Things have been happening at a brisk, no-huddle pace in the real and online college football worlds over the last 18 months. Hopes for a fall season are increasingly bleak and spring prospects also seem quite tenuous. The #WeWantToPlay hashtag spread like wildfire on Sunday as players spoke out about their desire to compete despite the risks. Overnight, though, it appears that this was just step one of the plan — an attempt to draw in the traditionally aggressive defense to student-athlete empowerment so they could go over the top.
A dozen or so players from the Power 5 conferences emerged from a Zoom call with a united front, sharing the same message on social media. They want a bigger voice in decision-making and a more prominent seat at the table.
This is some deft play-action. Drumming up support for a cause from natural defenders — in this case those who have shown little interest in expanding the players' rights or showing much interest in their opinion on issues — before tweaking it a bit puts those who shouted the loudest yesterday about #WeWantToPlay in a somewhat awkward position. And yeah, perhaps this is an extremely cynical takeaway from all this. But it's definitely worth appreciating the strategy here, which is undeniably cohesive and effective.
Let me clarify. Effective in the online world. In real life, things remain as they were yesterday and have been for months. It's bad out there and it continues to boggle the mind that — no matter what opinion they hold — so many people have not confronted the possibility there will be no college football this year when such an outcome was plainly obvious months ago.
College football players Trojan Horsing unionization or whatever form unpaid labor unionization can really take would be a head-turning plot twist. Again, it should be noted that there are tremendous roadblocks ahead. Many believe that university presidents and athletic directors see increased student-athlete bargaining power and the financial impact that could have as a bigger threat, long-term, than COVID.
And then there's the point that the decision as to the viability of playing should be left to medical professionals. Just this morning we're hearing that medical experts are increasingly raising warning signals about the unknown long-term heart effects the virus may or may not have for those who contract it. It's unclear how that obstacle is navigated or if it should be navigated at all until more complete data is available.
The conversation is evolving at a breakneck speed. It could very well end up at a dead end, but the twists and turns promise to make this week a historic one for both college football and college athletics at-large.