On March 5, Dartmouth college’s men’s basketball team will vote on unionization. Should a majority vote yes, they will be the first unionized team in college sports and potentially change college athletics. Photo provided by USA TODAY Sports.

On February 5, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that Dartmouth College’s mens basketball team constituted an appropriate union under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), rejecting Dartmouth’s argument that they did not count as employees. The NLRB also directed for a unionization election to be held, which is slated for March 5.

The board also ruled that Northwestern University’s football team constituted employees under the NLRA, and could unionize.

With this, the team’s players are held to a strict rulebook full of restrictions, and currently receive other forms of compensation via equipment, travel accommodations, and higher levels of consideration in admissions and class environments.

These changes are due in part to guidelines created by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which prevent colleges from directly paying their athletes by classifying them as student-athletes.

Still, lawsuits over the past decade have pushed against and changed those guidelines, allowing full-tuition scholarships, other education-based expenses and name, image, likeness deals. The latter of these has recently become the most controversial due to a lack of clarity and investigations by the NCAA.

While the decision to unionize will take time to iron out, its implications could change a lot for the lives of prospective student-athletes.

If the players from Dartmouth successfully unionize, they could then negotiate with the NCAA for athlete benefits, allow for student-athletes to earn some of the revenue that they make their school and set a huge precedent for other NCAA universities, especially private universities which are under the scope of the NLRB.

APSU is no exception. It is expected for the Dartmouth decision to take years to be ruled on, but when it it is finalized, it will send out a ripple affect among the entirety of collegiate sports.

It will be equally curious to see how APSU and the rest of the ASUN Conference responds, and if our university’s athletes will seek unionization or official employment among the ranks of its peer colleges. As a public university, student athlete’s potential path to unionization will be different from Dartmouth or Northwestern as they don’t fall under the NLRA, but it is possible.

As for Dartmouth, their union election is expected to take place next Monday. If a majority of the team votes yes, they would be the first unionized team in college sports.