Kolton Houston's thoughts on unionizing and the NCAA

semerson@macon.comApril 1, 2014 

Georgia offensive tackle Kolton Houston.

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ATHENS, Ga. - Kolton Houston's long-running battle with the NCAA has been well-chronicled. And he was on the front end of the player's rights movement last fall, wearing a wristband as part of the nascent player's union movement.

So with the news that Northwestern players have (at least temporarily) won the right to form a union, it's no surprise Houston is happy. But the Georgia offensive tackle was rather restrained in his feelings.

"I think it's great for what they're doing," Houston said, then added: "I really haven't put a whole lot of emphasis on it because regardless it's not gonna be a speedy process. Anything that does happen we're gonna be long gone before it (does). So I haven't put much thought to it."

Houston's restraint may stem from the fact that his dealings with the NCAA may not be over. (More on that later.) But he does support what the players' rights proponents are seeking - money and otherwise.

The immediate - and misleading - reaction to the idea of a player's union is that they only want compensation. And yes, that is part of what could happen.

"There's probably a very small outlier group that wants a lot of money," Houston said. "But probably a majority of the guys want just a little extra jingling: Gas to get them home on the weekends, a little money to take their girlfriend on a date. I think that's more the realistic aspect of what they're looking for."

Houston, however, is an example of what else a union could seek: A redress against the NCAA. When Houston was repeatedly denied eligibility for the positive drug tests, he had UGA on his side, but the school is part of the NCAA. So ultimately Houston and his family went to the media (ESPN) but even then he only became eligible when he finally passed a drug test.

But Houston prefers to compliment the fight put up by UGA and head athletic trainer Ron Courson, rather than say his case would have been helped by a union.

"I'm really not sure. Because is the union for Northwestern, is the union for the NCAA?" Houston said. "Obviously it would have been nice to have a little committee or something to help me out. But that just speaks how I'm honored that Ron helped me, and Georgia helped me out."

As for those that want money, Houston has words of caution.

"They have to come face the reality (that) you want to get paid that much (and) you want to be treated like an employee, you can be fired like an employee," Houston said. "So there's definitely pros and cons to both sides of it."

Back to Houston and the NCAA: Officially Houston is a fifth-year senior, which would make this his final season of college football. But it will only be his second year as a player, having lost the first three to his suspension and eligibility fight.

Houston isn't sure yet whether to approach this as his final year. When it's over he might apply to have an extra year, which he's been told he can do. The chances don't appear great, as the NCAA only reinstated him once he passed the drug test, not because it overruled its previous rulings. But Houston and UGA can always try.

"The NCAA just said I have to act like this is my senior year, and then we'll go from there when it comes to December," Houston said. "That's just a long (way off). I'm finally excited to practice right now and not have to worry about the NCAA. I'm just practicing right now, and December will come."

Houston, who is working as the first-team right tackle, laughed when asked if he feels more like a senior or a sophomore.

"My body feels like a senior. My head probably feels like a sophomore," he said. "It's definitely a lot slower. My head's not spinning and my emotions aren't as high. But this camp's a lot of fun because I'm not worried, I don't have baggage weighing me down, I don't have a burden weighing me down. And it's nice I can see sort of what I'm working towards. I can see we're preparing for Clemson."

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