Notre Dame's Brian Kelly won't discourage player union dialogue

Notre Dame faces possibility of union talks following Northwestern's historic win with the NLRB.

Posted on March 29, 2014 at 2:55 p.m. | Updated on March 29, 2014 at 7:43 p.m.

NOTRE DAME — Brian Kelly won't discourage his players from investigating what forming a union would mean for student-athletes.

But he also won't be holding any team meetings to discuss it any time soon.

"I think we respect anything that our players would want to do relative to their creativity, their ability to want to talk about things of that nature," Kelly said after practice Saturday, March 29. "As it relates to me, personally, I'm a teacher. I'm more interested in relationships based on player-coach than 'employee.'"

Kelly weighed in on the matter following the National Labor Relations Board's ruling in favor of Northwestern football players who argued scholarship players are employees of the university and can hold an election on whether to unionize. Northwestern said it planned to appeal the ruling.

Kelly believes a decision on the matter is still a long ways away, and he feels a student-athlete unionization would redefine his relationship with his players.

"As much as we want to be in an atmosphere where we create a creative learning environment, I also want to be individually in a place where I'm an educator," he said. "I'm a teacher. Wherever that meets is kind of where I stand on."

When asked how he felt unionizing would change the landscape of college football, Kelly said he hadn't spent much time focusing on the big-picture aspect.

"I haven’t really thought about it in its real terms as whether it would be positive for college football or detrimental,” Kelly said. “I think I’ve looked at it more as a microcosm. Like, do they tax your scholarship? I’ve looked at it that way."

Jarrett Grace undergoes second surgery

Notre Dame's starting middle linebacker underwent a second surgery Friday to insert a stabilizing rod into the leg he broke last fall. Grace suffered four breaks in his right fibula against Arizona State in October and missed the rest of the season.

Kelly said Grace will require a six-week recovery following the second surgery, after which medical staff will examine the leg's progress.

"What we're saying is that in six weeks, if we get the kind of (bone) growth that we're expecting, he'll be ready for the fall," Kelly said. "We're hoping to get good new in six weeks, is the best way to put it."

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