Football players at both schools are aware that Northwestern players might unionize. But when asked about the issue recently during spring practice, several said they were only casually monitoring the situation.
"There has been some small talk around the locker room," said UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley. "We'll get a lot more information. Obviously, they are starting something."
Northwestern players will vote Friday on whether to unionize. Last month, a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board cleared the way for that vote by ruling that Northwestern scholarship players were employees of the university, a decision the school has appealed.
The NLRB on Thursday granted Northwestern's request for review. The players' votes will be impounded until the review process is completed.
The NLRB has jurisdiction over private universities but not public schools. USC is one of 17 private institutions among 128 Football Bowl Subdivision schools.
Several USC players said they were aware of the unionization effort at Northwestern but they were not actively tracking it.
"No one really wants to focus on that union thing," said sophomore offensive lineman Zach Banner. "We understand it affects us because we're a private school…. but we just need to wait and see."
USC Athletic Director Pat Haden met with the football team to discuss unionization and other issues and to field questions from players. He also met separately with the Trojan Athletic Senate, composed of athletes from various sports.
"These are all bright kids," Haden said. "We're an academic institution. This is supposed to be a time for intellectual growth and we welcome it."
UCLA, as a state school, is not affected by the NLRB ruling.
The Bruins remain intrigued by the movement.
"College students need and want money for what we do," said UCLA receiver Devin Lucien. "I support what they are doing. I think it needs to happen."
During a news conference at the men's basketball Final Four, NCAA President Mark Emmert told reporters, "The notion of using a union employee model to address the challenges that do exist in intercollegiate athletics is something that strikes most people as a grossly inappropriate solution to the problems."
Instead, the NCAA appears to be taking small steps toward change.
Last week, the NCAA's Legislative Council approved a proposal that would allow Division I schools to provide unlimited meals to scholarship and walk-on athletes, a move universally welcomed by players who have publicly and privately complained of going hungry.
Several USC and UCLA athletes expressed their delight.
On Thursday, the Division I Board of Directors endorsed a restructuring process that would give the Pac-12, Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten and Southeastern conferences more autonomy on financial aid, insurance, academic support and other support, such as travel for families.
Haden has advocated for the NCAA to approve scholarships that cover the full cost of attendance, describing it as "a no-brainer."
At USC, a full athletic scholarship covers tuition and fees, room, board and required course-related books. For 2013-14, a USC athletic scholarship was about $60,000-$61,000, an athletic department official said. But the NCAA does not allow schools to factor in costs for transportation and personal expenses.