This morning, the Big Ten released its schedule for the 2020 season, which calls for games to begin as early as September 3. Only a few hours later, a group of over 1,000 Big Ten football players is calling upon the conference and the NCAA to put a better COVID-19 plan in place to ensure their safety.
In an article for The Players’ Tribune, the College Athlete Unity (CAU) shared the players’ concerns about the Big Ten’s current COVID-19 safety plan and the lack of leadership by the NCAA. When it comes to the latter, the language is pretty blistering, and rightly so.
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. 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 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. Its laissez-faire approach is forcing each conference and each school to create its own plan, resulting in inconsistent policies, procedures and protocols.
The players, under the moniker #BigTenUnited, also shared their own proposal. Here are just a few of their demands:
- In-season testing of all of the above three days per week, including the day of competition
- Whistleblower protections for athletics personnel and college athletes reporting a suspected violation
- Ban the use of COVID-19 liability waivers
- Automatic medical redshirt for any player who misses any competitions due to a positive test or a mandatory quarantine due to contact tracing
- Complimentary access to the Big Ten Network for athletes’ family members
- Coverage for all out-of-pocket medical expenses related to COVID-19 (both short-term and long-term) incurred by active college athletes
You can read the entire letter here. While the Big Ten players don’t go as far as the Pac-12 group that threatened to sit out the season if their demands weren’t met, it’s pretty much implied.
“We have started a dialogue in good faith with the Big Ten and hope that the NCAA will follow suit. Given the short time frame, and with our season at stake, this conversation must happen now.”