Item: Thirteen players across the Pac-12 conference Sunday listed a set of grievances they want addressed by that league’s administrators and athletic departments. In a clear sign of the current atmosphere nationally, the players’ bullet points revolve around their identification, their health and safety, recognition of their role as student-athletes to fund a multi-billion dollar business enterprise, and subsequently a call to take a fresh look at the distribution of finances associated with the sport. Now time will tell how just fast this crusade multiplies to the other four Power 5 conferences, including the ACC and Syracuse football.
In a year in which the NFL franchise in Washington went from decades to days to discard its insensitive name, nationwide protests continue to flourish spotlighting racial injustice, and the importance of creating confinement of athletes in so-called bubbles to ensure the best chance of actual competition, comes a paradigm shift of college football players from a Power 5 conference making their voices heard loud and clear.
Call it the seismic summer of change in college sports, with the #WEAREUNITED hashtag defining the voice of those college athletes who drive the engine for the most profitable revenue sport on each major college campus.
The basic message from these student-athletes while simple, is fraught with many complex issues: The business of college football cannot continue with the status quo.
Although some of the players demands are unrealistic in the face of the nationwide decimation caused by COVID-19, and with colleges and athletic departments hemorrhaging tens of millions of dollars from the loss of in-person teaching and the revenue of room and board, and the loss of competition on the playing fields, the subject of finances is certainly sensitive.
But health and safety, and escalating the financial opportunities with the ongoing saga of player’s making money off their name, image and likeness is real.
We don’t have any sense since Sunday’s Pac-12 players declaration where all of this sits with Syracuse athletics and the Orange program. SU has always been one of the most close-lipped athletic departments in the country, and the Dino Babers era has been defined by keeping the football program’s business low key and strictly in the “Family,” or “La Familia,” or to Babers’s Hawaiian background, “Ohana.”
However, the Pac-12 message has gained steam among players in the SEC, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, perhaps the most marquee name in ACC football, has voiced his support, and in a related development 2019 first-team ACC cornerback Caleb Farley has, for personal reasons, decided to skip playing altogether to concentrate on preparing for an NFL career.
It’s hard to imagine that “Family” or not, Syracuse players have undoubtedly done a lot of thinking both individually and among teammates about the loud message originating from their Power 5 mates on the West Coast.