August 2, 2020

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This field goal as time expired gave Colorado a 16-13 win over Pac-12 rival Stanford last season.

 

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The word leaked last week that a Players Tribune piece was in the works, outlining requests/demands by an unspecified number of Pac-12 football players who had communicated and discussed at least the basic outline.


That piece, posted Sunday, is here. 


In addition, here are the previewing stories posted Saturday by ESPN and the Los Angeles Times.

 


The Players Tribune piece is impressive, extensive and idealistic. (To be clear, "idealistic" is the ultimate praise, not an accusation of naivete.) It's reminiscent of another period, one I wrote about in my roman a clef novel, The Witch's Season, when college football -- especially on the West Coast and in the Pacific 8 -- was being played on cauldron campuses and to an extent reflected those times. The Players Tribune point-by-point manifesto is a basis for discussion and, well, negotiation. As others have noted -- including Fox's Joel Klatt, the former CU quarterback -- the list runs the gamut of credibility.

 

Said Klatt via @joelklatt: "Some quality requests ... Some intersting asks ... some ridiculous demands. That is the nature of every 'negotiation'." 

 

Bottom line, one the league seems to have acknowledged: If it's deemed not safe, it's not safe. Then college football must be shut down.  

 

Unfortunately, the Players Tribune piece is signed only: "Players of the Pac-12."

 

 That leaves unanswered the question of how many players saw it, read it and endorsed it in advance. Twenty? Twelve hundred? Somewhere in between?

 

There are indications, both in the Times and ESPN stories, that distribution was significantly widespread -- but that needs to be specified with actual names, even virtual signatures. Responses to the hashtag #weareunited are coming in as I type, but it would have been more effective if the list of leaders, signees and endorsers came with the original "document." 

 

If there was concern is of retribution, that's understandable, but somebody -- at least a council-type group -- would have to be part of any discussions with the league, anyway. To whatever extent the league is willing to sincerely discuss it, rather than simply repeating that if the league plows on and the players aren't confident it's sufficiently safe, they can opt out and keep their scholarships.    

 

The University of Colorado is not mentioned. So perhaps pending digging by those who cover the Buffs on a daily basis, or a series of social media declarations from players, we don't yet know the depth of the CU players' involvement. (Feel free to point out to me those social media declarations, whether tied to the hashtag or otherwise.) Again, and I can't emphasize this enough in this age, that is not a witch hunt, it's an effort to understand the entire context of the Players Tribune piece and the manifesto it lays out.   

 

That manifesto is impressive and understandable on the social justice and safety issues, and if it's conceded some clauses clearly are crafted as expendable tradeoffs. I'm not going to run down it all. 

 

Most important, of course, is the safety of the players in the COVID-19 pandemic, and the powers of college football at times have come off -- I'm not saying it's right or fair -- as surprisingly cavalier about that issue. The league tried to shoot down that notion in its Friday Zoom news conference announcement of its revised football schedule and plans, but it lingers. Not playing the 2020 football season would be an economic catastrophe for athletic departments and all men's and women's sports, and that's at (or near) the top of the list of concerns.

 

I will say that the request for 50 pecent of the revenue to go to the players is a non-starter. For one thing, revenue already does go to the players in the forms of lucrative scholarships -- ask students piling up loans and/or working three jobs if they would would be ecstatic to get a full ride -- and now also cost of attendance stipends and potentially name, image, and likeness-related income. The latter would not come from the school, but still would be part of the equation. This is maddening: When athletes or anyone else refuse to consider a full college scholarship to be significant compensation, or not even worth injecting into the conversaton, it provides ammunition to the idiots who dismiss "student-athlete" is an oxymoron.   

 

Let the discussion begin.      

 

terry@terryfrei.com