College football players group talks with Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, demands include share of revenue

College football players group talks with Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, demands include share of revenue

Sharing Big Ten Conference revenue with players is among a list of demands recently presented to the league by an advocacy group for college football players, CBS Sports has learned.

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford has met with Jason Stahl, executive director of the College Football Players Association. The CFBPA is a player advocacy organization formed in 2021. Stahl is a former faculty member at the University of Minnesota.

That meeting then led to the sharing of information with the Penn State team.

Stahl said he met with Penn State players secretly on campus from July 7-14.

Eventually, news of the discussions reached Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. Stahl provided the list of demands to CBS Sports that he said went to Warren. They included improved medical care and “a percentage of media rights revenue for the players.”

CFBPA

Stahl said he and Warren spoke on the phone for an hour Thursday. In addition to players receiving a share of conference revenue from media rights, the requirements include that players be allowed independent medical care separate from school and “health protection” after eligibility.

“We talked about all three requirements,” Stahl told CBS Sports. “The first two seemed very open to movement towards our position. The third requirement [regarding sharing revenue] I could tell it was going to be stickier, but it was going to be part of the conversation.”

Clifford confirmed the discussions on Friday.

“Those three things are just the foundation of what we want to do. In reality, we think there’s more that could happen,” Clifford told ESPN, which first reported a meeting between the two sides on Friday.

Stahl said he and Roxanne McCray, president of the CFBPA, have been invited to attend Big Ten Media Days next week in Indianapolis.

“The Big Ten Conference consistently communicates and collaborates with our student-athletes,” Warren said in a statement. “We are in the process of formalizing a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee to seek input from our student-athletes on the changing landscape of college athletics. We continue to work with our member institutions to ensure our student-athletes have an outstanding and well-rounded experience, while at the same time promoting and safeguarding the mission of higher education, and prioritizing skill and integrity in both academics and athletics.”

With a new Big Ten TV rights deal looming, the thinking is that not only would there be enough money to share with players, but such an arrangement could even give the Big Ten a competitive edge over other conferences.

“It’s not about the Big Ten and it’s not about Penn State — it’s about all of college athletics needing reform,” Stahl said.

Stahl said his organization does not qualify as a union. It is a member-based players’ association. Stahl added, however, that if no progress is made with the Big Ten to voluntarily meet the three demands, “we have the opportunity to form a union and try to unify the entire Big Ten.”

“We are not a union,” Stahl emphasized. “I had wonderful conversations with Kevin Warren that he was ready to talk to the CFBPA about these three requirements. We’re going to exhaust that process before we consider other avenues.”

The conference is close to announcing a new media rights deal that could reportedly top $1 billion annually shared by the 14 Big Ten schools. (Sixteen when USC and UCLA join in 2024.) At a time when money and power coalesce around the Big Ten and SEC, such a move would be a game changer not only for the league, but for all of college athletics.

Warren has long been an advocate for college athletes who have played college basketball and with his experience as a former agent. His brother Morrison was one of Stanford’s first black football players.

Big Ten ADs have at least tangentially discussed the concept for at least six months, according to a source. However, it’s not clear how much Big Ten ADs were keyed in on the specific prospect of revenue sharing.

The words “collective bargaining” were not used in the list of demands, but it is believed to be what any discussion of revenue sharing must include. Collective bargaining with players has long been discussed as inevitable in college athletics in an era that includes NIL benefits and transfer freedom.

“It’s more about, is this inevitable and unlike anything any of us have done for the last 25-30 years? … Let’s get ahead of it,” said a source familiar with the discussions.

College athletes’ scholarships are limited to room, books, board, tuition, attendance costs, and NIL benefits. Revenue sharing would bring athletes in the once strong amateur NCAA closer to being considered “employees” than ever before.

No figures were available on what percentage of the Big Ten pot the CFBPA would claim. One source speculated that the Big Ten could avoid Title IX laws by distributing the money through the conference office instead of the schools. In that sense, the conference office would not be an educational entity receiving federal funds necessarily subject to Title IX.

“Why should we share revenue with an athlete who doesn’t create it?” said a source familiar with the discussions.

With collective bargaining, the two sides could conceivably hold talks on other issues. The NCAA announced this week that athletes could transfer as many times as they wanted. That part can be discussed over a negotiation session in return for a greater commitment from the players.

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