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CMU Faculty Association Strike: What It Means For CMU Athletics & MAC (UPDATE)

All summer long you've been reading about lockouts, and work stoppages in the NFL, and the NBA, and are probably tired of hearing about such stories.  Perhaps you turned to college sports thinking that nothing like this could ever affect student athletes, but it appears our beloved Mid-American Conference, and in particular, Central Michigan University is going through similar issues.

Long story short, this is not a lockout, but a strike by the CMU Faculty Association (FA), the union for most CMU employees, covering the majority of, but not all teachers at CMU, and even reaching into the athletics at CMU. Since June 30th, the FA has been without a contract, meaning that teachers and coaches affected by the lack of a contract, have been working in good faith. Essentially showing up, and doing things as they normally would. Things heated up in the past week, with the FA agreeing to work motions that could include a strike if seen as necessary. And on Sunday, August 21st the FA decided to strike, on the eve of classes starting up at CMU for the fall semester.

At this point you may be wondering how, and if this affects the athletics department at CMU. 

This could have an enormous effect on the entire CMU athletics department, because as mentioned above, almost every coach at CMU is considered a faculty member. In fact, the only coaches at CMU who are not faculty members, and thus not affected, at least from a contractual standpoint, are head football coach Dan Enos, head men's basketball coach Ernie Zeigler and women's basketball head coach Sue Guevara. 

The biggest issue in this for the football team, who with the exception of Enos and a few graduate assistants, should find themselves extremely short staffed, if the faculty members of the football coaching staff follow their union guidelines, and begin striking on Monday at 7am. CMU on Monday will be 10 days away from its first football game of the season, and because of the strike, may lose almost all of its coaching staff until the strike is resolved.

Both basketball programs may be able to sneak by, or get by with less difficulty because of the much smaller roster sizes those sports have.

One member of the CMU Faculty Association posted on their Facebook group in response to me questioning what this strike could mean for the athletics department:

"There are some GAs in Athletics, who would be contractually obligated to work, as well as the 3 head coaches. But the assistant coaches in the Union should be abiding by the work stoppage."

Another member of the FA, again responding to my question said:

"Football team would have a lot of problems operating if it's only GAs and Enos. Basketball would have an easier time getting by. All others would be up a creek and no paddle without strong leadership from their captains (on the flip side, for them, if the coaches have no contact they can practice as long as they wish *shrug*)."

So in the short term, the football team, the big revenue maker, and face of CMU athletics would be affected by losing the majority of their assistant coaches. The same goes for both men's and women's basketball. But those teams would be able to get by, and at least play games in the near future.

Where this issue could really affect the CMU athletics department, and the rest of the MAC is in the smaller revenue sports. Women's soccer, field hockey, volleyball, etc. Because Enos, Zeigler, and Guevara are the only coaches not effected, Every team other than football and both basketball teams, is without a coach, or not permitted to speak to any of their coaches because of the strike decision. So those smaller sports would either stop practicing all together, or the players themselves would have to run practices.

But would these teams be allowed to compete in games without a coaching staff? This is where it begins to get messy. I'm not if the MAC has rules about coaching staffs, or if players are allowed to coach or run a team. So if this strike is prolonged, and at this point there are not expected to be more meetings between administration and the FA until later in the week, it could potentially lead to CMU having to forfeit all it's games, and leave gaps in the MAC schedule.

This strike could also affect the teams that do have coaches in place, that would be able to keep competing, at least during the fall semester. The FA at CMU represents the majority of, but not all teachers on the CMU campus. And because of the strike, students will not have class. At the moment, I have 1 teacher that is in a different union, thus 1 class that is officially on for this week.

So what if in a worst case scenario, the strike lasts the entire length of the fall semester, and CMU continues to play in football, and basketball, and a few of the players have schedules where all of their professors are on strike? Those players would most likely be deemed ineligible after the fall semester, due to either not being enrolled in any classes, or simply not registering a grade in any of the classes which they were enrolled. Which again might lead to CMU having to forfeit games it played, or force players to sit out the spring semester.

I try not to get into issues like this too deeply, or involved, but I will simply say that the professors are striking with very good reason.

At least for the short term, CMU athletics finds itself in a big bind, as they have few coaches in the big sports, and zero coaches in every smaller sport. Essentially, aside from football, and both basketball teams, CMU athletics is frozen, and can't do anything but practice, and even then it would have to be run by the players, and there is no word on if they would be able to compete in any games. 

As the negotiations between the FA and administration continue throughout this week, there will be updates to this story, and how it might affect CMU, and the rest of the Mid-American Conference.

UPDATE: Last night, CMU administration filed a restraining order in the courts, that demanded the teachers and coaches return to work, and put an end to the "illegal strike." At 3:30 today August 22nd, the judge sided with administration, and as of tomorrow, all teachers and coaches will be expected to return to work, even though there is still no contract in place between the two sides. The Faculty Association has filed for a hearing Friday morning August 26th to have the restraining order lifted, which would put the strike back on, and coaches away from their teams, if they succeed. 

One rumor for the cause of the restraining order is that CMU President George Ross was worried about athletes missing classes.