08/04 20:47 CDT #WeAreUnited players reach out to California Gov. for help
#WeAreUnited players reach out to California Gov. for help
By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP College Football Writer
A group of Pac-12 football players with the #WeAreUnited movement met with
officials from the California governor's office Tuesday to discuss concerns
about their schools' COVID-19 protocols and protecting their college
Meanwhile, the NCAA's highest governing body put off a decision on whether to
conduct fall championship events, and is moving toward passing on making that
The Pac-12 players hope an executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom could mandate
player-approved, third-party oversight of COVID-19 rules at the Pac-12's four
California schools and ensure players who opt out of the coming season because
of coronavirus won't lose a year of eligibility.
The Pac-12 has said athletes who opt out will stay on scholarship this season,
but whether they would be allowed to preserve their eligibility in that
situation is undetermined.
"We really want to be able to move a little faster in getting heath guidelines
out there for us," California offensive lineman Valentino Daltoso told AP
during a conference call with several players from the group. "The eligibility
piece is huge for us. If you were to opt out without eligibility guarantees you
could be effectively ending your eligibility. The governor's office can help us
A request from comment from the California governor's office was not
After about a month organizing behind the scenes, the players took their
movement public Sunday, issuing with a lengthy list of demands related to
healthy and safety, racial injustice and economic rights. They say if the
demands are not addressed they will opt out of the season.
Elsewhere in college sports, the NCAA Board of Governors, the association's
highest governing body, met Tuesday to consider canceling or postponing fall
sports championships in all three divisions.
"In order to ensure the health and well being of college athletes, we have to
consider all the implications when determing our next steps, and we plan to
provide an update to our membership and the public (Wednesday)," NCAA President
Mark Emmert said in a statement.
A person who was briefed on the board's discussion Tuesday told the AP the
board members decided that each division will determine what to do with their
own championships. The Division I Board of Directors will consider the topic
The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the board had
chosen to not make its discussions and plans public.
The NCAA has no say whatsoever in major college football. Whether it can played
in the pandemic is still to be determined, but conferences are putting plans in
In the Pac-12, football practice is scheduled to start Aug. 17, with the season
slated to begin Sept. 26.
The players with #WeAreUnited are expected to meet later this week with Pac-12
officials, but hope the California governor can expedite their initiative.
"The season is creeping up on us and we have no answers," Stanford reciver
Elijah Higgins said.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott responded Monday to the group's request for a
meeting with conference officials with an letter, which was obtained by AP.
Scott detailed how the Pac-12's response to COVID-19 and the school's attempts
to play through the pandemic have been guided by the conferences Medical
"This committee is comprised of leading experts in the areas of infectious
disease and public health," Scott wrote. "Additionally, the Pac-12's return to
competition plans have always been subject to and in accordance with the advice
of public health officials and all relevant government orders, and are
continuously evaluated based on the best available science and data."
Stanford defensive end Dylan Boles said the players are seeing discrepancies in
how guidelines are implemented and enforced from campus to campus. That's why
players are demanding they have approval over a third party that would provide
oversight of protocols, especially in testing.
"Everybody wants to play football, but the circumstances are not ideal," Boles
said. "It puts us and our families at risk."
UCLA defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia said: "A lot of people feel a lot
pressure to not tell when they see guidelines are being broken."
The Pac-12 has said that any player opting out because of health concerns will
remain in good standing with his team. But preserving eligibility is
complicated. The NCAA allowed schools to give back a year of eligibility to
spring sports athletes who had their regular seasons cut short because of the
pandemic shutdown earlier this year.
Whether that can be applied to football players who opt out of a season that is
played seems doubtful.
The players said deciding whether to play this season without knowing if they
can retain eligibility makes the decision far more difficult.
"We're just trying to weigh all of our options," Cal defensive back Josh
About a dozen players have been listed as media contacts for the #WeAreUnited
movement in news releases, and they say about 400 of their peers were part of
the group chat that helped form the movement.
Since going public, the players said, their numbers have grown.
"By going public, we took a very big initiative," Boles said. "But I really do
think that since we've gone public it's forced the conversations to become more
prevalent among our teams and the conversations about how to go about pushing
for change have become more focused."
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