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Pac-12 Players Are ‘Disappointed’ Following Meeting With Conference Officials

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Pac-12 student athletes are not pleased with the meeting that they had with conference commissioner Larry Scott late last week.

The #WeAreUnited unity group met with conference officials on Thursday with the student-athletes coming away disappointed.

Both the conference and the student-athletes sent letters to one another on Friday. The letters were obtained by many media outlets.

Larry Scott’s Letter To Student-Athletes

Here is the entire letter that commissioner Scott sent to the student-athletes on Friday afternoon. The following is all from the Pac-12 commissioner as stated in the letter obtained by media outlets.

“Dear Malik, Javon, Ty, Treyjohn, Jake, Dallas, Elisha, Joshua, Elijah, Joe, Jaydon, Cody, Valentino, Nicolas, Andrew, Dylan and Chase, (student-athletes that are spokespersons with each Pac-12 school except Colorado)

“First, I want to thank you for the time you committed to meeting with me and my colleagues last evening (Thursday). It offered us a great opportunity to hear from all of you regarding the issues facing conference football student-athletes that you’re most concerned about. Our hope is that we can help provide answers to many of those questions as well as provide additional opportunities to engage on matters of importance to you, such as health and safety,” Scott wrote.

“Second, I wanted to express our commitment to addressing some of the most pressing concerns voiced on the call, as follows:

Health and Safety

  • We’ve compiled a list of questions that you articulated on the call, including those related to testing protocols, and will work with our Pac-12 medical advisory committee to answer them in the very near future. We will work with the committee to ensure that you have an opportunity to speak with them about your concerns, as it is more appropriate for the medical experts to answer questions of health and safety pertaining to COVID-19.

Eligibility 

  • The conference will work on compiling (1) a list of eligibility outcomes that are already addressed via NCAA rules and (2) a list of potential eligibility outcomes that are not currently addressed via NCAA rules and will need to be addressed by the NCAA DI Council during its meeting next Wednesday (August 12). As soon as we have answers to all of the potential eligibility outcomes, we will make sure to clearly articulate them in writing and distribute them to the group.

COVID-19 Liability Waivers

  • Although we’ve received assurances from our institutions that student-athletes have not been asked to review and sign waivers pertaining to COVID-19 related issues as a condition of athletics participation, the conference office is fully committed to reviewing this issue with each institution to ensure that such waivers have not been administered. If the conference office discovers that an institution has issued a waiver of this nature to student-athletes, it will work closely with said institution to confirm that such document is unenforceable per the recent directive of the NCAA Board of Governors.

Opt-Out Due to COVID-19 Concerns

  • For those student-athletes that choose to opt-out of participating in athletics this fall, each conference institution is committed to ensuring that each scholarship will be honored and the student-athlete remains in good standing with the team. We encourage each student-athlete that is contemplating this choice to reach out to their respective athletics administration, including directors of athletics, in order to discuss the relevant institutional policies in place for student-athletes who opt out of participation in fall 2020 due to concerns related to COVID-19.

“Lastly, it is our goal to continue using our existing student-athlete committees, like SALT and the newly-created football SA working group, to address issues related to the student-athlete experience and other matters that student-athletes are passionate about (e.g., social justice reform). We would welcome your participation and collaboration with these groups to help enhance the student-athlete experience moving forward and will make sure that these opportunities are shared more robustly across our campuses to ensure broader participation for all student-athletes,” Scott wrote.

“Again, I wanted to thank all of you for the passion and honesty with which you spoke yesterday evening. We will work on gathering the information listed above and providing it to you as soon as possible. We look forward to communicating with you again in the near future.

“Best regards,

“Larry”

Student-Athletes Respond

Here is the entire letter that the #WeAreUnited group sent to commissioner Scott Friday evening. The following is all from the Pac-12 student-athletes that are a part of the #WeAreUnited unity group as stated in the letter obtained by media outlets.

“Dear Commissioner Scott,

“As you are aware, last Sunday, August 2, 2020, we released a statement of unity on behalf of over 400 Pac-12 football players,” the student-athletes wrote. “We wrote to express our grave concern about how we can safely play football during this pandemic. In no uncertain terms, this is a matter of life or death for student-athletes during these difficult times.

“In our statement, we requested daily meetings with you and all Pac-12 Athletic Directors to address our concerns,” the letter continued. “It took us four days for you to meet with us, which is itself concerning. This needs to be handled with a sense of urgency, compassion, and fidelity to scientific best practices as fall camp begins in 10 days.

“After finally speaking to us yesterday (Thursday), August 6, 2020, we were all left disappointed and deeply concerned that you are not taking this matter seriously. Specifically, you informed us that there cannot be daily testing, nor could there be regular testing since you claimed necessary tests were ‘unavailable’ and that it would be ‘impossible’ to mandate testing and best practice COVID-19 precautions conference wide,” the student-athletes wrote. “You informed us we cannot have legal representation attend these meetings to assist in connection with our legal rights, nor were you willing to even have regular meetings with us to provide updates. Further, although we understand the NCAA’s official position to be that COVID related liability waivers are not permitted, we have received no such confirmation in writing from the Pac-12, and that we are in fact aware of Pac-12 institutions that are seemingly still utilizing what can only be described as COVID liability waivers. Without a discernible plan and mandates to ensure the health and safety of student-athletes, it is absurd, offensive, and deadly to expect a season to proceed.

“We love the communities we compete for,” the letter continued. “But, we are afraid of the potential ramifications of athletes playing sports before it is adequately safe enough to do so. That is why during our meeting with you yesterday, Oregon Safety Jevon Holland explains, ‘our deepest fear is the Pac-12’s negligent return to play may result in a member of our Pac-12 family dying due to COVID-19.’ Your response that it is impossible to have mandatory, uniform COVID health and safety standards to protect college athletes makes no sense. This is in direct conflict with NCAA President Mark Emmert’s statement one day earlier that NCAA COVID guidelines are now mandatory and will be enforced.

“In light of these statements from the NCAA, it is baffling to hear that health and safety mandates will not exist in the Pac-12,” the student-athletes wrote. “Your response to our concerns ‘if you feel unsafe, just opt out and go home,’ is not an acceptable answer and proves there are severe inconsistencies in the Pac-12’s standards and its commitment to protecting college athletes under its watch.

“Further, as noted above, contrary to your statement that ‘No Pac-12 institutions have issued COVID-19 liability waivers,’ we are aware that many college athletes at multiple Pac-12 schools were required to sign documents that serve as COVID-19 liability waivers,” the letter continued. “The NCAA Board of Directors adopted a rule that schools cannot have players sign COVID liability waivers and you publicly have said that Pac-12 schools have not issued COVID liability waivers.

“We would like confirmation from you that any document signed by players purporting to waive liability regarding COVID are unenforceable and void. We further reiterate the request we made during our meeting yesterday, which you surprisingly rejected to have legal representation present and available to assist us in our efforts to ensure the health and safety of college athletes,” the student-athletes wrote.

“The lack of communication between the Pac-12 and its member schools regarding access to medical treatment, as well as other essential needs, for college athletes who choose to opt out for their health and safety, must be resolved,” the letter continued. “As Utah Offensive Lineman Nick Ford noted during the meeting, college athletes are guaranteed access to nutrition, facilities, and medical treatment under the conditions of their scholarship, which Mark Harlan confirmed. You proceeded to stand in opposition, saying ‘you’re talking out both sides of your mouth.’ This is a genuine concern that was unnecessarily met with your hostility and finger pointing when we all want answers. As Nick Ford had stated in the meeting, ‘injured athletes shouldn’t be denied treatment because they choose to opt out of tackle football due to the Pac-12’s inability to protect them during play.’

“The Pac-12 has a proud history, but this is not a proud moment,” the student-athletes wrote. “You are asking student-athletes who are unpaid but deeply committed to their respective sport and institutions to risk their lives without a plan. Sadly, we are now witnessing what we consider unlawful retaliation against Pac-12 college athletes exercising their First Amendment right, including Washington State’s Dallas Hobbs and Kassidy Woods, who were dismissed from the team and had their scholarships in jeopardy for using their voices in support of the #WeAreUnited Movement. Dallas Hobbs and Kassidy Woods are model college athletes. They are leaders within their community and co-founders of the Washington State Black Student Athlete Association. When we raised our concerns about this retaliation during our meeting, you told us the Pac-12 would not intervene in this manner. This is hypocritical towards everything we believe the Pac-12 stands for.

“While we are discouraged by the tone, tenor, and general unpreparedness of Pac-12 leadership during our meeting, there is still an opportunity for the Pac-12 to change course before leading the conference into disaster,” the letter continued. “We renew our request for uniform mandatory health and safety protocols consistent with best scientific practices, eligibility guarantees, written confirmation that COVID liability waivers will not be used and/or enforced, the right to have legal representation present at meetings, the scheduling of daily meetings and regular updates, and building an equitable framework for the treatment of college athletes. We look forward to hearing from you soon as time is of the essence.

“Signed,

“Ty Amos-Jones, University of Washington
Dylan Boles, Stanford University
Treyjohn Butler, Stanford University
Andrew Cooper, UC Berkeley
Jake Curhan, UC Berkeley
Valentino Daltoso, UC Berkeley
Joshua Drayden, UC Berkeley
Nick Ford, University of Utah
Elisha Guidry, UCLA
Jaydon Grant, Oregon State
Malik Hausman, University of Arizona
Elijah Higgins, Stanford University
Dallas Hobbs, Washington State
Jevon Holland, University of Oregon
Otito Ogbonnia, UCLA
Cody Shear, Arizona State
Joe Tryon, University of Washington
Chase Williams, USC”

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.