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Pac-12 player group ‘disappointed’ after commissioner call

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The Pac-12 players of the “WeAreUnited” movement said they were “disappointed and deeply concerned” after a recent meeting with the conference’s commissioner.

The players sent an email to Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott late Friday accusing him of not taking the issues they have raised seriously enough. The email was also shared with members of the media.

The group’s correspondence came after Scott followed their Thursday call with an email to the players that struck a very different tone, thanking them for the “passion and honesty with which you spoke yesterday evening.”

The group is pushing the conference to address their concerns about COVID-19 protocols, racial injustice in college sports and economic rights for college athletes. Players threatened opting out of practices and games if their demands aren’t addressed. Leaders of the group have said their movement has more than 400 players from around the conference supporting it.

In their email to the commissioner, the players said they were unsatisfied with Scott’s answers to question about increasing the frequency of COVID-19 testing done on athletes and the mandating of best practices across the conference.

“Without a discernible plan and mandates to ensure the health and safety of student-athletes, it is absurd, offensive, and deadly to expect a season to proceed,” they said.

When the players went public with their demands last Sunday, they reached out to the Pac-12 and requested daily meetings with conference officials. Instead, they got one call last week and a pledge from the conference for continued communication.

“You informed us we cannot have legal representation attend these meetings to assist in connection with our legal rights, nor were you willing to even have regular meetings with us to provide updates,” the players wrote to Scott.

Scott’s email addressed four topics that made up the bulk of the Thursday call with 12 players: health and safety; eligibility; COVID-19 liability waivers; and opt-out due to COVID-19 concerns.

Scott wrote the conference will attempt to provide the players an opportunity to speak with the Pac-12 medical advisory committee and keep them abreast of work being done at the NCAA level to address whether athletes who opt out of the coming season will be permitted to retain eligibility.

Scott said the conference office would ensure none of the league’s schools ask athletes to sign liability waivers and reiterated Pac-12 schools were committed to honoring scholarships of players who chose not to play this season because of COVID-19 concerns.

“We will work on gathering the information listed above and providing it to you as soon as possible,” Scott wrote.

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.

Washington State head coach Nick Rolovich intimates opting out over COVID-19 concerns is fine, not so much for Pac-12 players movement

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Another layer has been added to a Washington State story that exploded across the college football world late this weekend.

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.  A short time later, allegations began to emerge that Washington State football players were being “released from the team” over their support for the movement. One of those making such a claim was the mother of wide receiver Kassidy Woods.  A Wazzu spokesperson subsequently told the Dallas Morning News “is a member of our football roster.”

Woods himself confirmed to the Morning News that he is opting out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19 concerns related to the sickle-cell trait he possesses.  The player had previously confirmed to Washington State head football head coach Nick Rolovich in a phone call that he would be opting out.  Rolovich told Woods “I got nothing wrong with that” on the coronavirus front.  Where Rolovich started down a slippery slope was when Woods confirmed he is joining the Pac-12 football unity movement.

At that point, Rolovich intimated that Woods’ future with the Cougars is in jeopardy.  And how do we know that?  Because Woods recorded the phone conversation with his coach.  And the Morning News transcribed it.

Rolovich: OK so that’s going to be, that’s gonna be an issue if you align with them as far as future stuff, cause the COVID stuff is one thing. But, um, joining this group is gonna put you on a, on a — that’s obviously, you know, you get to keep your scholarship this year, but it — it’s gonna be different. You know, if you, if you say, ‘I’m opting out ‘cause of COVID and health and safety,’ I’m good. But this group is gonna change, uh, I guess, how things go in the future for everybody, at least at our school. Um, so just think about that is, if it’s about getting paid and not (inaudible) about racial justice and that stuff. Then it’s probably, it’s there’s two sides, there’s two sides here. I’m good with the Sickle Cell and the COVID, and but this, this group is gonna be at a different level as far as how we’re kind of going to move forward in the future. Does that make sense?

Woods: Yes sir.

Rolovich: OK so it’s not, you know, there’s one way we’ll handle it if it’s COVID-related. And then there’s one way we’re going to handle it if it’s joining this group. So I appreciate you letting me know. And I was going to address this tomorrow night at the Zoom.

(To read the entire transcript, including Rolovich confirming players who opt-out will, understandably, not be permitted to practice or work out with the team this season, click HERE.)

Woods, a redshirt sophomore, went on to tell the newspaper that he is unsure if he will still have a scholarship beyond this year.  Thus far, and the brief roster statement to the Morning News aside, neither Wazzu nor Rolovich has commented publicly on any of the developments of the past 24 hours.

Arizona QB Kevin Doyle Jr. is third Power Five player to opt out of 2020 season over COVID-19 concerns

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By way of Arizona, a third college football player has opted out of the 2020 season.  Certainly, though, he won’t be the last.

On Twitter over the weekend, Kevin Doyle Jr. announced that he will not play for the Arizona football team in 2020.  The quarterback cited concerns over COVID-19 in making what he described as “a really tough decision.”

Doyle’s announcement came prior to players from the Pac-12 threatening to sit out the season en masse.  It also came after one of his Arizona football teammates was suspended for repeatedly violating the school’s COVID-19 protocols.

”We are in challenging times,” Doyle began his missive. “I have been watching and reading about the Covid pandemic and I understand that it is new for everybody.  The only thing I can do is listen to professionals and watch professionals and make decisions off that information.  Dozens of high-profile NFL players are opting out of playing football and giving up tens millions of dollars.  There must be more risk than I can even perceive.

”I love the University of Arizona and I support my teammates and coaches. With that being said, [Friday] I gave my official notice that’s I will be opting out of the upcoming football season.

”I am looking forward to getting past this pandemic and redoing my teammates as quickly as possible.”

Doyle was a three-star member of the Arizona football Class of 2018.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman, then didn’t see the field this past season.  A shoulder injury, though, factored into his inaction in 2019.

Late last month, Illinois running back Ra’Von Bonner became the first FBS player to opt out over COVID concerns.  A couple of days later, standout Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley became the second.

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.