The National Labor Relations Board halted the effort to unionize Northwestern's football team without answering the biggest question: Are the players effectively university employees? The five-member board instead tossed out the unionization effort Monday because "it would not promote stability in labor relations" to allow one school the ability to unionize while others — including public schools the board doesn't govern — could not. By failing to address the case's primary issue, the board prolonged the uneasy relationship between unpaid college athletes and schools that reap billions of dollars from their play. Its ruling raises some questions: The players argued that playing football is a job for which they aren't fairly compensated. Northwestern said they are students first. The board must have agreed with Northwestern and the NCAA, right? Not exactly. The board looked at Division I-A, the top level of college football, and saw that only 17 of 125 schools are private. The board decided that allowing this one school to unionize would create a competitive imbalance and potentially destabilize college football. Does this mean any effort to unionize U.S. college athletes is dead? No. The board said the case applied only to the Northwestern football team. It left open the possibility that other football players — or even other scholarship athletes in another revenue sport at Northwestern, such as basketball players — could form a union. What's the next step in the relationship between the NCAA and its athletes? The ruling was a loss for those trying to expand the rights of college athletes, but it is not the end of the fight. Antitrust lawyer Jeffrey Kessler has sued the NCAA and the five power conferences — the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 — seeking to eliminate caps on player pay. And former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon recently earned for players a right to a share of broadcast and licensing money.