UAB football team becomes first in NCAA Division I to sign with college athlete organization

Mon, Apr 29, 2024
Soccer News (AP)

UAB football team becomes first in NCAA Division I to sign with college athlete organization

UAB became the first Division I football team to join a fledgling organization that hopes to represent athletes as college sports moves to a more professional model.

After a meeting arranged by coach Trent Dilfer, athletes.org announced Monday its co-founders met recently with UAB's players and staff and laid out a vision of a not-so-distant future of college sports, which includes athletes collectively bargaining with schools, conferences or possibly the NCAA to determine how revenue is shared and other polices.

Athletes.org is not a union - yet - and one of several organizations trying to organize athletes. Jim Cavale, one of the founders, said the group has signed up more than 2,900 college athletes from all sports over the last eight months, mostly one by one.

"It's a lot easier if you can get in front of team and at least have the opportunity to earn their trust and see if they want to sign up. Give them a the choice, as a team," Cavale told AP in a phone interview.

He said the meeting with UAB took place about two weeks ago in Birmingham, Alabama.

Signing up is free and athletes.org already provides pro bono legal, financial and mental health services to members along with background checks for agents and companies athletes might want to do business with.

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With more potentially drastic changes to college sports likely on the horizon, including multiple antitrust lawsuits that could re-direct millions of dollars in revenue toward the athletes, the organization is positioning itself to evolve into an association that aligns players by sport.

"The income piece is down the line," Cavale said.

Last month, the Dartmouth men's basketball team voted to join a union after a ruling by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board deemed the players to be employees. The school is fighting that ruling and while it does, the school is not obligated to bargain with the players.

Another NLRB complaint is being heard in California, asking that USC athletes be deemed employees of the school and their conferences. And yet another complaint was filed recently calling for Notre Dame athletes to be treated as employees.

Those cases could take years to come to a conclusion.

Looming over college sports is several antitrust lawsuits that are threatening to force the NCAA, conferences and schools to change the way college athletes are compensated. Most notably House vs. the NCAA case could cost the association and major college conferences billions in damages. Another case in Pennsylvania is specifically asking for college athletes to be deemed employees.

College sports leaders are looking to Congress for help with a federal law that would prevent college athletes - at least most of them - from getting employees status. NCAA President Charlie Baker has repeatedly said that most athletes he speaks with would prefer to not be employees of their schools.

Excerpts from the meeting with UAB players and athletes.org officials were posted on social media. Dilfer, a former NFL quarterback in his second season as UAB coach, explained to his team that in the NFL players are represented and supported by a union.

"Right now, you have no help," Dilfer told his team. "It's just you and your parents."

Cavale, the former CEO of INFLCR, a company that provides schools and athletes with support for name, image and likeness compensation opportunities and brand building, also spoke to the team along with former NFL player Brandon Copeland.

Cavale said he has spoken with numerous football coaches in power conferences who would like their teams to hear about athletes.org, and he hopes school administrators will see the benefit of players being organized.

"The schools helping us at least get in front of the athletes to give them the choice to sign up or not should not be a concern," Cavale said. "The athletes don't have to sign up, but they need to be aware of the moment in time we're in and have the option to."

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football

RALPH D. RUSSO Russo has been the national college football writer for The Associated Press for two decades. He is a native New Yorker. twitter mailto "
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