Big Ten players follow Pac-12, form unity group

  • Senior college football writer
  • Author of seven books on college football
  • Graduate of the University of Georgia

Football players from the Big Ten on Wednesday joined Pac-12 players in publishing a list of demands related to their safety during the coronavirus pandemic, along with what they called other platforms for change.

The list of demands, entitled #BigTenUnited and purportedly written by “Players of the Big Ten,” was published by the Players Tribune on Wednesday.

“While we appreciate the Big Ten’s recently announced plan for the upcoming season, we believe that the conference’s proposal falls short in certain areas,” the Big Ten players wrote. “Given that the players are the primary stakeholders in the business of college sports, we believe any course of action moving forward needs to include player input. We are deeply disappointed with the lack of leadership demonstrated by the NCAA with respect to player safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We believe that the NCAA must – on its own and through collaboration with the conference – devise a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety and well-being of players leading up to and during the upcoming fall season.”

College Athlete Unity, which says it represents student-athletes from 23 different varsity sports at every major conference, was listed as a contract for the group of Big Ten players.

Michigan defensive back Hunter Reynolds and Minnesota defensive back Benjamin St-Juste, a former Wolverine player, started CAU this summer to give student-athletes a platform for peaceful protest regarding racial injustice and other social issues.

“The NCAA – which is known for its zeal for regulations and enforcement – has had ample time to prepare for the safe return of its athletes to competition, yet it has done nothing,” the players wrote. “Its laissez-faire approach is forcing each conference and each school to create its own plan, resulting in inconsistent policies, procedures and protocols.”

The Big Ten players’ list of demands included several of the same issues regarding coronavirus testing, contact tracing and social distancing that a group of Pac-12 players made in another letter published by the Players Tribune on Sunday.

Among the Big Ten players’ demands:

  • Third-party, approved by players, to administer COVID testing and to enforce all COVID-19 health and safety standards

  • Sufficient penalties for noncompliance. * Mandate for athletics personnel to report suspected violations.

  • Whistleblower protections for athletics personnel and college athletes reporting a suspected violation.

  • Ban the use of COVID-19 liability waivers.

  • Automatic medical redshirt for any player who misses any competitions due to a positive test or a mandatory quarantine due to contact tracing.

  • Preserve athletic eligibility, scholarship, and roster spot for any player who opts out of athletic participation or is unable to play more than 40% of their scheduled season due to COVID-19 or season postponement/cancellation.

  • Coverage for all out-of-pocket medical expenses related to COVID-19 (both short-term and long-term) incurred by active college athletes.

“Given that the NCAA and conference leadership have not asked for our input, we feel compelled to call for clarity, commitment, and action regarding our common-sense proposal,” the Big Ten players wrote. “We have started a dialogue in good faith with the Big Ten and hope that the NCAA will follow suit. Given the short time frame, and with our season at stake, this conversation must happen now.”

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