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Big Ten players submit proposal for protection of college athletes during COVID-19 pandemic

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The players in the Big Ten have a thorough list of demands if they are to be thrown back into action.

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten players released a list of proposals via The Players’ Tribune on Wednesday asking the Big Ten and NCAA to protect the well-being of all-student athletes during the coronavirus pandemic. This comes in unison with the announcement of the proposed schedules for football for the 2020 season.

The College Athlete Unity organization — which says it seeks to address the injustice and inequality by using the platform that the athletes have — have submitted a proposal and are in discussions with the Big Ten on how to best protect everyone involved in intercollegiate athletics this fall.

Some of the proposed actions are to have COVID-19 testing and results done by a third party, all athletes having up-to-date information and education about the virus, enhanced testing and contact tracing protocols and much more.

“While we appreciate the Big Ten’s recently announced plan for the upcoming season, we believe that the conference’s proposal falls short in certain areas,” the CAU release reads on The Players’ Tribune. “Given that the players are the primary stakeholders in the business of college sports, we believe any course of action moving forward needs to include player input. We are deeply disappointed with the lack of leadership demonstrated by the NCAA with respect to player safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe that the NCAA must — on its own and through collaboration with the conference — devise a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety and well-being of players leading up to and during the upcoming fall season.

“The NCAA — which is known for its zeal for regulations and enforcement — has had ample time to prepare for the safe return of its athletes to competition, yet it has done nothing. Its laissez-faire approach is forcing each conference and each school to create its own plan, resulting in inconsistent policies, procedures and protocols.”

Here is their proposal as posted on The Players’ Tribune:

BIG TEN Unity Proposal

Protecting the Well-Being of All Athletes

Oversight and Transparency

  • Third-party, approved by players, to administer COVID testing and to enforce all COVID-19 health and safety standards
  • Sufficient penalties for noncompliance
  • Mandate for athletics personnel to report suspected violations

Prevention and Safety Protocols

  • Ensure all athletes have up-to-date information about the risks that COVID-19 may pose to their personal health, the health of their families and the health of their communities
  • Adherence to WHO and CDC guidance for sporting events and compliance with all federal, state, and local statutes and regulations
  • Safety standards that are appropriate for each sport
  • Social distancing requirements and mandatory mask-wearing in and around athletic facilities by coaches, staff, players, vendors, press, and visitors
  • Minimum cleaning and sanitation protocols for all uniforms, equipment, and athletic facilities, including visitor locker rooms
  • Temperature checks for anyone entering any athletic facility

Testing, Contact Tracing and Related Procedures

  • Contact-tracing protocols for anyone who comes into contact with college athletes and team personnel who test positive
  • Testing of everyone who comes into contact with college athletes, including coaches, trainers, medical staff, nutrition staff, referees, media, etc.
  • In-season testing of all of the above three days per week
  • Testing twice per week with an FDA-approved test with less than 1% false negatives
  • Additionally, testing on the day of competition (or within 24 hours of competition for each team that can be quarantined) with an FDA-approved test with less than 5% false negatives, with results delivered at least two hours before competition
  • Immediate quarantine of any person who tests positive or exhibits symptoms
  • Quarantine rules for college athletes who test positive, and protocols for their return to practice and competition
  • Objective criteria for shutting down seasons should the pandemic take a turn for the worse or if teams experience significant outbreaks

Player Assurances

  • Whistleblower protections for athletics personnel and college athletes reporting a suspected violation
  • Ban the use of COVID-19 liability waivers
  • Automatic medical redshirt for any player who misses any competitions due to a positive test or a mandatory quarantine due to contact tracing
  • Preserve athletic eligibility, scholarship, and roster spot for any player who opts out of athletic participation or is unable to play more than 40% of their scheduled season due to COVID-19 or season postponement/cancellation
  • Complimentary access to the Big Ten Network for athletes’ family members

Hazard-Related Economic Support

  • Coverage for all out-of-pocket medical expenses related to COVID-19 (both short-term and long-term) incurred by active college athletes
  • Scholarship protections (including room, board and stipend) in the event that the season is canceled due to COVID-19
  • An adjustment to the cost-of-living stipend to account for the increase in personal expenses related to limited access that players have to facilities
  • Reimbursement for stipends that were reduced during the summer

The players go on to say that they have engaged in good faith discussions with the Big Ten and are hoping the talks can continue and urges the NCAA to follow suit in hopes that these issues can be sorted out prior to the proposed start to the season.