Late last night, Trevor Lawrence tweeted out a graphic stating that a group of players from across the P5 conferences want to play college football this season. The players appear to be unified in wanting a season to happen, as long as COVID-19 safety measures are in place and the possibility of a College Football Players Association exists in the future. According to The State’s Matt Connolly, Darien Rencher helped put together a call between 13 players across the P5 conferences. The result of that meeting was the statement Lawrence tweeted out.
With rumors swirling that at least some P5 conferences are planning to cancel the 2020 season this week, the players wanted their voices to be heard. Some of the student athletes around the country have begun to realize they have a voice and that they need to make that voice heard through a united front.
But this statement isn’t just about wanting to play football. I think everyone involved in college football wants to play from top to bottom. Thousands have jobs linked to college athletics. Thousands more are able to get an education because of college athletics. And a select few are even going to be able to make a living from the work they put in on the field in college. This is about trying to play in the safest way possible to ensure everyone is protected. But it is also about the future and this is another step towards players organizing.
College football can exist in 2020. As we’ve seen in the NWSL, MLS, NBA, and NHL — plus a number of European soccer leagues — there is a way to play organized athletics even with the dangers of COVID-19. But to do so requires steps that don’t fit into the current NCAA amateurism mold. Stewart Mandel of The Athletic proposed a concept of each conference bubbling in a city. It is also possible that college football could try some version of what MLB is doing. Major League Baseball has decided to play a 60 game season with teams staying in their home cities and no fans in attendance. Teams are asked to self-quarantine at their homes, but it has not gone very well even with the frequent testing. However it is easier than the logistics of putting an entire conference in a single city. But if conferences go that route, players would have to be separated from any student body population on campus. Both of these options don’t fit into the NCAA definition of student athlete.
So, what ultimately gives? Previous sources have mentioned that school presidents are more terrified of players organizing than they are of COVID-19.
Power 5 AD just texted: “You and your colleagues are chasing the wrong story. The virus alone is enough to stop the season. But presidents are terrified of players organizing. It’s the paradigm shift to change amateur sports.” (1of2)— Matt Hayes (@MattHayesCFB) August 8, 2020
At this point, it seems like the moment has passed. Players have realized they have a voice and that there is strength in unity. Even if the P5 does cancel this season, it is hard to think that the players are just going to move on after the 2020 season and let things return to normal. There are going to be conversations going forward, and a lot of them are going to be uncomfortable, asking a lot of pointed questions. Depending on what everyone involved really wants out of this, we could see college athletics look very different in the coming years.