It appears the jig is up — as if it hasn’t been for some time — and it’s clear there’s actually enough money to pay student-athletes. The thing about alleged educational institutions unapologetically trampling tradition en route to exorbitant TV deals is people notice.
Say what you want about the intellect of kids who inhale vape cartridges, Jell-O shots, and High Noons like they’re lifeblood, but if they can figure out how bad they’re getting screwed in between exams and happy hours, the NCAA and its universities are in trouble.
Again, I write that as if it’s breaking news. With the addition of NIL deals, it was inevitable that the next ask from student-athletes would be a slice of the actual pie. As opposed to having outside parties stock the bake sale, a players advocacy group dubbed the College Football Players Association, which includes Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford, wants a wedge straight from the NCAA display case.
Speaking with Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, the CFBPA, which is not a union but could be, made three demands:
- Independent medical care enforced by a CFBPA representative
- Post-football health protections
- A percentage of media rights revenue for players
Calling them “demands” would’ve been cute 10, five, or even two years ago. It’s not so much now that they’re being presented to the head of one of the most powerful conferences in the sport. Jason Stahl, the executive director of the CFBPA and a former University of Minnesota faculty member, helped form the organization in 2021.
He was able to get Warren on the phone, according to CBS Sports, and the talks weren’t just for show like the UN placating Greta Thunberg.
“We talked about all three demands,” Stahl said. “The first two of which, he seemed very open to movement toward our position. The third demand [regarding sharing revenue] I could tell it was going to be stickier, but it was going to be part of the conversation.”
First off, how dare you! Sports revenue is crucial to propping up these schools that are bleeding resources to educate the future leaders of our society. Never mind that average tuition jumped 2,580 percent from 1970 to 2020, or that Clemson’s locker room looks like a Nike Store display, not a single dollar of the TV money can be spared! (Yes that’s sarcasm!)
Clifford told ESPN that these demands are a starting point and that “we think there is more that could happen.” The Nittany Lion said he and the players he spoke with don’t intend to form a union or engage in hostile labor disputes. Warren also added the Big Ten hasn’t had any negotiations with the CFBPA and doesn’t have any scheduled.
The rhetoric from Stahl — who repeatedly stressed that the CFBPA is not a union despite going by an acronym that evokes such famous sports unions as the MLBPA, the NBPA, and the NFLPA — was… not as friendly.
“It’s not about the Big Ten and it’s not about Penn State – it’s about the entirety of college athletics needing reform,” Stahl said.
He said if the requests aren’t addressed voluntarily, “we have the option of forming a union and attempting to unionize the entire Big Ten.”
This is my favorite quote from Stahl, because it sounds so hopeful, as if revenue sharing isn’t something students-athletes will have to pry from the cold, dead fingers of conference commissioners.
“We are not a union. I had fantastic conversations with Kevin Warren that he was ready to talk with CFBPA about these three demands. We are going to exhaust that process before we consider other avenues.”
Trust me, Mr. CFBPA executive director, by the end of this process, you will be exhausted. Good luck and godspeed.