More than 300 football and men's basketball players from major, Division I NCAA programs have added their names to a petition drawn up and circulated by the National College Players Association (NCPA), which is headed by a former UCLA linebacker named Ramogi Hamu. The NCPA solicited player support from five major programs—Kentucky, UCLA, Georgia Tech, Purdue, and Arizona—and still received the 300-plus signatures in a span of just 10 days.
The NCPA requested that we not release the players' names to the public, so aside from the team leaders who've spoken to the AP already, that information isn't available. But the petition, which is straightforward and brief, reads as follows:
We the undersigned student-athletes are hereby calling on the NCAA and college presidents to use a portion of the $775 million in new TV revenues to increase graduation rates, decrease NCAA violations, and provide basic protections. This would include:
-Dividing a portion of new TV revenues evenly among FBS football players and Division I men's basketball players. This money would go into an educational lockbox (a trust fund) that we can receive if we abide by NCAA rules and graduate, or to pursue our undergraduate degree when our eligibility expires. This would increase our graduation rates and decrease violations.
-Raising our scholarships equal to the cost of attendance so our schools can fully support our education—an average increase of approximately $3200/year per full scholarship athlete.
-Allowing our schools the option to prioritize our education by providing multi-year scholarships.
-Preventing permanently injured players from losing their scholarships.
-Ensuring we are not stuck with sports-related medical expenses.
These are some of the many solutions that can finally allow the NCAA to realize its mission to educate and protect us with integrity. Any Title IX requirements related to the above reforms can and should also be funded with new TV revenues. We endorse the NCPA's call for comprehensive reform to occur in October.
At UCLA, the AP reports, Bruins kicker Jeff Locke recruited 70 of his teammates on the football squad and the entire men's basketball roster to sign the petition; Denzel McCoy, a redshirt freshman on the Georgia Tech football team, helped gather 55 signatures.
"I really want to voice my opinions," McCoy said. "The things we go through, the hours we put in, what our bodies go through, we deserve some sort of [results]. College football is a billion dollar industry."
Huma says the NCPA will continue to circulate the petition throughout the major programs. This week, at a meeting organized by the Knight Commission in Washington, D.C., NCAA president Mark Emmert recommended that schools offer $2,000 more to cover student-athletes' financial needs—but it would be an optional increase. The NCPA's document requests a mandatory $3,200 increase for full scholarship student-athletes, as well as other more long-term protective measures.
The NCPA's petition is a start, but as Dan Wetzel points out over at Yahoo today, the best way to get the attention of the NCAA and the people who control television revenue would be a bowl boycott. As we learned back in September, when Taylor Branch's piece in The Atlantic came out, high-profile teams have threatened boycotts before—but never at a time when the NCAA system has seemed so fraught, and the television revenue so excessive. A team sacrificing the glory of the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, or some other low-tier BCS game, would be the college football equivalent of a kid getting a tattoo after his parents' divorce. Everyone would take notice.
This petition, giddy as it makes us, is more like a nose ring. But those always get people talking.