The following was letter was published by Big Ten United on The Players’ Tribune:
To the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference,
College Athlete Unity (CAU) is going on record to express the concerns of over 1,000 Big Ten football players. CAU members represent 23 different varsity sports at schools in every major conference, as well as across every NCAA division, the NAIA, and U Sport (Canada). CAU seeks to empower collegiate athletes to use their platforms for change.
We support the right of all athletes to stand up and speak out.
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.
Given that the NCAA and conference leadership have not asked for our input, we feel compelled to call for clarity, commitment, and action regarding our common-sense proposal below.
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.
BIG TEN Unity Proposal
- Protecting the Well-Being of All Athletes
- Oversight and Transparency
- Third-party, approved by players, to administer COVID testing and to enforce all COVID-19 health and safety standards
- Sufficient penalties for noncompliance
- Mandate for athletics personnel to report suspected violations
- Prevention and Safety Protocols
- Ensure all athletes have up-to-date information about the risks that COVID-19 may pose to their personal health, the health of their families and the health of their communities
- Adherence to WHO and CDC guidance for sporting events and compliance with all federal, state, and local statutes and regulations
- Safety standards that are appropriate for each sport
- Social distancing requirements and mandatory mask-wearing in and around athletic facilities by coaches, staff, players, vendors, press, and visitors
- Minimum cleaning and sanitation protocols for all uniforms, equipment, and athletic facilities, including visitor locker rooms
- Temperature checks for anyone entering any athletic facility
- Testing, Contact Tracing and Related Procedures
- Contact-tracing protocols for anyone who comes into contact with college athletes and team personnel who test positive
- Testing of everyone who comes into contact with college athletes, including coaches, trainers, medical staff, nutrition staff, referees, media, etc.
- In-season testing of all of the above three days per week
- Testing twice per week with an FDA-approved test with less than 1% false negatives
- Additionally, testing on the day of competition (or within 24 hours of competition for each team that can be quarantined) with an FDA-approved test with less than 5% false negatives, with results delivered at least two hours before competition
- Immediate quarantine of any person who tests positive or exhibits symptoms
- Quarantine rules for college athletes who test positive, and protocols for their return to practice and competition
- Objective criteria for shutting down seasons should the pandemic take a turn for the worse or if teams experience significant outbreaks
- Player Assurances
- 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
- Preserve athletic eligibility, scholarship, and roster spot for any player who opts out of athletic participation or is unable to play more than 40% of their scheduled season due to COVID-19 or season postponement/cancellation
- Complimentary access to the Big Ten Network for athletes’ family members
- Hazard-Related Economic Support
- Coverage for all out-of-pocket medical expenses related to COVID-19 (both short-term and long-term) incurred by active college athletes
- Scholarship protections (including room, board and stipend) in the event that the season is canceled due to COVID-19
- An adjustment to the cost-of-living stipend to account for the increase in personal expenses related to limited access that players have to facilities
- Reimbursement for stipends that were reduced during the summer