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ACC notebook: Coaches keep tabs on players' bid to unionize

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 8:00 p.m.
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher speaks during a news conference for the BCS National Championship NCAA college football game Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, in Newport Beach, Calif. Florida State beat Auburn 34-31 to win the championship the night before. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Several ACC football coaches said Wednesday that the question of unionization of players hasn't surfaced on their campuses, but some coaches offered warnings.

“Players' voices do need to be heard,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “I don't know if unionization is the way, but I'm not saying it's not.

“I think there are some good points to it, but we are trying to go down a road that we don't know. We have to be very careful.

“They want those things, which is great, but what does unionization mean and what could they possibly give up once you become a union?”

The National Labor Relations Board's regional director in Chicago ruled in March that collegiate athletes are employees of their university and can form a union. Northwestern football players are scheduled to vote Friday on whether to unionize.

“I need to educate myself on what it would all mean,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “I don't think anyone would want to be paying taxes on their scholarships.”

None of the coaches said they have heard any players talking about forming a union.

“Early on, I talked to the team a little bit and that was it,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said.

Church versus state

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he will make no changes in the wake of charges made by the Freedom From Religion Foundation that there is no clear separation between church and state in his football program.

“I was a little caught off guard,” Swinney said. “I am very proud of the way we do things at Clemson. We do things the right way and always have and will continue to run the program the way we always have.”

The foundation complained that Swinney named James Trapp team chaplain without student input and regularly allowed him to conduct Bible studies in between practice sessions.

Previously, Swinney said in a statement that he has recruited and coached players of many different faiths.

“Players of any faith or no faith at all are welcome in our program,” he said.

Eight or nine?

There will discussion next month at the league meetings on the question of playing eight or nine conference games.

Teams play eight, but they are scheduled to go years between games with schools from the other division.

Pitt, for example, can't play Florida State again until 2020.

Swinney said he hopes that changes so a player can play every team in the conference at least once.

Injury update

Pitt coach Paul Chryst said there is no timetable for senior running back Isaac Bennett's return after having shoulder surgery last week. Chryst said previously that he hopes Bennett will recover in time for training camp in August.

Bennett and running back James Conner (knee) were injured April 4 at practice. Conner is expected to be able to participate in the summer conditioning program that begins next month.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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