Following the Pac-12 decision to put all sports on hold for at least the rest of 2020, the Pac-12 #WeAreUnited unity group issued a statement renewing calls for the formation of a players’ association for college athletes, was critical of the conference handling of Tuesday’s decision to postpone and file applications for athletes whose sports have been banned.
“It was clear that the Pac-12 was sadly unprepared to protect the safety of college athletes in response to COVID-19 and could not address the basic and essential safety requirements made by #WeAreUnited,” the group said in a statement. which was critical of the conference’s lack of transparency in Tuesday̵7;s decision-making. “The failures of the Pac-12 have made it clear that the time for change is now. The system is ruined. College athletes deserve and need a real voice in the form of a player association.”
While Pac-12 athletes will wait until at least January before resuming competitive activities, the unity group listed three key requirements for conference leadership to address: maintaining athletic acceptance, continuing access to support (medical, academic, food for those remaining on campus) and making all athletics-related activities optional until uniform health and safety standards are mandated throughout the conference.
Most of what the athletes asked for has already been addressed by Pac-12. However, it is unclear how well things are communicated to athletes.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said during a webinar to discuss the postponement that the conference will strongly lobby the NCAA for athletes to retain their right if the conference will not be able to play a season in early 2021. After the NCAA canceled the 2020 spring sports, it gave the right to influential athletes, but the decision to honor that suitability was left to individual schools.
Medical care, academic assistance services and food for athletes will continue to be provided as they would have been if there had been an autumn season, a conference source confirmed to ESPN.
Although Pac-12 has made it clear that its athletes will hold their scholarships, Scott said decisions on how to support them without competitive activities will be made on a campus-to-campus basis.
“They will be able to continue with the 20 hours that are allowed [each week], but I think our entire campus will have to come back and look at what is in the best interest to support them, “Scott said.
In addition to the demands, the unity group reiterated its disappointment with its perception of how seriously it has handled communication conferences.
“Throughout our relationship with the leadership of Pac-12, the rights of college athletes have not been taken seriously by the leadership of the Conference,” the statement said. “When we raised concerns about the lack of enforceable health and safety mandates at the conference as a prerequisite for a season, we met with hostility.”
Asked about interactions with the Pac-12 unity group on Tuesday, Scott pushed Arizona state athletics director Ray Anderson.
“We thought it was productive. We were listening to their concerns, and so we will have subsequent conversations with them as appropriate as the whole situation develops,” Anderson said. “There have been a ton of things we are dealing with and talking about, and we will certainly be surrounded.”
Also Tuesday, the Big Ten postponed all fall sports seasons, including football, amid the coronavirus pandemic, in hopes of playing in the spring. In response to the news, a Big Ten player told ESPN that “we are currently processing the information and discussing what steps we will take to move forward”.
ESPN’s Tom VanHaaren contributed to this report.