“The days of the, you know, dictator-like head football coach, I think those days are numbered,” said SMU coach Sonny Dykes. “Your program has to be player-friendly. They need to be able to communicate with you and share their concerns, whether it’s concussions, whether it’s COVID, whether it’s social justice. You need to listen and do what’s best for the young people.
“That’s the role of the head coach: to create a culture where they’re comfortable sharing those things with you and they don’t worry about retaliation or something silly like that.”
For both Murphy and Green, the pillars of the kind of athlete compensation system they envision — guaranteed scholarships, robust health care, salaries — are about broader power dynamics. Athletes at risk of losing their scholarships often fear speaking out about NCAA violations and unethical practices: overly harsh football practices in summer heat; coaches making return-to-play decisions when that is supposed to be the domain of medical professionals; academic fraud; and racist comments.
“The power these coaches have over kids is almost absolute,” Murphy said. “There is no way a kid can speak out if he feels his situation is unsteady.”