WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
All it takes is one player, just one, to form a union, convince teammates to join and throw the University of Miami football program into a place the administration very much does not want it to go.
In the wake of last week’s National Labor Relations Board ruling that Northwestern University football players are university employees and can form a union and collectively bargain, UM players on Tuesday offered diverse views about whether it would and should happen here.
“It would be smart” to unionize, senior-to-be tight end Clive Walford said, adding he would consider starting one. “Getting paid would be everyone’s desire.”
Asked if launching a union at UM is realistic, senior-to-be offensive guard Jon Feliciano said: “I think so. If it starts turning out good at Northwestern, people would start doing it here. But if nothing really happens, no one will follow. We have a lot of wild personalities on this team, so there’s a bunch of people that might try. It’s not my main focus right now. But if we do start a union, I would not be opposed to it.”
The NLRB decision, which has been being appealed by Northwestern and sharply criticized by the NCAA, would affect only private schools such as UM.
Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter said he’s not pushing for pay-for-play per se but reportedly would like players to receive stipends, be compensated for commercial sponsorships and possibly get health insurance. A UM official said providing health insurance for all players would be extremely expensive.
Feliciano said football players who live off campus receive -- as part of the "room and board" part of their scholarship -- a $1200 check each month for 10 months annually, which he said he uses toward rent, food and utilities.
He said having UM pay the players that amount in May and August, as well --- “when we don’t get checks” –-- would be helpful. “Just take care of us” that way, said Feliciano, whom Al Golden has identified as a near-certain starter.
Feliciano said players should be paid, beyond scholarships, if they “find a way to pay everyone equally. [The NCAA makes] a lot of money off TV, endorsements. Everyone is wearing UM stuff.” (It’s difficult to envision UM participating in pay-for-play beyond the enormous scholarship costs, but we’re in unchartered waters here.)
Injured Duke Johnson isn’t permitted to speak to reporters this spring, but two other future faces of the program --- Stacy Coley and Kevin Olsen --- said they would not want to spearhead union efforts at UM, though Olsen said “I could probably see that happening here” and Coley likes the idea of getting health insurance from UM.
By the way, UM quarterback Ryan Williams indicated he has no interest in getting involved in starting a union at UM.
And of course, all of this is moot if the NLRB decision is overturned on appeal or if UM players don’t ever unionize. But a UM source said the school is definitely concerned about the potential implications, both logistically and financially.
### Mike Wallace is not concerned about a CBS report that the Dolphins are continuing to try to trade him because his understanding is that it is not true. The Dolphins, privately, have vehemently denied the report, and Jason LaCanfora is the only reporter claiming Miami is shopping Wallace.
Though Ryan Tannehill has been throwing to receivers for more than two weeks, Wallace has been out of town. Wallace told me previously that at some point this offseason, he and Tannehill need to work on their deep-ball chemistry.
### Dan Marino on Monday confirmed interest in working for the Dolphins and said Pittsburgh is the only other team he would work for. A friend of Marino said a job on the Dolphins’ football side appeals to him, and meeting with free agents could be one element.
But the question is how much, if any, road work and scouting Marino would be willing to do. And if he’s expecting final say on personnel, that’s not going to happen. As noted in this space Sunday, owner Stephen Ross said he plans to talk to him.
### Cornerback Dimitri Patterson, released by the Dolphins last month, signed with the Jets today and will make $3 million in a one-year deal.
### Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan couldn’t stop raving about Chris Andersen last night: “His energy, his toughness, his flair; sometimes guys like that mean as much as your stars.” And also consider this:
At 66.3 percent from the field, Andersen is positioned to post one of the five highest shooting percentages since the turn of the century. Only DeAndre Jordan (this season and three years ago), Brandan Wright, Tyson Chandler and Shaquille O’Neal have shot better than Andersen's current percentage over those 13 seasons (minimum 200 attempts). Jordan’s 68.6 in 2010-11 is the NBA's highest since 2000.
### So who drew more eyeballs when the Heat and Marlins went head-to-head Monday? Heat-Raptors was viewed in 7.0 percent of Dade/Broward TV households (on Sun Sports), compared to 3.4 for the Marlins (between FSN and ESPN2), though that was a huge increase in audience over the 2013 Marlins opener.
But because they have a larger capacity, the Marlins drew far more people to their game, with both games selling out.
### The Dolphins will audition several UM players --- including offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson, quarterback Stephen Morris, receiver Allen Hurns, d-tackle Curtis Porter and guard Brandon Linder --- next week. FIU defensive tackle Isame Faciane is among other local players invited to that Dolphins workout.
Ten of the players also have been invited to dinner with Dolphins position coaches the night before, including Henderson and UM tight end Asante Cleveland. Henderson, by the way, also has been invited to visit the Steelers and Vikings.
### Among spring surprises at UM: Offensive coordinator James Coley said emerging sophomore-to-be tight end Standish Dobard has surpassed senior Beau Sandland, behind injured starter Clive Walford. Dobard is a skilled blocker with soft hands and the ability to make plays downfield. Drops have been an issue for him in practice in the past but less so recently.
### Among the behind-the-scenes issues playing out at UM in recent days: UM originally ruled that Bethune-Cookman’s Dyron Dye (kicked off the UM team last summer) couldn’t audition at its Pro Day this Thursday because he was mentioned in the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations. But UM changed its mind in recent days, aware Ray-Ray Armstrong was allowed to audition at UM under similar circumstances last year.
### Please see the last post, from earlier Tuesday, for a lot more UM notes, as well as Chris Bosh's amusing take on Indiana's pursuit of the No. 1 seed in the East.
### The Marlins never expected Colin Moran, their third baseman of the future, would be ready for the big leagues at any point this season, and now the start of his season at Single A Jupiter has been delayed at least three weeks by a knee injury. (There's no tear, according to the team.)
What’s more, outfielder Brent Keys, one of the Marlins' other top hitting prospects, is out indefinitely with what the team fears could be a bulging disk. Keyes hit .341 last season and was the Florida State League's Player of the Year.
### Marlins closer Steve Cishek's first save of the season tonight was his 30th successful conversion in a row, the longest ongoing streak in baseball. And the Marlins are 2-0 for the first time since 2009, when they opened 4-0.
### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz