Three days after a group of Pac-12 players shared their #WeAreUnited movement asking for a seat at the negotiating table, the Big Ten has followed suit.
“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,” College Athlete Unity (CAU) said in a statement published by The Players Tribune. “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.”
The statement, which goes on to include a proposal, is shared on behalf of 1,000 Big Ten football players.
Some of the items proposed by the group are:
- Third-party, approved by players, to administer COVID testing and to enforce all COVID-19 health and safety standards
- Sufficient penalties for noncompliance and a mandate for athletics personnel to report suspected violations
- Appropriate safety standards for each sport
- Social distancing requirements and mandatory mask-wearing in and around athletic facilities by coaches, staff, players, vendors, press, and visitors
- Minimum cleaning and sanitation protocols for all uniforms, equipment, and athletic facilities, including visitor locker rooms
- Contact-tracing protocols for anyone who comes into contact with college athletes and team personnel who test positive
- Testing of everyone who comes into contact with college athletes, including coaches, trainers, medical staff, nutrition staff, referees, media, etc.
- In-season testing of all of the above three days per week
- 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
- Scholarship protections (including room, board and stipend) in the event that the season is canceled due to COVID-19
- Coverage for all out-of-pocket medical expenses related to COVID-19 (both short-term and long-term) incurred by active college athletes
The full list is much longer, but it’s heavily focused on player health and safety.
The Big Ten did announce testing and quarantine protocols for high-contact sports, including football, on Wednesday. To highlight, the Big Ten noted that it will require testing at a minimum of once weekly, high-contact sports will require testing at a minimum of twice weekly, testing is required within three days of competition for sports with one game per week and the Big Ten will coordinate the testing through a third-party. The document, provided by the Big Ten, can be found here.
The Big Ten had yet to respond to the proposal and demands as of time of publishing. The conference announced its updated 10-game, conference only schedules early on Wednesday. Commissioner Kevin Warren spoke to The Athletic about the scheduling decision on Tuesday night, and how nothing is yet set in stone.
“Even though we have a schedule and we have student-athletes working out on our campuses, it is not a guarantee that we will have a football season or that we’ll have fall sports,” Warren said. “Releasing a schedule does not mean that we’re just pushing forward and ignoring all the medical protocols and procedures. We’ve made it very clear that, if and when we get to the point where it’s not in the best interest of our student-athletes and our Big Ten community, from a health and safety standpoint, to have sports in the fall — regardless of what the sport is — we won’t do it. We’re being very methodical in our thought process.”