THURSDAY SPORTS: Agency rules Northwestern players can unionize

*A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board issued a stunning ruling Wednesday that could completely change big-money college sports, finding that Northwestern University’s football players have the right to unionize. The main question before the regional director, Peter Sung Ohr, was whether football players on full scholarships are considered employees under federal law, and he said yes, contending they, quote, “fall squarely” within the broad definition of employee. Northwestern scholarship players are set to vote within 30 days on whether to formally authorize the College Athletes Players Association to represent them. The union’s specific goals include guaranteeing coverage of sports-related medical expenses for players, reducing head injuries and potentially letting players pursue commercial sponsorships. Northwestern plans to appeal the ruling to NLRB authorities in Washington.

*In high school sports Wednesday, Seneca’s softball team blanked West-Oak 11-0. Seneca’s Sydney Smith got the win in five innings of work. West-Oak baseball fared better, defeating Rabun County 7-6 on the road. Zac Parker was the winning pitcher there. Seneca’s boys soccer team remains perfect after beating West-Oak 5-1 and the Seneca girls shutout the Warriors 4-0.

*Four Gamecock pitchers accounted for a one-hit shutout as second-ranked South Carolina tallied its 10th shutout of the season with a 4-0 victory over Coastal Carolina on Wednesday night. The Gamecocks are now 21-3 on the year while the loss drops the Chanticleers to 10-15. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Curt Brit picked up his first win of the season after three scoreless innings of work.

*Ron Smith, who in the 1970’s starred for Furman University in both basketball and baseball, and for the past 20 years has served as head baseball coach at his alma mater, was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in ceremonies Wednesday evening.  Smith, a native of Elkhart, Indiana., and product of Elkhart Memorial High School, where he was a standout in basketball, baseball, and tennis from 1972-74, was among 12 former Indiana basketball greats enshrined at the 53rd annual banquet attended by approximately 1,000 fans of Hoosier state basketball.

*In the NBA Wednesday, Al Jefferson scored 35 points, Kemba Walker had a double-double and the Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Brooklyn Nets 116-111 in overtime for their 10th victory in the last 12 home games. Elsewhere, the Minnesota Timberwolves dealt the slumping Atlanta Hawks another costly loss with a 107-83 victory.