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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.

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.

Pac-12 players threaten to sit out 2020 season over racial injustice, COVID-19 concerns

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A text message circulating among Pac-12 football players is encouraging them to opt-out of practices and games until they can negotiate protections and benefits related to health and safety, economic rights and the fight against racial injustice.

ESPN first reported the possible movement among players at multiple Pac-12 schools and The Athletic published the text invitation. A public announcement, along with a list of demands, was published Sunday through The Players Tribune and social media platforms.

“Our [goal is to] obtain a written contract with the Pac-12 that legally ensures we are offered the following protections and benefits.”

Listed are:

  • Ensure safe play during COVID-19
  • Fight racial injustice
  • Secure economic rights and fair compensation. “Distribute 50% of each sport’s total conference revenue evenly among athletes in their respective sports,” the players wrote in the Tribune piece.
  • Protect all sports
  • Obtain long-term health insurance

“Due to COVID-19 and other serious concerns, we will opt-out of Pac-12 fall camp and game participation unless [our] demands are guaranteed in writing by our conference to protect and benefit both scholarship athletes and walk-ons,” the players wrote.

The Pac-12 on Friday announced its plan to delay the start of the season to Sept. 26 and play only 10 conference games in an attempt to manage potential disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic. The states of California and Arizona, home to half the Pac-12 teams, have experienced some of the worst surges in coronavirus cases over the last month.

The Pac-12 approved a plan that will allow teams in the conference to start 20 hours per week of team activities, including weight training, meetings and non-contact practices known as walk-throughs. Preseason practice in the Pac-12 is scheduled to start Aug. 17, but currently USC, UCLA and Cal are operating under local restrictions that would prevent their football teams from practicing.

“Neither the Conference nor our university athletics departments have been contacted by this group regarding these topics,” the Pac-12 said in a statement. “We support our student-athletes using their voices, and have regular communications with our student-athletes at many different levels on a range of topics. As we have clearly stated with respect to our fall competition plans, we are, and always will be, directed by medical experts with health, safety and well being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff always the first priority. We have made it clear that any student who chooses not to return to competition for health and safety reasons will have their scholarship protected.”

Also on Saturday, The Washington Post reported on a meeting between player representatives from Southeastern Conference teams and the league’s commissioner, Greg Sankey, and medical advisers. The Post obtained an audio recording of the meeting.

“For so much unknown in the air right now, is it worth having a football season without certainty?” an unidentified player asked.

Sankey responded: “Part of our work is to bring as much certainty in the midst of this really strange time as we can so you can play football in the most healthy way possible, with the understanding there aren’t any guarantees in life.”

Pac-12 to mirror SEC, go with 10-game, conference-only schedule that kicks off Sept. 26

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The Pac-12 has become the third Power Five conference to clarify its plans for the 2020 college football season.

It was already known that the Pac-12 would play a conference-only season this year. Friday, the league confirmed that it will go with a 10-game conference late.  At the moment, the league is scheduled to kick off that campaign Sept. 26.  Week 1, which would be Week 4 of a normal season, will feature a pair of rivalry games in UCLA-USC and Arizona-Arizona State.

Each Pac-12 school will play five home games and five on the road.

The conference championship game had been scheduled for the first weekend of December in Las Vegas.  Now, it will be played on either the 18th or 19th of that month on the campus of the highest seed.

The conference also noted that the title game will be played at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas in both 2021 and 2022.

“From the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, we have been committed to prioritizing the health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to our athletic programs,” said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott in a statement. “The schedule and plans approved today and path to return to competition are subject to public health orders and will be taken in accordance with the health and well-being guidelines developed by our Pac-12 Medical Advisory Committee. The schedule and return to play plans provide for maximum flexibility and the best opportunity to play all fall sports in an environment that prioritizes safety. At the same time, we will continue to evaluate the best available science, data and advice of public health officials as we make decisions and any required adjustments going forward.

The SEC had previously announced that it will be going to a conference-only, 10-game schedule that kicks off Sept. 26. The ACC will play 10 conference games as well as one non-conference matchup per school.  That conference, though, will kick off its season Sept. 7-12.

The Big Ten and Big 12 have yet to announce their specific plans, although the latter will be going with a conference-only schedule that consists of 10 games.

Justin Fields, Chuba Hubbard headline Maxwell Award preseason watch list

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#WatchListSZN continues unabated, with the Maxwell Award next up on the preseason junket.

Friday morning, the Maxwell Award announced its preseason watch list consisting of 90 college football players from across the country.  Presently annually to the Collegiate Player of the Year, the Maxwell Award is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the sport.

None of the three finalists from a year ago, LSU quarterback and 2019 winner Joe Burrow, Ohio State defensive end Chase Young and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, are on this year’s watch list.  Burrow and Young, incidentally, went 1-2 in the 2020 NFL Draft.  There are, however, six semifinalists from a year ago.

The Big Ten leads all conferences with 15 watch listers, followed by the ACC (14) and SEC (13).  The AAC and Mountain West, with nine apiece, have the most for Group of Five leagues.  And the other Power Fives?  The Pac-12 posted eight, the Big 12 seven.

Four individual schools, Alabama, Indiana, Louisville and Memphis, had three players apiece on the preseason watch list.  Another 11 have two each: Auburn, Boise State, Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State and SMU.

Below is the complete preseason watch list for the 2020 Maxwell Award.