Northwestern University spokesman Bob Rowley speaks to the media after a National Labor Relations Board hearing on the request by Northwestern football players to unionize in Chicago, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Northwestern University spokesman Bob Rowley speaks to the media after a National Labor Relations Board hearing on the request by Northwestern football players to unionize in Chicago, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

CHICAGO (AP) — Northwestern University officials on Thursday countered a quarterback’s allegations that the program places athletics over academics, urging a federal agency to deny a bid by the school’s football players to form the first college athletes’ union in U.S. history.

Witnesses for the school challenged union lawyers’ assertions Northwestern football is highly profitable. And they denied accusations by the union’s star witness, outgoing senior quarterback Kain Colter, that classroom performance is given far less weight than on-the-field success.

The testimony came in a third day of hearings on whether the National Labor Relations Board should approve the Wildcats’ players request to unionize. The first-of-its kind effort is being closely watched by other schools and college athletes nationwide.

Janna Blais, deputy director of athletics for student-athlete welfare, said Northwestern officials are focused on making sure football never undermines players’ studies.

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