U-M Athletic Director Warde Manuel Addresses the #BigTenUnited Movement

Eric Rutter

As part of a group called College Athlete Unity, over 1,000 Big Ten players issued a letter on Wednesday that calls for protocols to be established and standards be met regarding how COVID-19 virus is handled across the conference. Together, this group plan is dubbed #BigTenUnited, and the story was first presented at The Players' Tribune.

The #BigTenUnited proposal was originally devised by Michigan walk-on defensive back Hunter Reynolds and former U-M cornerback Benjamin St. Juste, who now plays for Minnesota. 

Individually, each portion of the letter seems to be pretty reasonable at face value since the sole mission of the group is to protect student athletes. Here is a breakdown of the requests:  

  • First, the group calls for a series of prevention and safety protocols that would mitigate the transmission of the virus from a medical standpoint. These requests include checking players' temperature, wearing masks, and following guidelines from various medical professionals.
  • Next, CUA delves more into contact tracing and aims to keep track of who athletes are around in case anybody develops COVID-19 symptoms. This includes guidelines and regulations around how quickly a player can return to practice or competition after quarantining.
  • Furthermore, many players across the country have chosen to opt out of the 2020 season in light of the current situation, and these players believe scholarships should be honored if a player does not feel comfortable competing this season. This would also establish a ban of any COVID-19 liability waivers that have been distributed.
  • Finally, these athletes are requesting that all out-of-pocket medical expenses are covered by their respective schools, and that stipends be increased this fall due to a change in the cost of living for athletes on campus.

Together, these athletes are looking to see a concrete commitment from the Big Ten to keep their best interests in mind from a medical standpoint as the 2020 season continues, which is currently the plan. Just yesterday, the Big Ten announced its fall schedule, and a breakdown of Michigan's 10-game, conference-only slate can be read here.

In the aftermath of the #BigTenUnited letter, Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel released a statement in support of the initiative while also championing the quality of job done at U-M over the past several months. This is what Manuel said:

"I commend our student-athletes for being active, taking a leadership stance, and making their voices heard on issues that are critical to their safety and growth. I wholeheartedly support their desire to have clarity on safety protocols, and I trust the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Disease and our medical experts to provide guidance on how to proceed with competition in the safest manner possible. The student-athlete is at the core of everything we do here at Michigan. Simply stated - if we can't do this safely, we will not have sports. I and our devoted coaches and staff will continue the dialog on these and other essential topics.

"The University of Michigan and the Big Ten have proactively addressed many items - notably a robust COVID-19 testing protocol and the assurance that scholarships will be preserved for any student-athlete who opts out of athletic participation this year. Recognizing that Michigan student-athletes are high-achievers, and highly-intelligent emerging leaders, we have committed to ongoing education on this global pandemic and have not required them to sign waivers of any kind related to COVID-19. "

With the season less than a month away, practice will begin for U-M players in earnest on Friday. This will mark the official start of fall training camp, and Michigan is set to host Purdue on Sept. 5 as the opener to its 2020 season.

What do you think of the demands from the players that are part of College Athlete Unity? Are these fair requests to make in light of the pandemic? Let us know!

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Comments (1)
No. 1-1

I would take the season off and hit the books hard.