College Football Players Seek NCAA Reform Over Compensation, Concussions

A movement has begun among college football players to take on the NCAA and fix the sport on matters of player compensation and concussions.

Georgia Tech Vad Lee with APU letters

Georgia Tech Quarterback Vad Lee sports the APU letters in support of the All Players United movement, asking for reform in college football.  (Image Sources:  Cox Media Group, USA Today)

Today, in college football, shoots of a movement have begun against the NCAA.  The movement, called All Players United, backed by the National College Players Association, seeks to reform what they see as failings of the NCAA over matters such as handling concussions, and paying college players to play ball.  The movement has spread to major teams in college football, including Georgia, Northwestern, and Georgia Tech.  The movement made its first public appearance in several nationally-televised broadcasts of college football games on Saturday.

At the heart of All Players United's agenda are two pillars: The issue of player compensation, and the fate of injured players, especially those that suffer brain trauma from concussions.  Paying college football players to play has been a point of contention in recent years, with players being suspended or banned and college programs taking severe losses due to these players receiving "gifts" in return for doing well in college football. 

The NCAA has been hostile to even the notion of basic compensation, noting the amateur spirit of college sports and the fact that many college athletes receive compensation in the form of scholarships to pay for the school they are attending.  However, a class-action lawsuit, O'Bannon v. NCAA, is currently underway that demands players be compensated for use of their likeness in video games and other media, especially after they finish their collegiate career.  All Players United supports the lawsuit.

Along with compensation, All Players United is bringing up the issue of concussions in college football.  Concussions have become increasingly prevalent in football in general, and the lasting trauma have led to several tragic deaths in recent years, leading several to believe both the NCAA and NFL is not doing enough to address the issue of concussions.  Furthermore, All Players United wants the issue of permanently injured players addressed: Many athletes who are permanently disabled from playing due to injury have their scholarships revoked for no real fault of their own.

The APU abbreviation was found on the uniforms of several collegiate teams during games broadcast on ESPN, ABC, and other sports-related networks.  The most prominent appearance was from Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, who had the APU letters in white on a black wristband.  These appearances intend to spur fans to join in the All Players United movement.

Still, the issue of player compensation could be more easily addressed if we could acknowledge one simple thing: That the NFL (and to an equal extent, NBA) is exploiting colleges by having them train athletes to near-professional level free of charge.  These colleges often run these programs at a loss, often to the detriment of the rest of the college.  The collegiate athletics system in this form needs not a reform, but a removal.  The NFL, NBA, and other professional leagues should be held responsible for training its athletes.  If that means paying colleges for the effort, or establishing underage leagues like those seen in professional soccer in Europe, then so be it. 

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