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Group of college football players in talks with Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, demands include share of income

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Sharing the proceeds of the Big Ten Conference with players is among the demands recently made to the league by the college football advocacy group, CBS Sports has learned.

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford met with Jason Stahl, executive director of the College Football Players Association. The CFBPA is a player advocacy organization established in 2021. Stahl is a former professor at the University of Minnesota.

This meeting then led to an exchange of information with the Pennsylvania State team.

Stahl said he secretly met with Penn State players on campus from July 7 to July 14.

Eventually news of the discussions reached Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. Stahl provided CBS Sports with a list of demands that he said went to Warren. These included expanded medical care and a “percentage of media rights income for players”.

CFBPA

Stahl said he and Warren talked on the phone for an hour on Thursday. In addition to players receiving a share of the conference’s income from media rights, the requirements include providing players with independent medical care separate from school and “health protection” once eligible.

“We talked about all three requirements,” Stahl told CBS Sports. “The first two of which he seemed very open to moving towards our position. Third requirement [regarding sharing revenue] I could tell it would be more sticky, but it had to be part of the conversation.”

Clifford confirmed the discussions on Friday.

“Those three things are just the foundation of what we would like to do. In fact, we think something more could happen,” Clifford told ESPN, who first reported on the meeting between the two sides on Friday.

Stahl said he and Roxanne McCray, president of the CFBPA, were invited to next week’s Big Ten Media Days in Indianapolis.

“The Big Ten Conference is in constant communication and collaboration with our student-athletes,” Warren said in a statement. “We are in the process of formalizing a student-athlete advisory committee to educate our student-athletes on the changing landscape of college athletics. We continue to work with our member institutions to ensure that our student-athletes have outstanding and good results. comprehensive experience, promoting and defending the mission of higher education, and prioritizing excellence and integrity in both academics and sport.”

Given that a new Big Ten TV rights deal is imminent, not only is there supposed to be enough money to share with players, but such an arrangement could even give the Big Ten a competitive edge over other conferences.

“This is not about the Big Ten or the University of Pennsylvania — this is about all college athletics in need of reform,” Stahl said.

Stahl said that his organization could not be characterized as a trade union. It is a players association based on membership. However, Stahl added that if progress is not made with the Big Ten to voluntarily meet the three demands, “there is an opportunity for us to form a union and try to unite the entire Big Ten.”

“We are not a union,” Stahl stressed. “I have had fantastic conversations with Kevin Warren that he is willing to talk to the CFBPA about these three requirements. We’re going to exhaust this process before considering other possibilities.”

The conference is close to announcing a new media rights deal that could reportedly top $1 billion a year, shared among 14 Big Ten schools. (Sixteen when USC and UCLA merge in 2024.) At a time when money and power are pooling around the Big Ten and the SEC, such a move would be a game-changer not just for the league, but for all college athletics.

Warren had a long career with college athletes, playing college basketball and having a background as a former agent. His brother Morrison was one of Stanford’s first black footballers.

G-10 advertisers have been at least indirectly discussing the concept for at least six months, the source said. However, it is unclear to what extent the Big Ten advertisements were fixated on a particular revenue distribution perspective.

The words “collective bargaining” were not used in the list of demands, but this is supposed to be something that should be included in any discussion of income distribution. Collective bargaining with players has long been discussed as inevitable in college athletics in an era that includes NIL benefits and freedom of transition.

“It’s more about whether this is inevitable and unlike anything any of us have done in the last 25-30 years? … Let’s jump in,” said a source familiar with the discussions.

College athlete scholarships are limited to room, books, meals, tuition, attendance fees, and zero benefits. The revenue sharing will bring athletes from the once purely amateur NCAA closer to being considered “employees” than ever before.

There was no data on what percentage of that Big Ten pot would require CFBPA. One source suggested that the Big Ten could avoid Title IX laws by distributing money through the conference office rather than schools. In this sense, the conference office will not be an educational institution receiving federal funds, necessarily under Title IX.

“Why should we share income with an athlete who does not create it?” said one source familiar with the discussions.

In collective bargaining, both parties could probably negotiate on other issues. The NCAA announced this week that athletes can transition as many times as they want. This part can be discussed during negotiations in exchange for more commitment from the players.


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