College Football Players Association seeks to form chapter at Penn State

Penn State football players held a player-only meeting in July with the head of the College Football Players Association that included references to unionization, according to the CFBPA executive director. What, if anything, results could once again place Penn State at the forefront of change in college football.

According to Jason Stahl, executive director of College Football Players Association, Penn State players secretly met with Stahl about CFBPA initiatives. These included ideas for Big Ten revenue sharing and expanding access to medical care and insurance. Stahl also referenced the potential organization of a CFBPA chapter at Penn State.

Stahl wrote in his Sub-stack newsletter that Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford helped plan the meeting, during which Stahl presented a list of demands they would take to the Big Ten conference. The list included players receiving a share of Big Ten media rights revenue.

Stahl told CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd that his presentation also included a opportunity to unionize.

“I first spoke with the team leaders in small groups and individually, then with the whole team,” Stahl said. wrote in his newsletter. “All were thrilled to lead the first public campaign for the CFBPA.”

However, Stahl continued, a Penn State staffer stumbled upon the meeting, which led to her becoming known among Big Ten coaches and administrators. Stahl then wrote that the Big Ten had launched a “campaign to turn our star player against the players’ association” which included inviting Clifford to join a Big Ten players’ committee.

Clifford then released a statement on Twitter that called any union talk “inaccurate”. Clifford added that he and other players are “working at the campus and conference level to address the complexities of college athletics for student-athletes.”

In his newsletter, Stahl called the statement “discouraging”, adding that “our first leader of the CFBPA has now been ousted”. Stahl concluded that he was “looking for a different kind of leader player”, suggesting that the relationship between the CFBPA and Clifford was over.

At Big Ten Media Days on Tuesday, commissioner Kevin Warren said the conference plans to quickly expand its advisory and student-athlete board. Players, including Clifford, have met with Warren to join this committee as the Big Ten negotiate their new media rights deal.

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Warren said he wants to be a “bold leader as we work out what’s right for our student-athletes.”

“I want to hear it from [the athletes]”, Warren said. “I want to be a great listener to understand what’s important to them. It’s so easy to talk about money and share money, but what does it really mean? I want to make sure I listen and learn to have big ears and a small mouth to really understand what’s important to them.”

Penn State helped bring change to college football for decades, from its appearance in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl to its 1993 decision to join the Big Ten. Penn State also helped pave the way for instant replay in college football.

Clifford, Penn State coach James Franklin and athletic director Patrick Kraft will meet the media Wednesday at Big Ten Media Days in Indianapolis.

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AllPennState is the place for Penn State news, views and insights on the SI.com Network. Editor Mark Wogenrich covered Penn State for more than 20 years, tracking three coaching teams, three Big Ten titles and a catalog of great stories. Follow him on Twitter @MarkWogenrich. And remember to subscribe (button on the homepage) for more quality content on the SI.com network.

Andrew B. Reiter