Free Agency and Tenure

On The TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS July 21, 2014 #498 Up next…Free Agency and Tenure!

After further review…Now that several billion people have had their fill of soccer’s 2014 FIFA World Cup (and for which an appropriate refrain might be “Don’t cry for me, Argentina”), perhaps their attention can now turn to those other worldly topics: free agency and tenure. Can we find a parallel between these two employment issues in the worlds of sport and education?

“Free agency” generally describes a professional player who is free of contract terms with any other T*E*A*M, and therefore eligible to sign with a new T*E*A*M of his choosing. This particular issue is a highly complicated one, full of conditions and restrictions, and too unwieldy for a full explanation here. But, when a team drafts a player and signs him to a long-term contract, shouldn’t that player be required to remain with that team until his playing days are over? At one point in sports history that was the case. Why did the system change to favor the players, rather than the owners who provide them the opportunity to play professionally?

Many believe the answer to that question to be “Because that’s called slavery”. St. Louis Cardinal outfielder Curt Flood took his refusal of a trade to Philadelphia all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1969, and though he lost, his case paved the way for the abolishment of Major League Baseball’s “reserve clause”.  Free agency followed, allowing players much greater freedom to take their talents wherever they want. The exorbitant market values enjoyed by many current players never existed before there was open competition for their services.

In the business world, employees are free to change jobs at will. In the education world the safeguard for teachers is the law of “tenure” which guarantees employment after a probationary period has been satisfied. Many today claim that tenure only protects the underperforming teacher. The qualified teacher, they say, doesn’t need such protection.

But who can sit in absolute judgment of a teacher’s worth? Learning in today’s world is not confined to the classroom, or to arbitrary standards of achievement. Learning takes place 24/7/365. A good teacher is there to guide students through the maze of modern life.

In the sports world, players making the most of their personal improvement give their teams the best chance to win. The same is true in education, with the ‘winners’ being the students.

Will you support teachers as you do your sports stars?

To contact Jim go to or email

Jim’s new book “101 Best of TunneySide of Sports is available here.


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