Some of the biggest stars in college football believe it is time to organize and create a stronger voice for players in their sport.
In a few hours, on Sunday evening, a dozen college football players from all five major conferences came together to create a joint statement expressing their desire to play the 2020 season and the common items they think should be addressed to ensure a safe and equitable environment for student-athletes moving forward. The unprecedented national push for unity comes as a shocking week in college sports leaks into another that threatens to bring about more significant change.
In a statement posted on social media shortly before midnight Sunday and distributed by dozens of college footballers, the group called for uniform health and safety protocols for treating the coronavirus pandemic and set out their intentions to form an association of players. college football in the future. The statement also said that players should have the chance to leave the next football season and that they should be guaranteed another year of eligibility, whether they play this season or not.
̵1; Trevor Lawrence (@Trevorlawrencee) August 10, 2020
“The nice thing is now we are all on the same page,” said Stanford defender lineman Dylan Boles, one of the players who hosted Sunday’s message. “We made history tonight.”
Boles said he received a live message on Twitter at 5:30 p.m. PT on Sunday from Clemson running back Darien Rencher. The two had never spoken before, but Rencher wanted to discuss the Pac-12 players ’unity move with which Boles was involved. Boles is one of the leaders of a group of about 400 players in Pac-12 who published a list of requirements early last week and said they planned to drop out of practice and games potentially if conference officials were not willing to meet with them and address their concerns. Players from the Big Ten and other conferences made similar demands after that, and others showed their support with the hashtag #WeAreUnited on social media throughout the week.
Rencher was one of dozens of college football players – a list that included his friend Heisman Trophy-candidate’s defender Trevor Lawrence – who shared the hashtag #WeWantToPlay this weekend as college football administrators met to debate the merits of a 2020 season. Rencher and others thought fans and commentators were unfairly shifting the #WeWantToPlay contingent against the #WeAreUnited group, Boles said. Rencher, Boles and Lawrence chatted briefly on a FaceTime phone call before deciding to bring in more players from across the country.
“We went down to talk and agreed that our two goals are related to each other,” Boles said. “We all want to play this year. We just want to make sure the players have a speech on this.”
Players organized a Zoom call within an hour that included players from teams in all five major conferences. Players on call included Lawrence, Boles, Rencher, Alabama running behind Najee Harris, Justin Fields from Ohio State in Ohio, Oklahoma State running behind Chuba Hubbard, Penei Sewell of Oregon, Johnny Johnson III, Jevon Holland and Kayvon Thibodeaux, Nick Utah Ford, Washington State’s Dallas Hobbs and Michigan Hunter Reynolds.
Many of the Pac-12 players had previously been linked through the #WeAreUnited group since early July. Reynolds, a young defender for the Wolverines, was linked to several other players through an organization he founded earlier this summer called the College Athletete Unity. He has helped organize the movement of Big Ten players over the past few weeks.
“It makes sense that this is something that starts and something that we think is too late,” Reynolds said Sunday night. “I think now it is finally being done.”
Boles said the players talked for more than 30 minutes before deciding to release a condensed message to exchange key hurdles from their conversation. He said they unanimously agreed on the topics mentioned in the statement. He also noted that there is rapid and universal support for promoting the creation of a player association that would give all college athletes – not just footballers – a voice in the future decision-making process.
Both Reynolds and Boles said their top priority is addressing pandemic-related concerns as soon as possible. They said they hope to open a line of communication with administrators and other officials in college sports that will eventually lead to an association of players similar to the groups that provide athletes in professional sports with a statement on key league decisions made for it. which play.
Boles said he hopes a player association will serve as an introduction to more change to benefit all college athletes in the future. The next step in that process, as the players say, would be a meeting with the NCAA and conference leaders.
Players asked Hobbs, a defensive lineman Sofomore with experience in graphic design, to create a graphic that everyone could share on social media. Shortly before midnight Sunday, less than four hours after Boles and Rencher first bonded, the message was released.
“Social media is so prevalent now that unifying players is easier than ever,” Reynolds said. “You can connect with people within seconds, which makes it a lot easier to bounce ideas from each other and assess how people are feeling in different parts of the country and really set a plan.”
Boles said he believes the pandemic and racial justice protests this summer created a situation where more players feel the need to talk. The Pac-12 group where he is part of has once met with league commissioner Larry Scott, Boles said. He said the players were able to express their concerns but that they did not resolve any of their differences. Boles said Scott and league officials did not commit to another meeting with the players and rejected a request to allow players to hire and include legal representation in the discussion.
Boles said he and other players began organizing their efforts in early July and that Sunday’s rapid development was the “crown jewel” of the unity they have been trying to achieve.
“It had been a long time,” Boles said. “It was inevitable. It was just a matter of how fast we could pull it off. We were racing with the clock. We all want to play; we just want to do it the right way.”