Two Challenges With One Solution
Thinking About the Year Ahead at the College Football Players Association
This is a free online newsletter for Jason Stahl, Executive Director of the College Football Players Association (CFBPA). If you are a member of the general public who would like to financially support our efforts at the CFBPA you can do that here. If you are a past, present or future college football player, I ask that you consider becoming a member of the CFBPA.
With college football champions now crowned in all divisions — and with the transfer portal now closed for FBS football players — we are officially in the “offseason” for college football. I use those scare quotes given that any player will tell you that the “offseason” often feels the most grinding and is where health and safety in practice are even bigger concerns than during the season itself. This is why one of our CFBPA Platform for Change planks is simply “a real offseason.” Players need much more real downtime than they have currently.
Nevertheless, now begins the period that we will have more time to reach players about building a players association. We need to use the offseason, but really all of 2023, to impress upon players exactly why they need to become members of the CFBPA this year. Changes and challenges are coming to the world of college football in 2024 and unless players organize into the CFBPA this year, these changes and challenges are likely to have unintended negative consequences.
There are some 2024 changes and challenges which college football players might know about. Divisions will be re-aligned that year—most notably with USC and UCLA moving to the Big Ten Conference. The College Football Playoffs will expand from four teams to twelve. Players will need to be organized into the CFBPA in 2023 to make sure changes like this benefit them. But today, I want to talk about two other likely changes and challenges in 2024 which players are less likely to know about but which will affect their lives a great deal. For both, I want to talk specifically about how a CFBPA with thousands of members is what is needed to make sure that these changes work for the players and not against them.
Challenge #1: Employee status is on the horizon for college athletes. It is likely that as early as 2024, college athletes (or a subset of them) will be deemed employees of their school, conference and/or the NCAA. This article contains a succinct write up of the different ways this could happen. The two more likely routes of five cited are the Johnson v. NCAA court case and an action currently advancing within the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) administrative courts.
Since no current college athletes are involved in any route to gaining employee status, I doubt many are even aware that such a monumental change might be coming. The action within the NLRB specifically speaks on behalf of University of Southern California (USC) and Pac-12 conference players even though no athletes from these schools are part of the action.
Whether you agree or not with the classification of college athletes as employees, I hope you can see why it is a problem that current college athletes are not part of any of the avenues advancing the issue. As CFBPA Vice President Maddie Salamone has suggested on Twitter, the shift from the current arrangement of college athletics to a new employer-employee based model is likely to be wrenching and will raise many questions which need to be answered starting in 2023.
The most important of her questions is, “will there be collective bargaining?” Employee classification is not a silver bullet which will fix all that ails college athletics. “Student-athletes” can be exploited but so too can employees—especially those without a union. To ensure that college athletes are not exploited in new ways under a new employer-employee relationship, we must form a strong CFBPA in 2023 so college football players can understand this coming shift and participate in its implementation. Just because college football players might one day be deemed employees does not mean they also get to collectively bargain with their employer(s). To collectively bargain, you have to build a strong players association which will be set up to bargain with the employer(s). This is what we are trying to do. So, if you are a past, present or future college football player, please become a public or private member today at this link and urge your teammates to do the same. We need to organize in advance of this change happening.
Challenge #2: Players need to understand and embrace the economic opportunities presented by group licensing programs and that’s not happening to the fullest extent possible. To the extent that anyone thinks about Name-Image-and-Likeness “deals” right now, they are likely discussing two types. The first type is a deal with an individual athlete on behalf of a company or product. The second type is done through so-called “collectives” and is really, as this article suggests, more like paying individual players for their football skills as opposed to players monetizing their NIL rights.
However, there is a third type that really needs to be getting more attention this year and that is group NIL deals or group licensing rights. In professional sports, players associations mostly handle such deals. For instance, the NFLPA works on behalf of all of its members to negotiate fair compensation for deals that involve large groups of its members—think things like jersey sales or video games like Madden.
In the same way, some interesting group licensing opportunities have emerged for college football players and membership in the CFBPA will lead to the most efficient path to participate in these opportunities as they expand. We just added a seventh platform plank to our CFBPA Platform for Change which reads, “Competitive group NIL deals for college football players nationwide, facilitated by the CFBPA.”
By players becoming a public or private member of the CFBPA, and urging their teammates to do so as well, we hope to create a massive new entity to facilitate group licensing deals for college football players nationwide. This can also be done at the team level for teams which lack competitive group licensing arrangements.
For the twin challenges of group licensing deals and employee classification, as well as for the many other challenges that are coming to college football, there is one solution—players building their collective power through the CFBPA. To have this collective, players have to become a public or a private member by signing up at this link.
In order to add as many members as possible in 2023 — and in order to educate college football players about the coming changes to their workplace — we are now live on a couple new social media platforms where we hope to be able to reach players in new ways. First, we have a CFBPA TikTok which will primarily be run by two members of our Leadership Committee: Alonzo Craighton and Kassidy Woods. Second, we now have a YouTube channel which will mostly showcase our members and their stories. However, the first YouTube features an introductory video to the CFBPA filmed by myself. We continue to be active on Twitter and Instagram as well. With these four platforms, we hope to be able to reach the past, present and future players of college football in new ways. Please be sure to follow us and help promote us on whatever of these platforms you are on.
To college football players everywhere, I think you can now see why 2023 has to be your year to join the CFBPA in huge numbers. If you don’t, the coming changes to your workplace are just as likely to work against you as they are to work for you. You can gain power by coming together — join the CFBPA today.