The California Golden Bears football team is looking towards the future. Not their future schedule, but rather their future and the future landscape of the collegiate athletics realm after they depart Berkeley.
Offensive tackle Jake Curhan was recently featured in a hefty feature article from The Athletic, documenting the discussions he had with his teammates that eventually spurned the movement from over 400 Pac-12 players conference-wide.
“Personally, to me, (sitting out) is a no-brainer,” said Curhan. “This is a lot bigger than me. I’m lucky to be where I’m from. If football got taken away from me, I’d be able to land on my feet. The reason I feel it’s necessary is for my teammates and future generations that might not be OK if they had scholarships taken away, or their hopes of playing professionally got taken away.”
“It’s just a unique opportunity in time for us to be able to speak out and be heard.”
Curhan spoke with The Athletic, voicing his concerns but also his reasoning behind his joining and essentially starting the #WeAreUnited stance from the student-athletes in the conference.
As a refresher, nearly 400 student-athletes have voiced their concerns over playing football amid a global pandemic without multiple demands being met. The NCAA has long since marginalized student-athletes, especially in football and basketball, making millions of dollars while the players themselves see very little benefit.
Playing football during the COVID-19, coronavirus pandemic that has ransacked the country and the world, just seemed to be the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back.
Curhan said that he read a study from a professor at University of Illinois that stated around 30-50% of major college football athletes would become infected with COVID-19 during this season, and fractional death rate figures meant that three to seven athletes would die.
He began conversations with his teammates including cornerback Josh Drayden and fellow offensive lineman Valentino Daltoso. That then led to multiple conversations with fellow Pac-12 teammates including Oregon Ducks safety, All-American Jevon Holland.
At one point, a representative from each of the 12 member universities jumped on Zoom calls and before they knew it, the movement had jumped to a group chat of over 400 people on GroupMe.
That then led to their letter, published in the Players’ Tribune, listing Pac-12 Football Unity and their demands related to multiple safety and health guidelines, among other items.
Now, a day removed from their featuring in The Athletic’s article as well as a day removed from their releasing of their decisions to opt out and the demands for equality, the Pac-12 remains mum on the situation, rather releasing a video on health guidelines, and telling The Athletic that ‘Neither the Conference nor our university athletics departments have been contacted by this group regarding these topics,’ a statement read.
Multiple Cal football players also circulated a wide-spread image on social media, and even more Pac-12 players circulated the image that showcased the talking points of the demands. Famously, Oregon tackle and All-American, consensus top offensive lineman in the country and best player in the Pac-12, Penei Sewell also shared the image, showcasing just how high the unity movement had gone.
Either way, no decisions have been made from either side as we’re still very early in this process. Cal student-athletes, though signed on with the petition from the Unity movement, haven’t made any clear decisions to boycott the season yet, just stating they want protection instead. The goal, after all, is to be taken care of while playing, not sitting out.
We’ll know more as we progress through August as the earliest any Pac-12 team can open camp is on August 17 and the season openers are scheduled for September 26.