Tanner Morgan Helps to Derail Latest CFB Unionization Effort

PHOTO: AARON LAVINSKY – STAR TRIBUNE

The Big Ten is on the verge of signing a new television contract. The new deal is expected to run in the billions of dollars. It will smash all previous college football broadcast rights deals before it. And for good reason, there’s a new drive amongst players to collect their fair share of the inordinate amount of money flowing into their game in 2022 and beyond.

The most likely route to college football players profiting from television dollars is to unionize. That is how major professional athletes in the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL negotiate revenue splits and salary caps between teams and players in various sports leagues, so precedent is there. The roadmap has already been laid.

Latest Unionization Effort Derailed

There have been multiple attempts at forming a CFB players union. All have been unsuccessful, so far. The latest effort, however, made it further down the track than others. Penn State University quarterback, Sean Clifford, had even agreed to join. Clifford went in front of a camera, and on record, supporting the “College Football Players Association”.

It only took hours for the backpedaling to begin. First, More Perfect Union added a clarification tweet stating, “College Football Players Association leadership clarifies that they aren’t organizing as a union but rather an association to represent players’ interests”.

Then, a few hours later, Clifford tweeted out his own statement, completely distancing himself from the CFBPA, instead expressing a commitment to Penn State and the Big Ten going forward. Clearly, someone had a sit down with Sean shortly after the video above surfaced.

It’s not surprising that the Big Ten and Penn State are pushing back against unionization attempts. Of course, they’d like to have full control of the billions of dollars flowing into college football. If they have to set 40%-50% of revenue dollars aside to pay players, there’s going to be less to disseminate to other sports and channels where that money has flowed historically.

CFBPA Blames Tanner Morgan

Everything mentioned above happened on July 22. Waters calmed over the next few days. Until another stone was thrown on Tuesday morning. This time, from the College Football Players Association, itself.

The statement was brash. It pointed fingers at who was to blame for Sean Clifford’s sudden defection from the CFBPA. Those accused included Big Ten commissioner, Kevin Warren, and most notably for Minnesota Gophers fans, Tanner Morgan, who was singled out as a huge roadblock to unionization efforts.

Sean told me that in addition to Kevin Warren he had been intensely lobbied by another star player and friend to give up on the CFBPA. Sean told me that Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan told him he would never support the CFBPA Big Ten campaign and this clearly weighed on Sean.CFBPA Statement (via Ross Delenger – SI)

One other detail. The leader of the CFBPA is Jason Stahl, a former University of Minnesota professor who was, essentially, run off campus after his unsuccessful attempt to do the same thing to PJ Fleck. You can read more about that situation HERE. In other words, Jason Stahl and Tanner Morgan are very familiar with one another.

Players need help getting fair share

I’m assuming Stahl typed the letter above, himself. Such assumptions feel like a pretty safe bet, after you read the final paragraph. But before you do, let me reiterate the importance of a college football players association or, at the least, some sort of 3rd party that can help players negotiate with the Big Ten, as a whole.

If Sean Clifford, Tanner Morgan or any other college football player really believes that the Big Ten and the University of Minnesota is going to put player interests above or at the same level as their own, then they’re naive, oblivious, stupid or some of all three.

I’m not a fan of Jason Stahl. He created a lot of the hurdles he now faces, in making the CFBPA viable. Stahl tried to run PJ Fleck off the the University of Minnesota campus. His actions back then, put him in a terrible spot with Big Ten coaches and conference leaders, now.

Stahl vs Fleck (New Episode)

Morgan represented another type of star player I was concerned about — those who hold their head coach as an idol who can do no wrong despite all evidence to the contrary. Morgan had long occupied this role at Minnesota. Despite player after player after player coming forward to describe the environment of player mistreatment and manipulation at Minnesota under head coach P.J. Fleck, Morgan defends his coach every time. Just a few weeks ago, yet another former player of Coach Fleck, Val Martin, came forward to highlight the the environment within Minnesota football. He described his personal experience and posted testimonies from other players. Morgan, as always, publicly defended Fleck. – CFBPA Statement

Hopefully, Tanner Morgan has a problem with Jason Stahl and not with the idea of unionization. Major college football players deserve their piece of the massive CFB revenue pie. And they won’t get it without some help.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan