Entire UAB football team signs up for Athletes.org

Will college student-athletes soon organize together and form something similar to a model used in professional sports?

That and many other versions of the similar question being asked are among the popular topics regarding the future landscape of college athletics.

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Former Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is among those who advocate for revenue sharing with student-athletes. That’s one wrinkle that appears to be gaining momentum into becoming a reality.

On Monday, Athletes.org, a budding players organization for college student-athletes “providing them with free, on-demand support for the key decisions in their lives, and maximizing their income in innovative ways” according to its About Us page, announced in social media posts that it met with the UAB football team and gave a full presentation, after which the entire team became members.

According to Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press, Jim Cavale, one of the founders of Athletes.org, said the meeting with the UAB football team took place in Birmingham “about two weeks ago.”

“After the University of Alabama-Birmingham’s football team heard Athletes.org’s (AO) full presentation, the entire team decided to become members, marking another historic moment in the journey of college athletes empowering themselves,” athletesorg posted.

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According to athletesorg on Instagram, the Blazers players’ decisions to become members “reflects their understanding that they deserve their own player’s association to represent their specific interests in all conversations happening in college athletics today and into the future.”

“AO’s team educated the athletes that now is the time to organize their voice and take their Seat At The Table to speak on all the decisions being made about athletes without athletes in the room,” athletesorg posted. “The conversation went beyond money and revenue sharing, addressing player health and safety and introducing the room to AO’s suite of benefits negotiated on their behalf to protect them, including pro bono legal attorneys to review contracts, free second medical opinions, free background checks, and mental wellness resources.”

UAB head coach Trent Dilfer, who played 14 seasons in the NFL and was a member of the NFL Players’ Association, appeared in the video and shared insight into his experience with revenue sharing and player organizations.

“The movement that’s going to happen is power is going to go from institutions and conferences and be shared with players,” Dilfer said. “When you’re a player in the NFL, you’re part of a union, OK, and you have people fighting on your behalf. You have help, right? Right now you have no help. Right now you’re lone rangers, you and your parents, right? Athletes.org is set up to be your help.”

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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,” according to the AP. Another NLRB complaint in California is asking that USC student-athletes “be deemed employees of the school and their conferences” and an additional complaint “filed recently calling for Notre Dame athletes to be treated as employees” are currently ongoing.

Multiple lawsuits are also ongoing, and they’re important regarding the NCAA. According to the AP, House vs. the NCAA, which is a class-action lawsuit being heard in California, and another case in Pennsylvania that is “specifically asking for college athletes to be deemed employees” are among the significant legal decisions looming over the association.

While Athletes.org isn’t a union, “its current membership comprises 2,945 college athletes — 1,348 of them are football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball players from power conferences,” according to Dan Murphy of ESPN.

The Blazers don’t plan to bargain with UAB right now “but their decision to join en masse is symbolic of the growing momentum for players to organize,” according to ESPN.

“Me and my team decided to make history by being the first entire team to sign up and become members of Athletes.org,” UAB quarterback Jacob Zeno said. “To all my friends in college football, join us as we prepare for the future of college athletics.”