Pac-12 and #WeAreUnited group hold "productive" call Thursday night

Ryan Kostecka

It's been a stressful week for members of the Pac-12 football community and the leaders in charge.

After making known its list of demands on Sunday regarding the upcoming collegiate athletic season, leaders of the Pac-12's #WeAreUnited movement have officially gotten the attention of the Pac-12 conference's brass.

According to an email sent Wednesday night to the #WeAreUnited group, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott proposed a Zoom call for 8 p.m. PT Thursday to discuss the athletes’ list of demands and how best to move forward.

Now following the meeting, Sports Illustrated was able to learn through sources that the two-hour call was deemed "productive" by both sides. The call mostly centered on the player-only movement’s health and safety concerns regarding COVID-19, which were described as “constructive.” While are there are no official meetings scheduled in the future, both sides are expected to check back in with one another next week.

The Pac-12 is expected to relay the players’ concerns to the league’s medical advisory committee, which is in the midst of crafting a comprehensive in-season medical plan. That part of the conversation went smoothest as conference officials had already begun to move forward with the safest measures and protocols prior to the players demands.

The call consisted of 16 people; the 12 members of the leadership and four conference officials.

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The leaders/media contacts listed for the #WeAreUnited group are: Nick Ford, Utah; Dallas Hobbs, Washington State; Cody Shear, Arizona State; Jaydon Grant, Oregon State; Valentino Daltoso, Cal; Elijah Higgins, Stanford; Jevon Holland, Oregon; Joe Tryon, Washington; Malik Hausman, Arizona; Otito Ogbonnia, UCLA; Chase Williams, USC — Colorado is the only team not represented.

“We’re not your entertainment, we’re human beings,” Holland told SI. “Just like you would help your family, we want to help our mother, father, grandmother, everyone. We don’t know the long-term risks. We have no idea how it’s going to affect our body regardless if we show symptoms or not. I refuse to put my health at risk for somebody else’s benefit.”

The four conference officials represented on the call were commissioner Larry Scott, Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson, Utah athletic director Mark Harlan and Pac-12 assistant commissioner Chris Merino, the league’s liaison to student-athlete groups.

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Utah athletic director Mark Harlan, middle, at the 2019 Pac-12 media days with current Dallas Cowboy Bradlee Anae, left, and current Buffalo Bill Zack Moss, right.

Apart from the productive talks regarding the health and safety measures, the conversation didn't go as planned when it came to talking about the athletes receiving a 50% cut in revenues.

Pac-12 leaders pushed back against the players’ demand for each sports’ participants to receive a cut of the conference revenue. Conference officials told #WeAreUnited members that such a move would lead to athletes becoming employees and would impact those athletes who do not participate in revenue-generating sports. 

Also, the the two sides did not discuss #WeAreUnited’s demand for Scott and others within the conference to take a salary reduction — and it's unknown if future talks will resume this topic.

The biggest news for fans is that there was very little talk about a boycott for the upcoming season — which could've put the upcoming season in jeopardy. The two sides held what was described as “positive” conversations about phasing back into athletic activities. Officials are expected to give an update on guidelines and protocols regarding upcoming practice and play as soon as they become available, including the future eligibility of those who opt of out the season.

According to a Sports Illustrated article, the point regarding opting out and how the season will proceed are the major talking points.

"The latter is a key talking point for #WeAreUnited, along with other player movements popping up across the nation. The NCAA has set a deadline of next Friday for schools to create a plan on the eligibility of athletes who opt out. Can their roster spot/scholarship be saved for the following year? Will they get a redshirt? What happens if only half or part of the season is played?"

For anyone who may have missed it, the goals/demands from the #WeAreUnited group consist of; 1.) Health and safety protections, 2.) Protection of all sports, 3.) End racial injustice in college sports and society, and 4.) Economic freedom and equality. The players want all of these demands for anybody wearing a college uniform, meaning for both scholarship and walk-on athletes.

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