Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald testified for three hours Friday about a push by his players to form the nation's first union for college athletes, sometimes putting himself awkwardly at odds with his senior quarterback.
Sporting a tie in team-color purple, Fitzgerald answered questions before the National Labor Relations Board, which must decide in coming weeks if the football players qualify as employees under U.S. law. If so, they have rights to unionize.
The decision is being closely watched across the country since a decision in favor of an athletes' union could change the landscape of college athletics. The NCAA, Big Ten Conference and Northwestern all maintain that college athletes cannot be placed in the same category as factory workers, truck drivers or other employees in the traditional sense.
Union supporters, however, say football generates millions of dollars in revenue and is a commercial enterprise reliant on laborers - the players.
Fitzgerald, a former star for...