Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson confers with quarterback Vad Lee (2) during the second quarter against North Carolina at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday. The letters "APU" can be seen partially obstructed on Lee's left wrist. (Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images)
There is a small but significant addition to the uniforms worn by a select number of FBS teams Saturday.
Georgia Tech players including quarterback Vad Lee, five Georgia offensive linemen, Northwestern players including quarterback Kain Colter and others playing on national television today are wearing the letters "APU", for All Players United, on their equipment today.
The effort is coordinated by the National Collegiate Players Association, an advocacy organization make up for and by former and current college athletes. According to NCPA director Ramogi Huma, the impetus for the APU statements was the criticism brought against a group of current NCAA athletes who joined the O'Bannon name and likeness suit against the NCAA, Electronic Arts and Collegiate Licensing Co. this summer.
Among the athletes who joined as plaintiffs are Arizona linebacker Jake Fischer and kicker Jake Smith, Clemson defensive back Darius Robinson, Vanderbilt linebacker Chase Garnham, and Minnesota tight end Moses Alipate and wide receiver Victor Keise.
Huma told USA TODAY Sports that a separate group of current athletes who sit on the NCPA's board brainstormed came up with the APU idea to show solidarity and support. "That was the catalyst, and from there players really started thinking about the types of things they wanted to support," Huma said. "Concussions is the highest priority. There are serious health and safety issues they feel the NCAA is ignoring.
"They came up with a way they felt comfortable to show unity. This is an effort, this is a call for players of all sports, anyone who supports players pursuit of basic protections."
Huma said the members of the NCPA player council had no concerns about being discreet about the markings. Georgia Tech players wearing "APU" included Lee and star defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu, among others. Five Georgia offensive linemen - David Andrews, Chris Burnette, Kenarious Gates, Kolton Houston and John Theus - also displayed the letters, Huma said. And Colter was one of a number of Northwestern players who wore the letters in their game against Maine.
Huma said he expects the practice to continue beyond today.
"I think the way they see it, guys write things on those areas all the time," Huma said. "Sometimes guys write biblical passages, some put area codes, just different things. It's not anything different than what they've been doing, other than it's the first time to make a statement to better their futures and their situations.
"The intent is to continue on until the NCAA changes its rules."
On its web site, the NCPA has a petition to join the All Players United movement to push for positive change in conditions for college athletes and within the NCAA. The most serious issue among the NCPA and the athletes it advocates is concussions and player health and safety.
The campaign's stated goals are:
Demonstrate unity among college athletes and fans from different campuses seeking NCAA reform.
Show support for the players who joined concussion lawsuits against the NCAA, which could force the NCAA to finally take meaningful steps to minimize brain trauma in contact sports and provide resources for current and former players suffering with brain injuries.
Show support for the players who stepped up in the O'Bannon v. NCAA, EA Sports lawsuit regarding the use of players images/likeliness, which could unlock billions of dollars in resources for current, future, and former players.
Stand behind individual players being harmed by NCAA rules.
Direct a portion of over $1 billion in new TV revenue to guarantee basic protections: Guarantee scholarship renewals for permanently injured players; Ensure injured players are not stuck with sports-related medical bills; Increase scholarships $3-5k to cover the full cost of attendance; Minimize brain trauma in contact sports; Establish an educational lockbox (trust fund) to increase graduation rates
"We're optimistic that more and more players will participate," Huma said. "I think fans are fed up with a lot of this, too. They might have as much leverage as the players themselves."