John Woods Jr. has been in his son’s shoes.
“I’m a former Mizzou player, I understand what it’s like to play for a big-time program with a legendary coach.”
Woods, of Dallas, was a guard and senior captain on coach Norm Stewart’s final Tigers team that made it to the NCAA’ Tournament in 1999. Stewart coached at Missouri for 33 years, winning 684 games.
His son Kassidy plays … played wide receiver for Nick Rolovich, in his first year as head coach of Washington State’s football team.
Kassidy Woods, a redshirt sophomore, went to Rolovich over the weekend to tell him he was opting out because he didn’t feel safe.
According to John Woods, his son told the coach, “I don’t have sickle-cell anemia, I have the sickle cell trait. I have to stay healthy and I can’t take any risks with anything else that flares up with this pandemic.”
Rolovich said that was fine, but also asked him if he was part of the unity movement, referring to the coalition of Pac-12 athletes who said in The Players Tribune on Sunday that they would opt out of the conference didn’t guarantee the health of its athletes.
“Kassidy was like, ‘Yes, I am.’”
“Well we have a problem,” Rolovich responded. “If you’re part of the movement we don’t want to send mixed messages to the football program. So come in and clean out your locker. You’re still on scholarship for this year.”
Among the demands listed in the Players’ Tribune story: preserve other athletic programs instead of cutting them. “As an example, Stanford University should reinstate all sports discontinued by tapping into their $27.7 billion endowment,’ the story said; an end to racial injustice in sports and society (a tall order); and, the big one: Economic Freedom and Equity, which calls for colleges to, “Distribute 50% of each sport’s total conference revenue evenly among athletes in their respective sports.”
WSU has quite clearly summarily rejected the players’ demands. It remains to be seen if other Pac-12 teams follow suit.
The demands come on the heels of Saturday’s story by Deadspin’s own DeArbea Walker about a study called “How the NCAA’s Empire Robs Predominantly Black Athletes of Billions in Generational Wealth.” Drexel University’s Ellen Staurowsky explained that $10 billion was generated by college athletes in football and basketball, which is then transferred to predominantly white coaches and administrators. Under a 50 percent/47 percent revenue split, college football players would earn almost $1 million after four years.
I told John Woods about the study, and he replied: “As former players, we know how much money we was bringing in.”
According to Theo Lawson of The Spokesman-Review, a source close to the team denied any players had been cut.
But Kassidy was the first, and his mother, Jerline, called the program’s claim a “BOLDFACED LIE.”
According to John Woods, four other scholarship athletes were released from the team: Lamonte McDougle, Syr Riley, Dallas Hobbs and Pat Nunn; as well as “several” walk-on players. They are believed to also have been part of the unity movement, which is using the hashtag #WeStandUnited to voice its message.
One wonders how Rolovich or any coach who demands acquiescence from their players will be able to recruit in the future. Every coach stands in the living rooms of parents of young athletes, looks them in the eye, and promises to take care of their son or daughter. That’s going to be a pretty tough sell after this.
For years college athletes have taken physical risks without compensation while making fortunes for their coaches and universities. Some have even suffered life-threatening CTE from playing college sports. Now, with the health risks being higher than ever, the players ask the schools to step up. What happened to all those promises?
Kassidy Woods’ status at WSU, his scholarship and his future after this year are now in question. Why not simply tell him, “We understand your concerns, we’ll welcome you back when this is over.” Instead, this feels punitive, along the lines of, to paraphrase Deadspin reader Laura Ingraham, “Shut up and play football.’
“Because of his First Amendment rights, that’s how he feels, it shouldn’t affect his career,” John Woods said.“Now with everything going on it’s time for a change you should stand up for what you believe in. This is America, isn’t it?”