversation now.”

Colter did not speak of other players on other teams who are in support of APU, but he did explain his relationship with his political allies who may be enemies on the field.

“Even though we compete every Saturday, we need to come together for a greater cause. I’m not going to have any individual benefit from this. I’m going to be gone after this year and there’s not going to be any changes before I leave, so this is for the guys that I play with, for all the guys around the nation, younger guys, that hopefully some changes can be made hopefully by the time they go through. Then they’ll be able to see those changes.”

Aside from Colter’s wardrobe, Fitzgerald was not entirely enthused by Colter’s play on the field last Saturday. In fact, neither of his quarterbacks was all that impressive. The 35-21 victory over Maine did not bring the pleasure a two-touchdown win should bring to the eyes of coaches and fans.

“I think there’s a couple throws [Kain] would like to have back. I think there’s a couple things Trevor would like to have back, but a wins a win,” Fitzgerald said. “I think there are a lot of things we can improve with all 22 guys, offensively and defensively, and continue to improve in the kicking game.”

Most of the starters did not participate in practice drills Wednesday as they continued to rest during the first half of the bye week. Unlike normal bye weeks, the backups are getting some more crowds than usual this week, as a certain #5 continues to practice. Senior running back Venric Mark took snaps in the backfield, most of which came with RS sophomore quarterback Zack Oliver under center.

Away from the x’s and o’s, Fitzgerald was giddy over Tuesday’s scheduling announcement. As LTP commented this morning, Northwestern will host Northern Illinois at Ryan Field on September 6, 2014. The game fills the whole left vacant by Vanderbilt after the SEC school ended its scheduling marriage with NU in 2012 for games on the 2013 and 2014 schedule.

The new 2014 non-conference schedule now includes last year’s BCS National Championship Game loser, Notre Dame (away), last year’s Orange Bowl loser, Northern Illinois (home), a rising Pac-12 team, California (home), and FCS Western Illinois (home). The ‘Cats also get Penn State in State College and Michigan at home (Wrigley Field?) in their two crossover games.

“I wouldn’t have scheduled the game unless we wanted to have our schedule where we wanted it to be. We’re excited for the challenge,” Fitzgerald said.

In recent seasons, the athletic department has been praised for scheduling big name opponents, while critics believe many of those teams were overrated. With two 2012 BCS opponents on the 2014 docket, it is tough to criticize Fitzgerald’s scheduling tactics for the future.

As for Ohio State, Fitzgerald is not forcing his players to spend their Saturday nights camped out in front of a TV at the athletic facility. He says he will take the bye week to enjoy with friends and family in his own home. Of course, a ton of college football will be screened.

“I’ll just watch it as a fan and enjoy the whole day as a dad and a husband,” he said “I’ll rest a little bit. The whole program has a day off to just enjoy college football. I don’t know what time everybody’s coming over, but we’re going to have a little tailgate in the morning, watch GameDay and all that stuff, BTN show, have some fun and then watch some games, hang out with kids. It’s going to be fun.”

Fitz said he watched some game snapshots, but as of Wednesday morning, he had not watched the cutups yet. He said he expected to watch them this afternoon with the coaching staff.

With OSU junior quarterback Braxton Miller’s health still up in the air, Fitzgerald will have to prepare for both Miller and senior Kenny Guiton. Neither is easy to defend against.

“I’ve seen the stats and watched the games. Both guys move the ball, both guys are explosive, both guys make big time plays. They’re very very talented from the snapshots I’ve seen. They’re got a terrific supporting cast and a very physical offensive line, so they’re two very dynamic football players,” Fitzgerald said.

While he may act casual about it, Fitzgerald will likely put most of his week’s energy into watching the Wisconsin at Ohio State game on Saturday night. It is certainly among the most anticipated non-NU games in his tenure as head coach of the Wildcats.

Fitzgerald also has immense respect for Urban Meyer and Gary Andersen. When a reporter joked about how Fitzgerald may be rooting for the game to go into multiple overtimes, the coach kept a straight face.

“I just hope they all stay healthy,” he said. “It’s like I say to every coach when I see them before the game: just stay healthy. It should be a great Big Ten football game.”

As the week progresses, starters will return to regular practice and continue to study Ohio State. Homecoming cannot come soon enough.

  • Mark Wheaton

    Great report on the APU thing. I can see both sides of the issue: KC’s passion for making change, and PF’s passion for Team above individuals. This is the sort of leadership that I expect out of NU students and administrators.

    • Johnny Utah

      Explain to me how creating a distraction on the eve of the most important game in years is leadership.

      • Mark Wheaton

        Well, it was actually 2 weeks before the most important game in years. Fitz preaches 1-0 so Colter couldn’t have been thinking about anything except Maine.

        • Johnny Utah

          You didn’t explain how Colter’s stunt is leadership. Quite frankly, I am coming to the belief that Colter should be benched for the OSU game, not for his opinions, but for the fact that he admittedly blindsided Fitz. He has put the “I” into team.

          • Next Cat

            Respectfully, that’s a pretty odd definition of what being a good teammate might be — expressing a personal opinion about a non-team related issue without prior permission from the coach. Colter has ALWAYS been a very unselfish, team-oriented guy for Northwestern. He’s shown that in his on field demeanor and his post-game comments. It’s apparent to me that his teammates love and respect him. He is quick to give credit to others and he has handled the co-quarterback situation far far better than any of us have any right to expect.. and that most major college players in his situation would.

          • Chasmo

            How do you feel about kids who kneel down after scoring touchdowns, or pointing to the sky, or making the sign of the cross? Don’t they know there is no “g” in team?
            Should those kids be banned from expressing their opinion that whatever god they believe in either somehow gets an assist or takes divine pleasure in their hitting pay dirt when many of their teammates and coaches and fans might not agree with that theological statement?
            Should they keep their religious opinions to themselves, least they create — gasp! — a “distraction”?
            Shouldn’t they realize that their only real purpose in life is to win games and make us fans happy?
            What’s wrong with these kids?

          • Johnny Utah

            Apples and oranges. Spontaneous celebratory gestures versus political statements. You do know that the NCAA banned players who put messages on their eye black patches including Tim Tebow.

          • David

            Chasmo…as we have seen all year…nothing makes you happy. Well except perhaps some friction between our QB and coach.

          • Mark Wheaton

            There may not be an “I” in TEAM, but there is a “ME”………….

      • JM

        It’s actually during the only bye week of the season.

  • drosejr

    Best writeup I’ve seen to date on the APU movement, and I’m glad it’s not being painted as a players vs coaches or players vs Northwestern situation. Awareness-raising on the sizable gap between scholarship proceeds and the cost of education – which cannot be covered by loans – is important. I never knew before this started that medical costs are borne by the student-athletes. Clearly, something has to change, and not just for football players, as Colter stated. Though the O’Bannon lawsuit will probably be the biggest stick against the NCAA on matters like these, movements like APU can’t hurt.

  • David

    My only concern in this situation is how it impacts the team.
    -Kain told some of his teammates before the game…and some of those players participated. How do the teammates that Kain did not trust enough to tell before the game feel about the surprise.
    -Fitz said it was a teachable moment. But…I am not sure that Kain embraced what Fitz was teaching. Sure Kain is smart enough that he can repeat Fitz’s concerns…but the interview reveals that Kain has no regret about leaving the team out of the loop.
    -I wonder how Fitz will react to the interview. In the interview, Kain was defiant in a subtle way. He basically said I don’t need permission to express myself.
    – Fitz told Kain he had 3 minutes…I don’t care if they want to talk to you. The interview continued for another 5-6 minutes. If the team was waiting on Kain to finish his interview…I don’t imagine Fitz was happy.
    -I hope Kain’s focus is on winning each B10 game this season. He can become the face of the movement when he season is over.

    This might be one of Fitz’s biggest challenges as a coach. It is clear that Kain may not be finished with the protests. How does Fitz deal with the actions to maintain team unity and his authority.

    I like Kain Colter very much. However, I did not feel great about the interview.

    • zeek

      My main concern at this point is whether there’s any real friction between Kain and Fitz. Everyone needs to get to the same page pronto (and from the little discrepancies I’m not sure they are). The last thing we need is some kind of tension between our HC and one of the main leaders on the team before going into a national spotlight game that will receive enormous coverage for a week…

      I doubt either Kain or Fitz wants that to be one of the major angles of the sports media coverage…

      • Philip Rossman-Reich

        There is a natural friction when you get into something like this. Fitzgerald has to represent his bosses who are ultimately a part of the establishment that Colter and the others are making a statement against. Like Kain said, he did not feel like he could go to the administration or else it would get gummed up in the machinery. It is an unfortunate dichotomy, but that is what happens, I guess.

        • Next Cat

          Disagree. The beef is with NCAA, not with Northwestern, Fitz, Phillips, Morty or anyone else at NU. Institutionally, everything I’ve seen/heard suggests the NU administration would probably agree w/ most, if not all, of the APU concerns. Agree that if part of the point is that the current players have an important independent voice that deserves to be heard it would be hypocritical to seek permission from the coach, AD or school before that voice is raised.

          Look, players express themselves all the time on the field. I’d much rather a player for Northwestern write “APU” on his wristband than make some “show me the money” rubbing his fingers together gesture.

          • Philip Rossman-Reich

            Definitely. I think Northwestern does things the right way. They make that four-year commitment and they stand by it. It is better than a lot of other schools, especially in major conferences.

    • DT

      This has officially become the dreaded, “distraction”.. The fact the QB is even addressing it and Fitz has to dance as well, is not good.. While winning cures most everything at this level- ain’t going to make that process one bit easier with this subplot developing… That said, I don’t disagree with what Colter is advocating.. Moreover, how and when he is doing it..

      • Philip Rossman-Reich

        Luckily it is a bye week. Story will blow over before the game.

        • DT

          Hope you are right, PRR..

        • Shamus Pyle

          Not sure it will blow over. This becomes Colter’s identity, and as a team leader, the focus whenever the media discusses the team. Colter is acting in a – for lack of a better word – selfish manner, since he is equipped with a large megaphone courtesy of the TEAM’S early success and Top 20 ranking vis a vis whatever HIS success may have factored into the record. Assuming College Game Day pitches its tent at Ryan Stadium, we can expect additional interviews and distractions . . . unless and until the team nosedives to mediocrity . . . which we can, in turn, blame on the distractions.

      • Next Cat

        Why is it a “distraction” and not just an on-going story about a very important topic? The NY Times, ESPN and other outlets have been covering these issues extensively and the major problems with the NCAA. Why is having a smart player weigh in a “distraction”? Not every story during football season that involves football players talking about non-game/team subjects is a “distraction.”

        • DT

          The NY Times, ESPN and a multitude of other media platforms including this blog exist to cover these type issues… A D-1 football player choosing to position himself into a leadership activist role of sorts is ancillary to his core function as student-athlete and in the case of Kain Colter, number one QB of a nationally ranked football team.
          IMHO, that ranks a distraction when the primary focus should be on what could be the biggest regular season game for this program since it won its last Big Ten title in 2000.. Ohio State ranks a formidable enough challenge without this topic being front and center and possibly more damaging– some difference of opinion amongst his squad members not to mention coaches and admin..

          • Next Cat

            We may agree to disagree but I gotta say that every football team I’ve been on — including a highly successful one — involved all sorts of differences of opinions on all sorts of subjects. Teams unify around common goals — winning games. Differences of opinion about everything else usually made things way more interesting and fun. This ain’t a disagreement about playing time, or anything game or team-related at all so I very highly doubt that it’s a “distraction” in the locker room.

            Try this analogy — there are lots of differences of opinions expressed on this blog but on Saturdays this “LTP team” always comes together to root on the Cats. Our various personal views are no distraction from that at all. Same thing in the locker room.

          • DT

            Well said.. Sometimes the team dynamic can withstand external forces of all kinds.. In fact, coaches including our own current Head Coach, create the “us against the world” mantra for unity and cohesion..
            That said, we are going to disagree on this one.. Given the nature of the protest, campaign for awareness or however one chooses to classify Kain’s participation in this APU “cause” I’m going to contend, it is a distraction that this team does not need currently given what it confronts on the field of play in the next few weeks..

          • LTP

            I tend to agree with you DT. The point of the timing is especially interesting. On the one hand he’s accomplished part of his mission..look at the comments today – we’re all talking about it, media is covering it, etc…However, it’s hard to not put this in the “team distraction” category, although, we don’t know that to be true either. It’s “distracting” from the standpoint of the media writing about it and we’re not talking about the game, We have no idea on whether this is creating any kind of distraction in the lockerroom. Anything that takes the focus off of the mission of 10/5, I’d deem a distraction. Will be interesting.

          • Next Cat

            Believe it or not, football players do not, cannot, should not focus exclusively on the big game 24/7. That will only cause them to play tight. “Distractions” — girlfriends, politics, family, video games,.. uh, class/studies, etc. — are all part of life and are usually good and necessary things. Distractions are only bad if they take time away from game prep or divide teams in any way. So far, there is zero evidence of that here… and I’m having a hard time imagining why there would be.

          • DT

            I get your passion, NC.. I’ll also respect what is seemingly earnest experience at some level of participation in team sports. Be that as it may, to compare the day to day activities of life that is fully expected of a Division One athlete and spin those as “Distractions” in the same light as what Colter is doing on behalf of this evolving and news making APU pursuit is to my way of thinking apples and oranges… Somehow, I think you get it as well.. I’d also suggest Manti Teo and to a lesser extent AJ McCarron can tell you a girlfriend can be a distraction when the press gets involved. There is the rub..

          • Next Cat

            DT, I agree that press coverage like this is always a distraction to fans. But I disagree that press coverage involving players speaking about strictly non-team/non-game matters is always a negative distraction to the team. This is nothing like the Teo or McCarron coverage. It’s not a scandal. It’s not stupid, personality-driven, selfish, attention-grabbing nonsense. Whether or not you agree with him, it’s an intelligent and knowledgeable player saying important and relevant things about a subject of great public interest. Most of the national commentary about him and others speaking out so far has been positive, not negative. Sorry, I really don’t get how that automatically becomes a negative distraction for his team.

            Sure it COULD become a distraction if Colter or Fitz mishandles it… or if people overreact or try to turn this into some sort of controversy between him and Fitz. But, I think it’s a mistake to just assume it will turn out that way. It sure doesn’t have to. These guys are smart and talented. They can not only walk and chew gum at the same time, they can practice/play football and still publicly discuss the issues of the day.

            I’m not saying this is anyone’s view here but I’m pretty skeptical whenever folks seem to want the athletes they cheer to “just shut up and play.” And I’m not saying Colter’s little gesture belongs in this category but it seems to me historically that most of the athletes who were criticized most for speaking out on important subjects turned out to be right in the long run and the alleged distractions they were creating for their teams were shown to be way overblown. Can you give me a non-Teo-style example of where a player speaking out on an important subject led to a decline in his team’s performance? I can’t think of any off-hand.

    • Next Cat

      Respectfully, I think you’re waayyy overreacting to this. Fitz’s “authority” is not at stake here… nor is team unity. C’mon, this is a very bright young man, with three plus years of experience in major college football, with the right to speak out about any subject he wants. This ain’t some “wet behind the ears” freshie. And, all he did was put three letters on a wristband in support of a cause that will benefit only others — not himself — in solidarity with other like-minded players who, after all, were mostly trying to communicate that they have a voice independent from the schools they represent. Clearing this with the coach beforehand would be inconsistent with the message they were trying to communicate. And, their plan worked beautifully exactly because it was so restrained and subtle. On Saturday when it counted, neither Colter nor his APU comrades were a distraction from their teams and games… not one bit. I could not be more proud of Colter right now. I’ll take him to represent Northwestern over Johnny Football and his antics any day.

      • David

        I’m sorry. Fitz can not feel good about his star player undermining his message. Fitz said it was a teachable moment. Kain came out and did not say it was a mistake in judgement. He said he blind sided his coach and the approach was necessary. This players association loves his defiant tenor. His coach…probably not so much. He engaged in behavior which he had to conceal. Then he says in an interview…I understand where Fitz is coming from, but the whole point is that I don’t need my coaches permission to speak my mind. You also heard Fitz yell that he needed Kain on the field in 3 minutes. Kain obviously did not comply with this request. If you were on a successful team…you know this would not fly with the coach. This group is getting a lot of mileage out of Kain. I hope he doesn’t let his teammates down.

        • Next Cat

          Nothing I’ve read suggests Colter was “defiant” or that Fitz thinks of him that way. I read Colter very respectfully disagreeing with his coach. That’s not defiance… and it’s far better than what many star athletes do. As for the “teachable moment” part, I sort of cringed when I read Fitz said that. I respect that Fitz sees his role partly as molding young men but there’s a big difference between how you handle and “teach” freshmen teenagers and how you handle a senior, veteran leader. In this case, I’m not clear what lesson Fitz thinks he needs to teach a player who clearly feels moved to take a position on behalf of others, to show leadership, to do what he personally thinks is right, and to do it in a way that he sincerely felt would not distract the team. Seems to me those are the exact qualities Fitz is trying to instill in these young men. That’s the big picture here. The friendly disagreement between coach and player about whether he should’ve checked in first is trivial compared to that and, in my book, perfectly OK. (And, I don’t think failing to seek permission qualifies as “concealment.”)

          • David

            You should listen to the interview. I promise Kain and Fitz will be having another sit down. Fitz was likely fuming while he and the team stood and waited for Kain to finish up with the reporters…after requesting him to be on the field in 3 minutes. It will be interesting to see if this group uses Kain to make a bigger statement on the ABC Prime time stage.

            I think this issue will be a test of Fitz’s leadership.

          • Next Cat

            Fair point. I’ve been reacting to what I’ve read — have not heard the actual audio. (Where is it?) Agree this could be a test of Fitz’s leadership if for no other reason it’s not something he’s faced before. I’ll be disappointed if he overreacts, ends up being too much of an old school “my way or the highway” football coach. I hate to think of him that way and, frankly, if that’s how he comes off it will hurt recruiting of modern day smart players. I think he’s up to it.

          • Roy Lamberton

            I doubt Colter went out to upstage Fitz – more likely the stories surrounding the “APU” band led to a media frenzy.

            BTW – I don’t remember players being available before the Coach talked after practice. Under RW – we always grabbed Randy for his comments, then the media folks would get you the players for their individual interviews.

            Not sure (as a media director for a big sporting event now) that I agree to players or coaches talking to media before a game, and players are always available AFTER the coach talks.

      • JimBob Jonesey

        Next Cat = Kain Colter

        p.s. you went to town on Fitz’s game plan for Western Michigan, you questioned Fitz’s trustworthiness during 9/25/13 practice, and you know he’s in too difficult a position to bench you for Ohio State due to the nature of your off-the-field problems. If I receive your resume, I’m not sure I’d hire someone with these sorts of authority problems.

        • Next Cat

          Fair enough. I’m not sure I’d want to work for a guy/outfit who sees this as an “authority” issue. You and I obviously use different criteria when making hiring decisions. Personally, I look for folks with leadership ability, records of accomplishment in team settings, intelligence, and who are not afraid to speak their minds in a thoughtful manner even if it might be different than my or the company line. My very best and most valuable employees have always been the ones who constructively challenge my assumptions and my sometimes “old ways” of doing and thinking about things.

          • JimBob Jonesey

            My establishment is a brick and mortar shop where the absence of discipline leads to labor strife, work comp injuries, and less-than-overseas-competitive production. It is not unreasonable to assume that you hold a management title in some professional sector business, perhaps marketing? I hope the concept of college football teams relate closer to your business model than mine, since I am an unofficial booster for NU Football. Yet, the simplicity of the game suggests otherwise . . .

    • Chasmo

      If Fitz really wants to solve this “distraction,” he can have the entire NU team wear APU on their wrist bands vs. Ohio State.
      If he really does believe that his players, who earn millions for him, for the television networks, for the video game companies, and for the merchandizers, should share in some of that enormous wealth as he says he does, he should tell all his players to wear APU on their wrist bands vs. Ohio State.
      It would not only be doing something to unite the team, it would be doing the right thing.
      Fans whose only concern is that the players beat Ohio State and win the Big Ten conference title might be forgetting that these kids are not video game icons. They are real human beings, many of them will be paying medical bills out of their own pockets years from trying to cope with the chronic injuries they suffered entertaining us fans while playing for NU.
      Hats off to Colter. The ball is now in Fitzgerald’s court.

  • NUMBalum77

    If college players are to be paid, then they should have to foot their own tuition and living expenses. Can’t have it both ways.

    • Al

      Why not?

    • Chasmo

      Of course you can have it both ways.
      College coaches get paid a salary AND get housing allowances and free cars and low or no interest loans and TV shows, and summer camps, and access to a private jet and all sorts of other perks. You should see their contract riders.
      If players get paid, room and board and tuition can be a perk.

  • Catatonic Joe

    I commented on the APU issue about an hour ago under the last story headline, and I have to say again, sorry, but I have no sympathy for the attempts to renegotiate the very good deal our student athletes receive. There are a lot of NU students (myself and my wife included) who have received tuition and a stipend in exchange for military service that might ultimately put their lives at risk. They weighed those risks when accepting the scholarship and I have little sympathy for athletes who may become millionaires (or may not) complaining that the deal was not fair. Might you get a concussion, break a leg, or develop a bad back as an athlete? You bet. Might you risk the same possibilities or worse in the military, in exchange for the same free tuition. Yes. In either case, you are aware of those risks before you sign the deal.

    I’m disappointed because this sounds a little too similar to the NFL and NBA players whining that they cannot feed their families on just $5M or $10M per year. As my daughter is fond of saying, that is a suburban, 1st world problem. Whatever a person has or receives, they can eventually convince themselves that it’s not enough and they deserve more. I’m afraid that our student athletes are reading too many of their press clippings and are losing perspective.

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      I do not think the college athletes are asking for millions of dollars. They are asking for more assurances from universities that their scholarships will be respected (no more grayshirting, for instance) and that the schools will care for the players that get hurt. Right now, it is easy for a player to feel he is very disposable and that once they are injured they will be discarded.

      Look at Colter himself. Stanford pulled their scholarship when he got hurt. Imagine if that would have happened to him while he was in school. Does Stanford still honor their commitment to him? What happens if he has to foot his medical bills and his family cannot afford it? These are serious questions that student athletes are asking themselves. You cannot blame them for reaching some of these conclusions.

      As I said in my post before, I don’t think there is an easy solution. I do not know what that solution is either.

    • Chasmo

      Does Fitzgerald deserve $2 million a year thanks to these kids?
      Does ESPN and the BTN and EA Sports and Under Armor deserve the millions they make every year thanks to these kids?
      Is it just the kids who are greedy and not all the adults who get rich exploiting the public interest in these kids’ exploits?
      Is it just professional athletes who are greedy or is it the billionaire owners of professional teams who pressure politicians to use tax dollars to pay for stadiums where the pro teams play for little or no rent?

      • A Fistful of Salt


        Do we really even want to watch college football anymore?

        These kids accepted scholarships in exchange for playing a sport; they will have no student loans to pay back and alumni name recognition unlike the majority of their peers. And unlike professionals, they can’t get fired for lousy performances. To view this issue through a Marxist prism – exploitation? – is silly. If Colter wants to become a head coach, and put in the hours for training, strategizing, recruiting, etc., he can do so if and when his maturity hits; then he can “exploit” the masses.

        • Next Cat

          I plead guilty to the charge of using the term “exploitation” and even the term “comrade” last night. I plead very not guilty to that being silly or Marxist. Respectfully, you’re missing the point. It’s not Colter and Northwestern players who are being exploited. They’ve been clear about that. The APU cause is about future players at all those other schools — esp. the football/basketball factories — where the vast majority of the players will never go pro, far too few will graduate or get much of value from their scholarships, and some will be injured and stuck with future medical bills. It’s not about us. It’s about many of the poor schmucks we’ll play on Oct. 5th — the loyal Buckeyes at the end of the bench, who rarely see the field in their four/five years, who have distorted and used their bodies in ways that will take a toll later in life, and who never really had much chance of graduating. Personally, I find it honorable that some of our guys want to express solidarity not only with our team but also with the least fortunate among our opponents.

        • Go Cats!

          Unless given a guaranteed 4-year scholarship – which VERY few schools do – players can be “fired” – every year.
          Stop watching if you find this so offensive – though I’m struggling to find the “I would like my medical bills paid if I get hurt while playing a scholarship sport” so offensive.

    • Next Cat

      Cat Joe, thank you for your service. Now if you got injured during you military service, wouldn’t the military continue to cover the cost of treating that injury even after you left the service? I sure hope so! That’s exactly what Colter and APU are asking for — medical coverage that covers football-related injuries even after graduation (or the expiration of eligibility). And, by the way, they are not asking for this for themselves — they are not “renegotiating” anything. They are seeking changes that would benefit only others and that are necessary for the vast majority of college athletes who will not turn pro and make millions of dollars.

      I’d like to think Northwestern does not exploit its athletes. I fully expect most of our guys are given every opportunity and encouragement to take full educational advantage of their scholarships. But, Northwestern is the exception in major college sports, rather than the rule… and I am very proud that Northwestern athletes are standing up in solidarity with future athletes at other schools who will continue to be horribly exploited without major changes.

      Northwestern athletes — specifically because of the educational benefits they’ve reaped and because of the leadership roles they’ve been taught to embrace — are uniquely suited to make a difference for others on these issues. I think it would be a shame if, given this opportunity through APU, they DIDN’T embrace it.

      Go Cats!! Win that game, spread far the fame.. AND do some good in the world…

  • TENman

    I have never been involved with college athletics, and perhaps have more liberty to take the 30,000 ft view, or if you prefer, the view from ground level. But it seems to me that being a scholarship athlete is one of the greatest privileges and blessings conceivable for the 99% of college athletes out there. The tuition and room and board is a tangible benefit, and the intangible experiences of playing and training at the varsity level are to be treasured for a lifetime.

    So where does the current APU discontentment lie? Clearly with the fact the a scant minority of college athletes (the 1%) view the terms of being a student-athlete as a vast restriction of their financial opportunities. So the rules are now asked to be changed to accommodate the 1%. Fine.

    But let’s hypothesize about a very plausible outcome of a relaxation of the rules. What’s to prevent a rich booster from starting a shell company that decides it would be a good idea to reward a potential recruit with the promise of a $1,000,000 advertising campaign. Nothing wrong with this under the new rules, right? Any need for the scholarship now? Let’s say that the entire football team can be bought for a certain price. The entire team is admitted to the school and pays their own way. Is this still amateur athletics? Is there something valuable about the concept of the student athlete that is worth keeping?

    Now, how about the rest of the students? Doesn’t Title IX guarantee that there be no discrimination between genders regarding scholarships, not regarding athletes? What happens to ladies teams when the entire 80 some scholarship football team transitions from a scholarship model to a pay for play model? Could this be an unforeseen consequence?

    I understand the grievance of the APU, but also cherish and value the concept of the student athlete. It’s part of what makes the collegiate sporting experience so alluring. It’s not the NFL or the NBA, and I don’t want it to become such. It seems to me the only way to prevent college football from being exactly such is to have the rules the way they are now. Yes, it does hurt a few players, but I do believe it is for a nobler cause.

    • Mark

      I agree with a lot of what you say, but if you were in their situation rather than at 30,000 feet you might feel it’s a little hypocritical to pay the head ball coach $3 million dollars while you’re getting tuition and room and board, the conference staff and school hangers-on are also making big money, had prohibitions on your work, and had to cover your own medical expenses.

      I also agree about the Title IX and olympic sport issues – at the universities that don’t depend on student fee subsidies to fully or partially support athletics the men’s football and basketball programs pay for all the other sports. There are just a few schools where the women’s basketball program makes money.

      So while I generally understand and agree with Colter’s belief that everyone is making big money except the players, I don’t see how the math works at most schools to pay all athletes a stipend. It works for schools whose conference has a tv network or their own television contract (TSFSB and UT-Austin), but for most schools the math doesn’t work unless you charge all students an outrageous fee for things they don’t participate in or benefit from.

      My guess is that this issue isn’t a problem within the team any more than different players’ beliefs about the Tea Party, marriage equality, racial profiling, etc. A team that’s tight understands that these things are not a factor for dissension on the team itself.

      • TENman

        You’re right to note that there are a lot of issues here at play. To me, the first and foremost is the sanctity of the amateur designation of college athletes. And I’m afraid that at least some of the ends of the APU movement would work toward obfuscating the amateur designation. As such, I’m actually quite comfortable with the idea of student athletes not being able to market themselves as such.
        However, what I do find sympathetic about the APU is the grievance that others are profiting from them. EA Sports College Football is a prime example. This would be a cause I would rally around immediately. If the players are amateurs, they should be treated as such by all parties, and this is clearly not happening now. This is what I find hypocritical about the situation.
        As far as coaches’ salaries go, well, the coaches aren’t amateur, and their compensation can be linked to market forces. Think about Fitz. Suppose his ability and talent alone contributes to putting 7,000 more fans in the seats each home game, every year. That’s nearly $2,000,000 each year in additional revenue, at a marginal cost of pennies to the dollar. The attendance increase alone is enough to justify his salary, let alone the auxiliary increases in fundraising, merchandise licensing, etc.
        And then you have the issue of the distraction to the team. The timing of this of course raises eyebrows because it coincides with the most marketable Northwestern game in over a decade. My sincere hope is that Kain has told his teammates that the APU is just something he feels strongly in, that there is no pressure for buy in or support, and that team always comes first. But that’s me. I’d hope to think that OSU has the team’s focus and attention over APU.

        • Mark

          Understand your comment about market forces, but if my immediate boss was making 40 to 50 times what I was I would question it. And knowing my boss could quit at any moment to take another job whereas I would be prohibited from “working” for a year if I decided to change my “job” location. Agree, there are a lot of moving parts here but are primarily set up for a few people to make a lot of money off a lot of people.

  • Alaskawildcat

    Since we don’t have a college level football team here in Alaska, it is nice to see that players across the nation are giving some recognition to our major private university here by wearing armbands to bring awareness to APU – Alaska Pacific University.

  • NUMBalumDave

    Jim Delaney made some comments on ‘pay-for-play’:

    I find it interesting that the one concrete example KC brought up was an especially good one: on-going medical bills.

    Most of the revenue sports kids spend a ton of time and family money preparing them for collegiate play and scholarship money. Sure, there are kids who never spend a dime and get coached so well they can play at the level required, but most of these kids spend a fortune in the hopes of earning a fortune in scholarship money. And, let’s not kid ourselves, in the hopes of earning a fortune playing pro sports, as well.

    But if a kid gets hurt playing the college game and his playing career is not only over, but his healing career has just begun, then the system really OUGHT to pony up, and I believe KC is right about that.

    Four-year commitments help. A continuing commitment to pay for sports-related injuries would be best.

  • Killawafer

    Love the writeup, kind of disappointed with our community. We have over a week to go until the start of conference play, and yet the most discussion centers around how Kain is “distracting” the team from being the best they can be. Kain isn’t selfishly thrusting himself into a media feeding frenzy, he’s speaking about ways to restore some modicum of equity to this ridiculous situation we have on our hands.

    One indisputable fact is that college football has become an industry. Between facilities, coaching, training, tv/radio, print journalism, and even internet blogging, people are monetizing what these young men do on (and apparently now off) the field. This is NOT A BAD THING. Clearly, we as a society see a tremendous amount of value on watching/hearing/reading about our teams (especially if they’re winning). Kain and others are making a direct plea to the fans, coaches, and commissioners for increasing the value we place on player safety and well-being, especially AFTER graduation.

    We’re Northwestern fans, many of us are students or alumni, and I think that means something. I think we need to hold ourselves to higher standards and really take a moment to consider whether or not “the mission of 10/5” is more important the mission of ensuring that the >95% of football players who DON’T go pro can pay for the injuries they sustained as a result of playing football in college. I’m not an ethicist, but I don’t think it’s hard to argue that if you’ve made money off of the players, you at least owe them some respect and support (especially with regards to the medical costs that they inevitably incur).

    LakeThePosts, you’ve repeatedly emphasized the importance of supporting our program. You’ve gone above and beyond in your efforts to sell tickets, organize watch parties, and highlight other opportunities for fans to celebrate a shared culture of Northwestern football. Now however, I think our program needs a different kind of support – one that more directly supports the players. They’re not asking for anything out of your pocket or mine, they just want to be heard.

    I’m late to the party. I doubt that this comment will be read, but if it is, I implore you LTP to set the tone. Let’s talk about NCAA reform without talking about what a waste of time it is that Kain Colter dared to have an opinion.

    • Next Cat

      Agree w/ most of this but disagree there’s any problem with the tone here. It’s fine for us to disagree w/out getting too disagreeable. Colter’s comments and APU’s tactics are, if nothing else, thought provoking and reading and reacting to the range of folks’ opinions on them here is illuminating. Northwestern taught me robust free speech is a good thing. I support it for players and I support it for fans. I’ll see you Oct 5, dressed in purple, screaming my head off and wearing an “AFU” (All Fans United) wristband.

      • DT

        Saul Alinsky would be proud of your technique, Next Cat.. Well done..

        • Next Cat

          Yeah, well, Northwestern taught me all about Saul Alinsky too. DT — I admire your technique as well but can’t quite pinpoint your intellectual influences. I’ve always thought of you as one of a kind, a true original! (Though I confess there were times in the past when I assumed your primary inspiration was Eeyore… not so much this year.)

          • DT

            Gotta tip my hat to you on that one, NC… :-) I now know more about Winnie The Pooh than I ever did before..
            Peace and for that matter power to the players, comrade!

    • DT

      “I’m not an ethicist”.. Right, and the Pope is not catholic either..
      We get it.. And I’d hope you agree, Kain certainly has been heard in this community you seem to be displeased with.. You have been heard as well..
      Now about that game with Ohio State..

      • Killawafer

        You seem to have a lot of hostility towards discussing NCAA reform. Why is that?

        • DT

          If you have been reading my comments here for four years, you would know I’m all for NCAA reform in many ways. That said, I think the hostility comes in your passive aggressive disappointment with this community and LTP et al.. And give me a break on the “I’m not an ethicist”.. Not only an ethicist, but a moralist as well..
          That said, Go Cats..

        • David

          Many of us believe that this team can go to the Rose Bowl. I specifically do not like the interview. Kain basically states that Fitz feels one way…but basically he doesn’t controll me.

          Notice those of us who are unhappy about the situation are unhappy about the interview more than the action. Also, notice that we are not down on Kain as a person/player…we are unhappy about one thing that he did, the interview.

          And Yes…guilty as charged…I want my team’s starting QB to care #1 about his team and being the face of a movement falls somewhere further down the list.

          • AlanG69

            You’ll forgive Colter and the other players then if their #1 priority is their health and safety instead.

  • Henry in Rose Bowl Country

    It seems to me that this is a labor vs. management situation that has been handled in a heavy-handed clumsy way. I don’t see anything wrong with what Colter did or with the cause. To say that it hurt team unity is ridiculous and Fitzgerald’s reaction made him look stupid. If team unity or the NU program was hurt by this it was because of Fitzgerald not Colter.

  • Roy Lamberton

    Colter essentially said that it is “easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission” when pushed about the decision process. Many, many business successes come from following this old management maxim…..

    What needs to happen is a more formal catastrophic medical plan for college athletes in ALL sports. I’m sure that agents or alums “provide” that at some schools, in that Kane is 100% right – maybe that is the grand compromise that settles (for now) the concept of paying players. Use the money that would be royalties to the players to provide an insurance fund for all of the collegiate players to cover the long term care for injuries.

    It is something to think about and discuss.

    • David

      Except he did not beg for forgiveness. He in no way acknowledged that his decision may have been hurtful to the team. He said that if I asked…I may have been shot down. He said Fitz felt blind sided…but he whole point is that I don’t need to ask permission. His position seems to be that ….even if this did hurt the team…this is an issue worth standing up for.

      Though Fitz agrees with Kain on all of the issues as head coach he can’t like his captain putting a cause ahead of the team. It also relfects poorly on Fitz that he was defiant after their discussions. Kain did not come out and say…I believe in the cause, but I should have put my team first.

  • Next Cat

    EA just settled their part of the Ed O’Bannon suit and announced there will be no new edition of their College Football game next year. The NCAA remains as a defendant in that case… and it’s not looking good for them after the judge recently granted the motion to certify the case as a class action. (No doubt that’s why EA cried “uncle” and settled.)

    Like it or not, the world is shifting beneath our feet.

    As for Colter and APU, as usual Rodger Sherman says it far better than I can —

  • LTP

    Jim Delany’s comments are something that I’ve talked about quite a bit over years. It has more been with basketball and prior to the D-League, that college hoops was in someway the de facto minor league. It’s a subject for a post, but my own personal opinion re: the debate around leaving early for the NBA had underlying racial implications. No one ever discussed minor league hockey and minor league baseball, which were and are filled with athletes who don’t go to college. Yet, when it came to hoops, everyone cries “but they need to get an education”.
    College football has been the minor leagues of the NFL, but much of that has to do with the physical development and talent level inherent with a system that has had a 130-year head start. Not race.
    I for one, would be all for a minor league football system. You just sense that we are at a boiling point in all of this. Kain Colter’s protest, the O’Bannon case picking up momentum, the NCAA taking down jerseys with numbers on them after getting trashed by Jay Bilas and now Jim Delany making one of the most stirring commentaries from an “insider” on the issue. Wow.
    Not coincidentally, I’m having John U. Bacon on LTP this weekend. He’s the author of Fourth and Long, a compelling book exploring this very issue of the professionalism of college football through the eyes of Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Northwestern

  • LTP

    Ladies and gents. For the most part, I’m really pleased to see the discourse on this thread. Wildly differing points of view, mostly compassionate and respectful and most of all thoughtful. I’m proud we can agree to disagree without stooping to name-calling and online bullying. Keep it up. And that Eeyore reference was pretty darn funny.

  • Kain and Able

    I thought Colter was advocating for a living wage at all Kwik E Marts.