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May 03. 2014 1:22AM

College Notebook: Luke Bonner at center of Northwestern union effort

Concord's Luke Bonner is playing a significant role in the attempt by Northwestern University athletes to unionize.

Bonner, who played basketball at Trinity High School in Manchester, is one of three founding members of the College Athletes Players' Association board of directors. CAPA is the group that submitted a petition on behalf of the Northwestern football team that resulted in the National Labor Relations Board ruling last month that Northwestern players could join a union.

Northwestern players voted earlier this month on whether or not to unionize, but the results of that vote have not been made public. It would be the first labor union for college athletes.

Bonner, 29, was a Division I basketball player at West Virginia University before he transferred to the University of Massachusetts. He currently works in marketing at the Manchester office of GYK Antler, and just signed on to play for a New York-based team in The Basketball Tournament, a social-network-driven event scheduled to begin June 6 at Philadelphia University.

Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA linebacker, and former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter are CAPA's other founding members.

Bonner and Huma first spoke several years ago. The two reconnected last year, when Huma, a longtime advocate for the rights of college athletes, asked Bonner about the possibility of joining CAPA's board of directors.

"The goal is to have a legitimate voice representing the players that are driving the industry," Bonner said in a recent interview with the Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton, Mass. "It's as simple as that.

"A lot of people have jumped to 'What about the tennis team? What about the non-revenue sports? How are schools going to have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the students?' That's not what we're saying. We're saying, as an employee, as recognized by the NLRB currently, the athletes deserve a say in the working conditions and having a say in what the NCAA rules are."

NCAA representatives have stated publicly that there is no employee relationship between the NCAA's affiliated institutions and their student-athletes.

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THE UNIVERSITY of New Hampshire last week announced that it will build a $1.9 million Student-Athlete Center for Excellence at the Field House for its Division I and Northeast Passage athletes. Funded entirely on private donations, the center will support individual and team-based programs for personal growth, life skills, academic support, career planning, networking, and community service. Construction will begin in early summer with a targeted opening of late fall.

The center, which will occupy space on the second floor where the decommissioned squash courts are located, will support all students who strive to balance the challenges of representing UNH as students and as Division I athletes. It will enhance the university's ability to attract talented and dedicated student-athletes, provide them with the tools they need to succeed, give them access to mentoring and networking services, and assist them in finding internships, employment, and/or post-graduate opportunities.

"We've always had great academic support staff, but the facility - a tiny dark room in the basement - was not supportive of our goal to graduate every student-athlete," Heather Barber, associate professor of kinesiology and the university's NCAA faculty athletic representative, said in a school release. "We want our student-athletes to achieve as much academically as they do athletically, and having all of the services in one area will be a huge benefit for these young people. At UNH we take pride in the fact that our students excel in balancing their academic pursuits with their athletic ambitions."

Barber noted that just recently 58 junior and senior student-athletes were inducted into an honor society for having a cumulative GPA above 3.5. In the America East Academic Cup, UNH finished second for the third time in the last four years by achieving a 3.18 cumulative grade point average. It is UNH's highest GPA in the 18-year history of the award.

"This center will help all of our athletes move in that direction," Barber said. "It will support our top students, but also the students who have to work very hard to meet our requirements. The services will all be in one area and will allow them to make academics a priority."

The center, which will include complete wireless Internet capability, will create a welcoming environment similar to the university's Dimond Library reading rooms where student-athletes will enjoy a comfortable, well-equipped and quiet study space staffed by advisors or tutors to assist them in optimizing their time. It will provide UNH Athletics with the functionality and programming space required to reach a greater number of student-athletes and make a difference in the development of the "whole person." The center will include a functional resource room and quiet study space in addition to breakout rooms and team/group meeting space in the main reading room that can fit up to 72 individuals.

"The Student-Athlete Center for Excellence was identified as a major priority in our department's strategic plan," Marty Scarano, UNH's director of athletics, said in the release. "Without the philanthropic support of a small, distinguished group of our most ardent supporters, this center would not have come to fruition. It is only through the continued generosity of our loyal and committed benefactors that we can keep UNH nationally competitive."

A new elevator connecting a renovated first-level lobby near Lundholm Gymnasium to the second level of the Field House will make the center readily accessible for UNH student-athletes with disabilities as part of the UNH Athletics/Northeast Passage partnership.

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SENIORS Will Bayliss of Manchester and Ashante Samuel of Seabrook were the recipients of two of the most prestigious awards presented at last week's Wheaton College athletics banquet.

Bayliss, a graduate of Manchester High School Central and the Tilton School, was the male recipient of the Dean Sue Alexander Senior Student-Athlete award. Little, a graduate of Winnacunnet High in Hampton, was named the Debi Field Outstanding Female Athlete for the second straight year.

The senior student-athlete awards are presented to a male and female member of the graduating class who have made significant contributions to the success of the Wheaton athletics program, including participating in intercollegiate or intramural programs, displaying leadership ability, and serving on school committees.

Bayliss, a two-time captain of the men's basketball team, finished his career third all-time in assists with 293 total despite missing most of his junior season due to injury. He's also served as a Wheaton Athletic Mentor, a resident advisor and an orientation coordinator, helping to organize activities for all of Wheaton's first-year students in August. In addition to those duties, Bayliss has served as a senior admissions intern, interviewing prospective students.

Little, a 12-time NCAA All-American, captured two national titles in the past year, winning the outdoor and indoor 400-meter dash. She helped lead the women's track and field team to an eighth-place finish at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships last spring and a fourth-place finish at the NCAA indoor track and field championships this past winter.

She's continued her dominance this spring. At last weekend's New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference Championships, Little broke a 25-year-old NCAA record in the 400-meter hurdles, finishing in 58.56 seconds. She also won the 100-meter hurdles in a facility-record time of 14.1 seconds and ran a leg for the 4x100-meter relay team that set a stadium record.

Little now holds school records in the 100-meter hurdles (13.89 seconds), 200-meter run (24.67), 400-meter hurdles (58.56, also an NCAA Division III record), 500-meter run (1:14.33) and 600-meter run (1:37.09).

On Friday, the ECAC named her its Division III Track and Field Female Athlete of the Week for the fourth consecutive week.

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CHELSO BARRETT, a Texas Christian University freshman out of Keene, helped the Horned Frogs to a fifth-place finish in the Big 12 championships last weekend at Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity, Tex.

Barrett tied for ninth in the tournament with five-over par totals of 74-73-74-72-293 for the event.

He was the second Horned Frog on the board behind junior Julien Brun,who won the tournament with a 277.

Barrett won three straight NHIAA Division I individual championships while at Keene and last summer advanced to the Round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.

He is third in scoring average at Texas Christian this season at 73.83 behind Brun (70.97) and Paul Barjon (73.80).

Selections for the NCAA Regional golf championships will be announced on Monday and the Horned Frogs are likely to receive a bid.

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CENTRAL Maine Community College last week announced that Ella Montminy, a three-sport athlete at Prospect Mountain High School of Alton, has committed to play basketball at CMCC next season. A point guard, Montminy averaged 15 points and nine rebounds as Prospect senior, earning multiple all-star honors. She's also a three-time winner of the school's scholar-athlete award.

"College Notebook" is compiled by the staff of the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Submissions may be emailed to sports@unionleader.com.


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