Clemson’s Falcinelli goes from blocking to battling Players Association goals

Justin Falcinelli, as he earned two national championship rings (2016 and 2018) and as many degrees (in management and an MBA) at Clemson, noticed something disturbing about college football.

“The lack of medical care didn’t sit well with me,” the former All-ACC center said. “Football does so much damage to your body, especially as more and more scientific data is coming out on CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).

“I had teammates whose surgeries went wrong. I had teammates who suffer after football. Things like that. And medical care dwindles as football takes years away from you. I just don’t think that’s fair.

Having had the chance to help lead an effort to provide players with lifelong medical treatment and a slice of college football’s massive television revenue pie, Falcinelli jumped. He is a member of the executive committee of the one-year-old College Football Players Association. He works up to 20 hours a week around his day job as a data analyst at Northrup Grumman in Baltimore.

Almost anyone who knows a former college football player who limps down the aisle at church or suffers memory loss at a surprisingly early age knows that long-term health care is long overdue.

The players’ unions?

A bit more controversial, and probably inevitable.

But ignoring players for decades is what got college football into this transfer portal and this Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) mess. And that’s just the beginning.

This is where the CFBPA comes in. Jason Stahl, a former University of Minnesota professor and longtime advocate for college athletes, founded the organization in July 2021. It aims to give players “a collective voice in decision-making within their sport. ”

While the CFBPA’s three “platform boards” address health issues, it also wants players to get a percentage of media rights deals.

It starts with the Big Ten, which invited Stahl to the Big Ten Media Days in Indianapolis in July, but later withdrew the offer.

Clemson's DJ Uiagalelei prepares to be pushed by freshman QB Cade Klubnik

“It’s really popular”

Of course, big change doesn’t come easy, as shown by the conflicting bills being drafted in Washington to address NIL and other hot topics in college sports.

Republican Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a former head coach for Ole Miss, Auburn, Texas Tech and Cincinnati, is working on a bill with West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin that will try to regulate NIL. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats led by former Stanford football player Cory Booker want far-reaching athlete “bill of rights” legislation.

Whatever happens, CFBPA officers seek to be the voice of representation for college football players (Stahl told The Post and Courier he plans to release membership numbers “when the season begins”) .

“It’s really a popular word-of-mouth movement,” said Falcinelli, 26. can we fix them? »

Tremayne Anchrum, Falcinelli’s former teammate at Clemson and now a tackle for the Los Angeles Rams, is also on the CFBPA’s executive committee.

The CFBPA’s “dream vision” after recruiting “a significant number of players in critical mass”, Falcinelli said, is at the table for important political decisions.

This means having a CFBPA representative within each major college football program initially, with representatives for programs at all levels eventually.

It’s very much like a union, with membership cards, monthly dues, and meetings every fourth Friday at 10 a.m.

And it’s more or less necessary to get some basic equity into the system if college leaders don’t come to their senses, which is as unlikely as Vanderbilt winning the SEC East.

Sapakoff: In Search of Clemson's ACC's Toughest Enemy;  this is not the NC state

health and money

“We hope that the NCAA or the conferences or the schools will meet with us in good faith negotiations based on the fact that we are a large representative group of players,” Falcinelli said. “If these groups don’t want to negotiate with us, unionization is a kind of threat to force that change.”

We certainly seem to be heading towards player salaries at the major conference level.

Maybe, said Falcinelli.

“But it’s not the only solution,” he added, emphasizing the idea of ​​television revenue sharing.

Falcinelli has yet to discuss any of this with his former head coach.

“But I would absolutely love this opportunity,” he said.

Dabo Swinney, speaking during the summer of 2020 when the main topic was COVID-19 precautions, said he agreed with an association of college football players.

But, Swinney said: ‘It’s different from a union. I will say that.

Keep an eye out for developments in the CFBPA and similar efforts. Impact on sports could overshadow NIL, transfer portal and conference realignment as players and former players such as Justin Falcinelli fight for two of America’s favorite activities, better health and more silver.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff

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