Top College Football Players Unify To Try And Save '20 Season
A number of star college football players last night "flocked to social media with a simple message: #WeWantToPlay," as the '20 season is "seemingly on the brink due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic," according to Jace Evans of USA TODAY. Some of the biggest names in the sport, including Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State QB Justin Fields, Alabama RB Najee Harris and Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard "took to Twitter to reiterate their stance on the 2020 season, calling on the Power Five conferences to take certain actions to help make that happen." Most notable in the statement was the players' call to "begin groundwork for a college football players association." Among the players' asks in the statement:
- "Establish universal mandated health & safety procedures and protocols to help college-athletes against COVID-19 among all conferences throughout the NCAA."
- "Give players the opportunity to opt out and respect their decision."
- "Guarantee eligibility whether a player chooses to play the season or not."
- "Use our voices to establish open communication & trust between players and officials; ultimately create a college football players association."
The #WeWantToPlay statement also was accompanied by the hashtag #WeAreUnited, a hashtag the Pac-12 unity group "attempting to address a number of athlete concerns has been using" (USA TODAY, 8/10).
COMMON GROUND: Stanford DE Dylan Boles, one of the players who organized yesterday's message, said that he "received a direct message on Twitter" at 5:30pm PT yesterday from Clemson RB Darien Rencher. ESPN.com's Dan Murphy notes the two had "never talked before," but Rencher "wanted to discuss the Pac-12 players' united movement with which Boles was involved." Boles is "one of the leaders of a group of roughly 400 players in the Pac-12." Boles said that Rencher and others "felt that fans and commenters were unfairly pitting the #WeWantToPlay contingent against the #WeAreUnited group." Rencher, Boles and Lawrence "talked briefly on a FaceTime call before deciding to loop in more players from around the country." The players "organized a Zoom call within an hour that included players from teams across all five major conferences." Boles said that the players "spoke for a little more than 30 minutes before deciding to issue a concise message to share the main takeaways from their conversation" (ESPN.com, 8/10).
ONLY HOPE? Univ. of Michigan CB Hunter Reynolds said playing football "can save fall college sports in general." He added, "Obviously you know there are gonna be risks with playing sports this fall, especially in the midst of COVID-19. But I think, as athletes, we feel that if the schools are unified and uniform in doing everything in their power to ensure our well-being and safety that that's a risk that a lot of people are willing to take. But then also those who aren't willing to take that risk, there shouldn't be retribution against them or they shouldn't be looked down upon" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 8/10).
BUCKEYE DREAMS: In Cleveland, Doug Lesmerises wrote Ohio State football players “find themselves in a bubble of their own.” They “believe they can try to play this season,” as the team captains released a letter Friday implying that they “aren’t worried that their school is skimping on safety.” The Buckeyes “really believe they can play, but the problem is, they can’t only play themselves.” What the Big Ten decides, OSU “must live with.” Any suggestions about OSU playing an independent schedule or joining another conference for this season are “short-sighted.” It would “look bad” for OSU (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/9). In L.A., J. Brady McCollough asked, “What good did Ohio State’s athletes accomplish with this statement? Was it worth breaking rank at a time when college athletes, no matter their sport, will never have this much leverage to effect change? Just to pat your future alma mater on the back?” If a “large majority of Buckeyes actually feel this way, that’s fine,” but they “didn’t have to say anything at all.” They “didn’t have to undermine the players out there who are finally asking all the right questions of all the right people” (L.A. TIMES, 8/8).
STRONG ARMED? In Las Vegas, Sam Gordon noted UNLV DE Nate Neal “helped lead the formation of Mountain West United -- a coalition of football players within the conference seeking certain assurances before they play this season.” Neal said, “I feel like my team is doing a good job. I want to make sure the rest of the teams are doing a great job. Nobody had heard anything. We weren’t sure if we could opt out, what that meant. … Some guys were saying that their coach was telling them ‘If you’re not playing, you might have to find a new home.’ Things like that” (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 8/9).
WARRANTED CONCERNS: In Atlanta, Michael Cunningham wrote college football is a “mess” in a lot of places. Players have “good reason to worry about their health.” It is “inevitable that some programs won’t do everything possible to ensure player safety.” Cunningham: “I’m skeptical that even responsible programs can keep players safe under the circumstances.” But still, programs are “going to risk the health of their unpaid players during a pandemic so they can entertain fans and make money for their schools.” Cunningham: “Whether you believe that’s moral, COVID-19 will be the final judge of whether it can work” (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 8/8).
PEACE OUT: In N.Y., Billy Witz notes Univ. of Connecticut football coach Randy Edsall last week "convened a meeting with his team's leadership council, which represents every position group," along with AD David Benedict, the team doctor and the trainer "before conveying their reluctance about playing to the board of trustees and President Thomas Katsouleas." Connecticut last Wednesday morning "became the first Football Bowl Subdivision team to cancel its season because of the pandemic." There were "other reasons for Connecticut to pull the plug," considering that the program is "swimming in red ink -- it had a $13 million deficit last year -- and it may well be less costly for the Huskies not to play this season." Additionally, as an independent, they had "already lost six games from the schedule because opponents had moved to conference-only games." Katsouleas said that the decision was "largely driven by the players" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/10).