John Kass

Even a former cornerback who failed to graduate from Whatsamatta U. can deduce what will happen to college football in America.

Football's past may have been all about raccoon coats and chants of Boola-Boola. But the future of college football will be written along the Chicago Way.

So after decades of making piles of treasure by exploiting college football players, universities are finally worried. But not about the players. The reason?

A National Labor Relations Board regional director ruled last week that Northwestern University football players can be considered employees. And employees can form unions.

Unionized college players will demand better deals. They might even strike. Elected officials will enlist the players as shock troops in political class wars.

"If you like your quarterback, you can keep your quarterback, period," President Barack Obama might say.

Colleges might outsource their football teams to impoverished nations to save on labor costs. They might find cheap running backs for $2 or $3 a day in Southeast Asia, culling players from the children of Nike shoe factory employees.

Some colleges will relocate their teams to the Grand Cayman Islands (for tax purposes only), requiring a slight alteration to their logo:

The Grand Cayman Gamecocks?

Others might set up four-year adjunct programs in Switzerland, where the banks are reliable and discreet. The Geneva Buckeyes? The Arizona State Chocolatiers?

Eventually, at some ivy-covered campus, a shiny black Escalade will pull up in front of the comparative literature department. The union rep steps out, and grabs a department chairman by her bony, tweedy elbow.

Chairman Pecksniff: "Unhand me, you barbarian!"

Bruno the Union Guy: "Come on, Ms. Pecksniff. So my guy didn't know Gregor Samsa was turned into some kinda cockroach. Big deal. He's a linebacker! Gregor Samsa ain't no linebacker! Gimme a break on this one, Pecksniff, and I won't forget the favor."

This isn't some nightmare. It is political extrapolation.

The early NLRB ruling -- which applies only to private universities -- is preliminary. The full NLRB will have to rule as well. But more rulings will follow, and public university teams will organize, so the players might as well just sign up now with Laborers International Local 1001.

At Chicago's City Hall, I'd often see several of the laborers union bosses. One was a movie projectionist on the side. He must have known somebody.

Another labor boss could often be found at a Polish sausage stand near Chinatown, down by the viaduct.