Our power as players comes from being together
August 2, 2020 4:54 PM   Subscribe

As the fall college football season barrels ever closer despite COVID, SEC officials told players in a private phone call this week, “There are going to be outbreaks. We’re going to have positive cases on every single team in the SEC. That’s a given. And we can’t prevent it (wapo).” Meanwhile, players at the Pac12 stand united in a series of demands to protect and benefit both scholarship and walk-on athletes addressing concerns related to COVID, economic freedom, medical care, and racism, among other things, and plan to sit out the season until demands are met. posted by ChuraChura (33 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I only read the wapo link so far, but...
“We’re going to have positive cases on every single team in the SEC. That’s a given. And we can’t prevent it.
Can-do attitude. There's no 'i' in team. But there is a '$'.
posted by j_curiouser at 5:18 PM on August 2, 2020 [32 favorites]

Man, if I could live to see the death of the NCAA division I amateur athletics scam, I would be so happy.

And the fact that the athletes are unpaid means that the programs have much less leverage than pro owners or most other employers for that matter. You can't threaten not to pay someone who's already working for free!

(Yes, I know that a full tuition scholarship is worth a lot, though it's a fraction of what the elite players should be getting.)
posted by sy at 6:00 PM on August 2, 2020 [31 favorites]

I'm really proud of those PAC-12 students. I went to a big football school, and worked on a student newspaper where a lot of my colleagues went on to high-profile sports reporting jobs with national publications (so I know a lot about the ins and outs of NCAA football, is what I'm saying), and to stand up to these big programs like this is very courageous. These programs exercise enormous power over these kids' futures and their ability to remain enrolled in college and even their ability to eat adequate calories every day. And big-conference sports administrators have zero patience for students who say these things out loud and they can and do retaliate. To have athletes in a major conference who play for revenue sports stand up like this is a big deal, and a big risk for those students. Very proud of them.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:40 PM on August 2, 2020 [44 favorites]

I read this last night, and there isn't a single thing in their list that isn't a really, really good idea. One of their main points is that denying student athletes any kind of compensation ignores the 98-99% of student athletes that will never turn pro. However, video games based on college sports use their likeness to create realism, if the university can profit off of the game, why not the students? As they say, their years as student athletes have the potential (for those who don't turn pro) to be the most lucrative years of their lives, but they are barred from any earnings. That needs to change.

The other thing that I really am impressed by, and think is a wonderful idea: making sports scholarships six years, to encourage and enable student athletes to pursue master's degrees. Given the amount of revenue the student athlete brings to the school, and all of the lip service dedicated to promoting the NCAA as a good thing because it offers students an education (which has been proven, repeatedly, to be horseshit), force them to live up to their promise. If only a shrinking minority of student athletes ever turn pro, why not have in place the kind of commitment by the university to the students that the universities require of the students, to their schools?

And yeah, ending the bullshit where the highest paid public employee in any given state is either the men's football or basketball coach would be a nice start. Fuck $5 million a year for a coach, put that money into actually educating the players.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:55 PM on August 2, 2020 [22 favorites]

Wow, the players are refusing to play? That's amazing.
posted by medusa at 7:09 PM on August 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Non-revenue sports need to be remembered as well.

For instance in baseball, a team's roster usually has thirty-some players, but only 11.7 players can have a scholarship. Baseball is one of those sports where scholarships can be broken up, so coaches spread them out as much as they can across the roster.

Are more of these studen-athletes deserving of full rides? If yes, where's the money coming from?
posted by Fukiyama at 7:10 PM on August 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Churachura, that study described in the Deadspin article is fantastic. (Yet again, one of my favorite things about the internet is being able to read actual studies, and court decisions, in addition to the media coverage of them.)

Thank you for linking to that, and for this great FPP. It is inspiring to see the players demanding basic fair play.
posted by kristi at 7:23 PM on August 2, 2020

The tables in the deadspin article describing what the salaries would be like in any sort of realistic revenue sharing plan are jaw dropping. Everything I’ve heard about plans for paying student athletes made it sound like stipend level money, or a cost of living payment. Earning, per person (yes, on rarified teams at the top of two select sports) of thousands of dollars a year for the school, but being told to be grateful for a scholarship, or to lose eligibility for trying, in any way, to make back some of those lost earnings, that’s fucking criminal.

And definitely, the sports and athletes that aren’t basketball and football deserve similar redress. It’s insane that the only people making any money off of student athletes are the ones who never take the field.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:08 PM on August 2, 2020 [4 favorites]

Solidarity with these athletes; add my voice to those shouting down the power/economic structures embedded in Division I athletics.

Specific to this act of resistance, I want to highlight a take from an ESPN roundtable disecting the action. Lots of solid perspectives across the contributors, but Bill Connelly mentioned something that really struck a nerve with me -- in 'normal' times there was a by-the-book request for player unionization (@ Northwestern, 2014-5). It was tied up in court for 6+ years, with attendant framing of "greedy players, they are already getting an education". In the end, a minor gain? Yes. Dignified, trusting communication? Hell no.

In 2014 NCAA had a 'bureaucratically respectful' voice to discuss this power structure. They put every effort into stomping it down. Now, in 'unprecedented' times, will the D-I powers again hide behind this power structure in responding to the PAC-12 players? It was bold avarice before, now they risk straight cowardice.
posted by Theophrastus Johnson at 9:00 PM on August 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

And: every time I read about a strong push towards a paradigm shift (like free labor model of D-I athletics), I pinch myself to think about the long story. Sure, there are lots of recent currents that have us thinking about this situation. But this change wasn't jumpstarted only by COVID-19, or the Northwestern football team. Perhaps the story is far broader, but I want to give a hat-tip to my personal intro into the "D-I athletic structure is a sham": Ed O'Bannon. Wikipedia gives a cursory intro, John Oliver fleshes out the story.
posted by Theophrastus Johnson at 9:13 PM on August 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

I saw someone bemoaning this as the players making this a “hostage situation.” Um... the NCAA and schools will just keep kicking the can down the road as long as they’re allowed to on most of these issues. The pandemic is a massive threat to most athletic departments. If there is no football season, then the athletic budgets of a ton of schools are kaput. The NCAA has put this off as far as they can go, and the players have a farkton of leverage now.

Revenue sharing is a tricky wicket, though. A problem you run into is that if you’re paying the men but not the women, that’s a big time Title IX violation. I think the 50/50 demand ends up being a bargaining chip to get other things they want. Regardless, I support the players. This is a business, no matter how much the ADs try saying it’s not.
posted by azpenguin at 9:24 PM on August 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

In the Pac-12, the academic standards are actually mostly enforced. I suspect that could mean better orginized students atheletes, just as in the Northweatern case.

lets pay the players and while we are at it, make college more affordable for everyone
posted by CostcoCultist at 9:58 PM on August 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Revenue sharing is a tricky wicket, though. A problem you run into is that if you’re paying the men but not the women, that’s a big time Title IX violation. I think the 50/50 demand ends up being a bargaining chip to get other things they want. Regardless, I support the players. This is a business, no matter how much the ADs try saying it’s not.

It’s not really that hard. Just form the professional teams independent of the school and have a set fee for licensing the name/logos and renting the facilities. Leave it up to the team to pay the players via the revenue they earn. BYU’s men soccer team existed like this until very recently.
posted by jmauro at 12:02 AM on August 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

From the fantastic Deadspin report linked above:
For the 2017-2018 academic year, NCAA president Mark Emmert and the commissioners of the Power
Five conferences all had multi-million dollar compensation packages (Fischer (2019). Their salaries were
as follows:
x Big Ten Commissioner, Jim Delaney - $5.5 million
x PAC-12 Commissioner, Larry Scott - $5.2 million
x Big 12 Commissioner, Bob Bowlsby - $4.1 million
x ACC Commissioner, John Swofford - $$3.5 million
x NCAA President, Mark Emmert – nearly $4 million
x SEC Commissioner, Greg Sankey - around $2 million
... and that tells you all you need to know about motivations for reopening, health of the players be damned.
posted by benzenedream at 12:19 AM on August 3, 2020 [16 favorites]

The other thing that I really am impressed by, and think is a wonderful idea: making sports scholarships six years, to encourage and enable student athletes to pursue master's degrees.

I don't know if it's a majority, but a fair number of students finish their undergrad degrees in 4-6 years, typically 5 (that was me, 2012), and I wouldn't be surprised if, due to economic factors, 6 years is becoming a rising norm. That, and Masters programs are a whole other can of worms IMHO.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 3:07 AM on August 3, 2020 [3 favorites]

For the most part, student athletes have four years of eligibility, though toss in “redshirt” first year students, and rarely you have fifth year eligible student athletes. For the most part, I think the push for something like a 6 year scholarship would address the fact that, if you don’t play, you lose your scholarship. Given the ridiculous revenue the school gets as a result of students’ labor, offering a sort of pension in the form of a continued scholarship to graduate school for those who want it seems only fair.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:51 AM on August 3, 2020 [3 favorites]

I'm an alum of an athletically elite SEC school and I'm a fan of college football and baseball. Nobody at my alma mater cares what I think because I have no endowment money to make them listen to me. I support these athletes 100%. The NCAA's position on "amateur" athletics is a joke, and it's long-since time for things to change. It has nothing to do with protecting students and everything to do with protecting revenue. It makes no sense that LSU can sell a Joe Burrow jersey for $150, but while he was a player Burrow couldn't accept a free lunch from someone. The library floods every time it rains, but "boosters" came up with $40 million for a remodeled locker room for the football team. Those misplaced priorities aren't the fault of the students, and they absolutely deserve our support, but I wish we had a way to get through to the donor class, too.
posted by wintermind at 4:33 AM on August 3, 2020 [10 favorites]

I saw someone bemoaning this as the players making this a “hostage situation.”

Something tells me this person was somehow thinking of some inanimate object or concept, like profit, as the "hostage" and ignoring the actual athletes whose lives or health would be in danger. /insert eyeroll emoji/
posted by eviemath at 5:12 AM on August 3, 2020 [9 favorites]

I hope they have enough leverage to make at least the key demands succeed. The current system is terrible and should have been changed long ago.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:35 AM on August 3, 2020

'We are being gaslit': College football and Covid-19 are imperiling athletes
Nathan Kalman-Lamb, Derek Silva and Johanna Mellis, The Guardian

See also this twitter thread by Nathan Kalman-Lamb.

Lots of (anonymous) interviews with athletes. One thing I'm wondering about is how widespread these "liability waivers" are that universities are making their athletes sign. There was a lot of publicity about the Ohio State coronavirus waiver a couple months ago. This article hints that it's a bigger issue:
One such waiver that we viewed begins with the statement that the university in question is unable to ensure that team members will not be infected with Covid-19 during football activities. The waiver then states that participation in football activities is “voluntary”, before suggesting that it will “potentially” expose players to Covid-19. After asserting that football activities very well might lead to the contraction of the virus, the waiver asks players to “release from fault” any employees or agents of the university for injury and illness including death that occurs as a consequence of contracting the virus from football activities.
posted by pjenks at 8:15 AM on August 3, 2020 [4 favorites]

Related twitter thread: We need to be honest about just how screwed up this country is and how its institutions are in maddening crises. (twitter) (threadreaderapp) - Jared Yates Sexton
Before we dive into it, we have to state a few things.

- College football is the driving force behind in-person classes.

- College football has become one of the main drivers of higher education.

- There is NO REASON AT ALL why higher education depends on college football.

posted by ZeusHumms at 8:32 AM on August 3, 2020 [13 favorites]

As a Penn State alum/dropout, the whole Sandusky/Paterno scandal really opened my eyes as to what universities' priorities are and how nothing stands in the way of all-mighty football.

The schools haven't cared about young men's bodies and brains being mangled on the field, why would they suddenly give a shit if they get a life-threatening disease? Student athletes are just disposable fodder for the our viewing pleasure and university and TV network revenue.
posted by octothorpe at 10:14 AM on August 3, 2020 [7 favorites]

I am the point where I wouldn't be surprised if NCAA football introduced chariots and lions.
posted by srboisvert at 10:55 AM on August 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

A problem you run into is that if you’re paying the men but not the women, that’s a big time Title IX violation.

I bet if we all think really hard for a while, we can come up with a solution to this one.
posted by nickmark at 2:48 PM on August 3, 2020 [17 favorites]

I bet if we all think really hard for a while, we can come up with a solution to this one.

Oh, I know. But somehow I don’t think that’s what would happen. Football and men’s basketball are the show ponies, and they will be protected at all costs.

It’s all a hot mess. I don’t blame the players for standing up and asking why they aren’t getting a share of the money they’re bringing to the school. I don’t blame them one bit. I blame the administrators, the boosters, the “visionaries” who turned this all into a huge moneymaker. When the football coaching staff is making a combined $7 million, the basketball coaching staff is making $3-4 million, the athletic director is making seven figures, there’s ads all over the stadiums, luxury suites are going for tens of thousands per game, the recruiting budget seems bottomless... they really expected the players to never start taking action?
posted by azpenguin at 9:52 PM on August 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

It's really galling that so many of the schools that participate in this system are public. It's awful how much sports corrupt our education system, and more so when the schools in question are supposed to be operated in the interest of the public.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:53 AM on August 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

In the perfect summation of what's wrong here, Mississippi is instituting a mask order for the sake of college football.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:19 PM on August 4, 2020 [4 favorites]

Breaking: Mid-American Conference cancels fall football due to coronavirus (Ralph D. Russo/AP)
The Mid-American Conference on Saturday became the first league at college football’s highest level to cancel its fall season because of the pandemic.

“I’m heartbroken we are in this place,” MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said.

With the MAC’s 12 schools facing a significant financial burden by trying to maintain costly coronavirus protocols, and the uncertainty that campuses can be opened safely, the conference’s university presidents made the decision to cancel all fall sports — including soccer and volleyball — and explore making them up in the spring season.

Though postponing could also prove costly without revenue generated by football media rights deals and ticket sales.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:03 AM on August 8, 2020

Aug 9, 2020: Big Ten leaders meet as college football season sputters toward collapse (Pete Thamel/Yahoo Sports)
Sources told Yahoo Sports that the league’s presidents and chancellors were meeting on Sunday night, and would be discussing the future of the 2020 football season and the league’s fall sports for the second consecutive day. A final decision isn’t guaranteed, but after a presidents call on Saturday afternoon there’s significant sentiment toward canceling the fall season.

In the presidents’ call on Saturday, sources told Yahoo Sports there was a strong majority – but not unanimous – in support of canceling the season. The group took more than 24 hours before reconvening on Sunday night to discuss the issues again.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:06 PM on August 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Aug 9, 2020: Sources: Power 5 conferences talking about no fall football (ESPN)
Commissioners of the Power 5 conferences held an emergency meeting on Sunday, as there is growing concern among college athletics officials that the upcoming football season and other fall sports can't be played because of the coronavirus pandemic, sources told ESPN.

No major decisions were made on Sunday night, but multiple sources in several Power 5 conferences have told ESPN the commissioners talked about trying to collaborate if their respective presidents do decide to cancel or postpone fall sports.
posted by ZeusHumms at 5:30 AM on August 10, 2020

Press Release:
ROSEMONT, Ill. – The Big Ten Conference announced the postponement of the 2020-21 fall sports season, including all regular-season contests and Big Ten Championships and Tournaments, due to ongoing health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:18 PM on August 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

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