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NCAA Athletes Can Keep Scholarships with Opt-Out, but Big Ten, Pac-12 Players Need to See More [UPDATED]

Big Ten players are demanding more than what the NCAA and conference have promised them so far in protection against COVID-19.
Big Ten players are demanding more than what the NCAA and conference have promised them so far in protection against COVID-19.
Image: (Getty Images)

The NCAA will allow students to opt-out of the season due to concerns over COVID-19 and still honor athletic scholarships, it was reported Wednesday.

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Yet many other student athletes, including 1,000 Big Ten football players and a growing Pac-12 alliance, are asking for even more transparency from the NCAA and their individual conferences.

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In a piece on The Players’ Tribune earlier the same day, the players announced a Big Ten Unity Proposal in response to the conference’s current plan, and are advocating for more of a voice in decision-making procedures.

Pac-12 athletes, meanwhile, are keeping the heat on. The conference’s #WeAreUnited movement has already gained concessions from the NCAA, but it’s not stopping there.

College Athlete Unity (CAU), an organization that fights against injustice in college athletics announced in the post that they were speaking out on behalf of the players when they say that the Big Ten’s coronavirus proposal “falls short in certain areas.”

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Among the many requests in the Unity Proposal is a player-approved third party to administer COVID testing and health guidelines as well as up-to-date information on the risks that COVID-19 may pose to their own health and health of their loved ones.

In addition, the players want whistleblower protections for individuals reporting a violation of health protocols, coverage for all out of pocket medical expenses and insurance that their eligibility won’t be impacted by their decision to not play.

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#BigTenUnited is the second movement that has erupted after conferences failed to provide legitimate safety protocols for athletes to compete this fall.

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Players in the PAC-12 started the #WeAreUnited movement to ensure that measures taken by the conference to compete this fall were both fair and safe for athletes. The #WeAreUnited movement also called for the removal of racially oppressive practices that the NCAA has implemented for decades and the preservation of all sports on campus.

“The NCAA — which is known for its zeal for regulations and enforcement — has had ample time to prepare for the safe return of its athletes to competition, yet it has done nothing,” said the CAU in the Big 10 proposal. “Its laissez-faire approach is forcing each conference and each school to create its own plan, resulting in inconsistent policies, procedures, and protocols.”

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“Given that the NCAA and conference leadership have not asked for our input, we feel compelled to call for clarity, commitment, and action regarding our common-sense proposal below,” the organization continued.

Also on Wednesday, the NCAA announced that each division (I, II, & III) will have to make their own individual determinations on fall championships by August 21.

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Division III subsequently announced their cancellation.

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The NCAA’s board of governors also said each division must determine the eligibility arrangements that must be implemented for student-athletes who decide not to participate in athletics this fall or for those whose seasons are terminated or shortened because of the virus. This decision will have to be made by August 14.

Additionally, the organization said that member schools can’t require student-athletes to waive their legal rights regarding COVID-19 as a condition of athletics participation and member schools would be required to cover COVID-19 related medical expenses for student-athletes.

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The respective NCAA divisions would be forced to cancel specific fall sports championships if at least half of the eligible teams competing in their division in that specific sport decided to cancel their fall seasons.

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The movements that these athletes have created have been able to force both the NCAA and these individual conferences to adjust their standards in this current climate.

Athletes are learning that they have more power than ever before and refuse to continue to be pawns used to create billions of dollars in revenue for these institutions.

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“We have started a dialogue in good faith with the Big Ten and hope that the NCAA will follow suit,” said the CAU. “Given the short time frame, and with our season at stake, this conversation must happen now.”

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