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Pac-12 responds to football players threatening opt-outs

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The Pac-12 responded Monday to football players who have threatened to opt-out of the season because of concerns related to health and safety, racial injustice and economic rights with a letter touting the conference’s work in those areas and an invitation to meet later this week.

A letter from Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, dated Aug. 3, was sent to 12 football players leading the #WeAreUnited movement. The letter was obtained by The Associated Press and first reported by Sports Illustrated.

The players say they have been communicating with more than 400 of their peers throughout the Pac-12. The group released a lengthy list of demands Sunday and said if they are not addressed they will not practice or play. The group said it reached out to the Pac-12 on Sunday to request a meeting. In the letter, Scott said he was eager to discuss their concerns.

“I will come back to you in the coming days following discussion with our members and student-athlete leaders to schedule a call for this week to discuss the matters that you have raised,” Scott wrote.

Also Monday night, Washington State coach Nick Rolovich said in a statemen t he regretted cautioning one of his players about being part of the #WeAreUnited movement. A recording of a conversation between Rolovich and receiver Kassidy Woods obtained by the Dallas Morning News revealed the coach seemingly warning the player that being involved with the group would hurt his standing with the team. Woods had called Rolovich to inform him he was opting out of the season for health reasons related to COVID-19.

“I spoke with Kassidy Woods in a private phone conversation last Saturday afternoon. This was before the #WeAreUnited group had released its letter of concerns,” said Rolovich, who is in his first season was Washington State coach. “Without knowing the concerns of the group, I regret that my words cautioning Kassidy have become construed as opposition. I’m proud of our players and all the Pac-12 student-athletes for using their platform, especially for matters they are passionate about. WSU football student-athletes who have expressed support for the #WeAreUnited group will continue to be welcome to all team-related activities, unless they choose to opt out for health and safety reasons.”

The #WeAreUnited players’ demands focused on four areas: health and safety protections, especially protocols related to COVID-19; guarding against the elimination of sports programs by schools during an economic downturn; ending racial injustice in college sports; and economic freedom and equity.

Scott addressed each area, highlighting the conference’s:

— Medical advisory committee working on COVID-19 protocols and webinars for student-athletes and their parents;

— Support for reforming NCAA rules regarding name, image and likeness compensation for college athletes;

— Recent initiatives to address racial inequities such as the formation of a social justice & anti-racism advisory group that includes student-athletes representatives.

Scott also listed 10 areas in which, he wrote, “The Pac-12 has been a leader in supporting student-athlete health and well-being …” Included were enhanced medical coverage post-eligibility; cost-of-attendance stipends added to the value of scholarship; mental health support; and the Pac-12′s support of reforming NCAA transfer rules to allow athletes more freedom to switch schools.

Pac-12 football teams are scheduled to begin preseason practices Aug. 17 and the league’s conference-only regular season is set to start Sept. 26.

Report: Washington State players who support Pac-12 movement ‘released from team’

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This is not a good look for Washington State or first-year head football coach Nick Rolovich.  At all.

Sunday afternoon, players from across the Pac-12 confirmed that they will sit out the 2020 season en masse unless a laundry list of concerns are addressed.  Among those are fighting racial injustice, ensuring safety amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, obtain long-term health insurance and secure economic rights and fair compensation.  Most of those are highly reasonable and probably should’ve been done years before.  Seeking 50 percent of a conference’s revenue be directed to student-athletes? That’s highly, highly, highly unlikely, if for nothing more than the impact it would have on non-revenue sports, which are already on the chopping block because of the pandemic.

Still, the players have fired the first shoot in what’s expected to be a series of volleys between the two sides.  And, according to some of the parents of Washington State football players, the Wazzu program has fired back as well.  By, essentially, firing those who have come out in support of the movement.

Among those is wide receiver Kassidy Woods (pictured), who was told he is technically still on scholarship.

Thus far, the Washington State football program has not addressed the reported development.  Or even attempted to clarify the flurry of allegations that are painting the Cougars in a very negative light.  A light that future recruits are certain to notice.

The silence, as they say, is deafening.  And, with every minute that goes by, it makes it worse and worse for the university.

And, if the program is indeed not allowing players who opt out of the season to participate in practice or any other team activities — a very reasonable stance if they are opting out over safety concerns — they need to state that.  Especially if they are going to remain on scholarship after opting out.

Washington State announces head coach Nick Rolovich, others to take pay cuts, eschew bonuses

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Add Washington State football coaches to the growing list of individuals in the sports world who are tightening their financial belts amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

On the first day of this month, Iowa State announced a one-year reduction in pay and bonuses for all of its coaches.  Louisville soon followed suit.  Athletic directors at Oregon (HERE) and Wyoming (HERE) are taking cuts in pay.  Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, who reportedly made north of $5 million a year ago, is taking a 20% pay cut.  Scott’s Big 12 counterpart, Bob Bowlsby, announced pay cuts for himself and the conference’s staff.

Monday evening, Wazu became the latest to announce that prominent figures at the university will be giving up some of their pay. Included in that is new Washington State football head coach Nick Rolovich, who is “voluntarily taking a 5% salary reduction through the end of the 2020-21 academic year.” Additionally, Rolovich will forego all bonuses and/or incentives through the same timeframe.

Rolovich was hired on Jan. 14 to replace Mike Leach as the Washington State football coach. His contract calls for him to make $3 million annually. The 5% pay cut means Rllovich would be forfeiting $150,000.

Joining Rolovich in the cost-saving cuts are university president Kirk Schulz, athletic director Pat Chun and men’s basketball coach Kyle Smith.

There was no mention of any Washington State football assistant coaches being asked to take pay cuts. Yet.

“As the most fiscally efficient athletic department in the nation, revenue reductions and added expenditures such as these are very significant,” Chun wrote in a letter. “We’re in the process of defining cost-containment measures for the current and upcoming years. Rest assured, all WSU coaches and staff members are committed to our student-athletes and furthering the mission of our great institution. …

“We would like to personally thank Coach Rolovich, Coach Smith and all of our coaches for taking a leadership role during these unprecedented times. As always, we will continue to examine long-term opportunities in operating expense efficiencies as we continue our budgeting process for the next fiscal year.”