All players unitedWritten by Matt 'Shaggy' Culbreath | | firstname.lastname@example.org
You may not have noticed it, but three little letters shook college sports to its core last weekend.
Twenty-eight college football players took to the field last week with the letters “APU” written somewhere on their uniform. The letters stood for All Players United, a campaign started by the National College Players Association, an organization built to be a voice for student athletes. The campaign has a number of goals, but they can be boiled down to two main goals: protect athletes from concussions and head trauma, and get some of that insane money to trickle down to the kids.
They’re not talking about Arian Foster “money on the side” payments (at least, not that close to the microphone); rather, they’re suggesting upping the cap on scholarship money or guaranteeing scholarships for players who end up permanently injured. These are all seemingly reasonable reforms to assist the people who put their bodies on the line for college football.
It looks as if the word is getting to the powers that be. The NCAA responded to the APU campaign this week by saying it supports open and civil debate on the issues facing student athletes. Well, it sort of has to, right? They can’t just say, “Shut up and go risk your life for us.” And while I’ve not been the biggest supporter of the NCAA, I honestly don’t think that’s the mindset in Indianapolis. (Did you realize the NCAA was headquartered in Indianapolis? No wonder the Big 10 championship game is played at Lucas Oil Stadium.)
Although I dodged the question about direct payment to athletes earlier in this writing, it’s going to come up eventually. A scholarship is good, but cash is king, and everybody knows that the TV and video game revenues have only been growing bigger. Instead of that many just going into the suits and ties at the NCAA and college athletic offices, some of it should go to the folks who are putting their butts on the line.
But that’s where it gets messy, because if you’re going to pass that money down to the athletes, you have to pass it all the way down; from the star QB and the monster center on the women’s basketball team, to the dude on the cross-country team who doesn’t make it across the finish line until after everyone went home. Not to mention, a school like Alabama has more resources than a Bowling Green; can the Falcons keep a competitive athletic program if it can’t keep up? Should it even be up to the schools, or rather left to the governing body? Will the conferences comply? Might they instead separate from the NCAA and start anew? It’s a massive issue, but it’s one that’s going to have to be addressed head-on, soon.
The landscape of college sports is about to change, and that’s with or without the NCAA on board. Relevancy is on the line, and the players are starting to realize they hold the cards. They’ve got a toehold in the Ed O’Bannon case against the NCAA, EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Company and the people on the other side are starting to realize just how indefensible their practices can be. The question will be how exactly things change, and if everybody is able to make those changes.
Everyone loves an underdog, and in the big picture of collegiate sports, the players might be the biggest underdogs of them all.
Matt “Shaggy” Culbreath is sports director for 1370 WSPD.
Tags: Alabama, All Players United, APU, Arian Foster, Big 10, Bowling Green, Collegiate Licensing Company, EA Sports, Ed O'Bannon, Indianapolis, Lucas Oil Stadium, National College Players Association, NCAA