Cal Football: What's Next After a Wild Weekend Across the NCAA Landscape?

Jeff Faraudo

The Pac-12 Conference has commanded the attention of the college football universe this weekend. More specifically, the Pac-12 players organizing a threatened opt-out this season unless seismic changes happen have made themselves the focal point.

Pac-12 players are demanding changes on issues ranging from social injustice to COVID-19 protections to salary reductions of coaches and administrators. So far, they insist, #WeAreUnited.

But there is a bigger picture, and that’s the ongoing state of the NCAA as a whole.

Here is how Sports Illustrated columnist Pat Forde characterized the dinosaur that is the NCAA:

The NCAA has been vigorously criticized from the outside forever. It’s a fat, slow-moving target, easily harpooned by those who find college athletics to be poorly governed at best and immoral at worst. If you have no stake in the NCAA, you probably hate the NCAA.

But now the threats are internal, too. The calls are coming from inside the house.

Besides the avalanche of news out of the Pac-12, two other related stories emerged across the country, as Forde reported:

The Washington Post obtained leaked audio from a Southeastern Conference Zoom call last week that included football players voicing concerns about their own safety regarding playing amid COVID-19 in a discussion with league medical experts. Good for the SEC for having the Zoom call for the players; bad for the SEC for reacting poorly to it being leaked.

Also Saturday, SI reported that leaders from Power 5 conferences have initiated discussions about staging their own breakaway fall championships if the NCAA Board of Governors postpones or cancels them. While most of the conversation has been at the athletic director level thus far, at least one P5 commissioner is personally involved in weighing logistics of the concept. Sources told SI Sunday that a tentative plan calls for each P5 conference to host one fall championship: men’s and women’s soccer hosted by one league; men’s and women’s cross country by a second; volleyball by a third; field hockey by a fourth; and men’s water polo by a fifth.

It’s a lot to digest, and it’s impossible to know what the end result will be.

But Forde’s initial point is significant: The NCAA is glacial in its willingness and ability to change. Wagons are circled. Committees are formed. Recommendations are made. Often shelved. Occasionally implemented.

Forde poses the question: Can the NCAA survive?

Significant to Cal and the Pac-12 is whether the Power 5 conference might finally have the momentum to break away from the NCAA and form their own organization.

But big-time change is a double-edged sword, and there’s no promise that five conferences from different parts of the country with, in some cases, different priorities would come to agreement on key issues.

Don’t expect this kind of revolution to happen a week from Friday.

But that’s just the kind of timetable that Pac-12 football players are presenting. They have pressing issues, matters they want resolved before the start of fall camp on Aug. 17. And those lending their support include Oregon offensive lineman Penei Sewell, perhaps the best player in the Pac-12.

Penei Sewell lends his support

So watch for some conversation in the days ahead.

I don't expect the players to get everything they're asking for -- at least not immediately -- but how willing will they be to compromise. Negotiations involve give-and-take and it's rare when one side gets a clean sweep of its wish list.

Equally fascinating will be whether players in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC might come on board with their counterparts in the Pac-12. That kind of nationwide coalition would establish leverage that could effect genuine change.


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Comments (1)
No. 1-1

Move forward with the season. Negotiate in good faith anything to be negotiated. Players who want to sit out can sit out while this is goin on. Next...