The Arizona Wildcats may not have the academic prestige of a Harvard, Duke or even that of a Michigan, but some of their athletes have made a clear stance regarding their consciousness when it comes to philosophies of the so-called "student-athlete." Arizona football players Jake Fischer and Jake Smith have publicly announced their support and signed their names on a federal anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA, video game company EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Co.
The NCAA recently announced it would drop its relationship with EA Sports, which has come under fire for using NCAA players' likenesses, images and names. The antitrust case is led by Ed O'Bannon, a former UCLA basketball player who filed the lawsuit in 2009.
The two Wildcats are leading a group of six college football players that include Vanderbilt linebacker Chase Garnham, Clemson cornerback Darius Robinson, and Minnesota tight end Moses Alipate and wide receiver Victor Keise.
The NCAA has denied that it uses player likenesses in video games, but an SB Nation piece detailed the thin line the EA Sports treaded -- and crossed -- by using a play with former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow's name in a 2010 version of the football video game.
In an interview with ESPN's "Outside the Lines," Fischer and Smith say that they simply want to recognize the value of their college contributions. While that doesn't necessarily mean playing for pay, the two players are hoping for protections financially and for health reasons following their collegiate careers.
"Honestly, I stepped forward for the future well-being, safety and health of student-athletes," Fischer said. "We have both met a ton of people since we've been here who have lingering effects from injuries, not getting a great education, not having all the capabilities or the opportunities that a regular student would have, and honestly, we would just like to try to fix that."
This isn't the first time Arizona athletes have been part of the growing momentum that is fighting against the NCAA. Unnamed Wildcats signed a petition two years ago for players to recent some benefits, specifically regarding health.
Both Rich Rodriguez and Greg Byrne have said they support their two football players, who are considered the leaders among the six players in the lawsuit. Byrne obviously is in a tight position since the lawsuit is essentially against his employer, of sorts.
"The fact that the athletic department is behind them is huge," said National College Players Association president Ramongi Huma. "[Coaches and ADs] are the people who arguably benefit the most from the system, and yet they see an injustice and feel it's OK for players to challenge that system.
The NCAA clarified before Fischer and Smith went public that players won't be punished for joining the lawsuit.
If the lawsuit is filed as class-action, former and current players could enter the fray and make the lawsuit pay out damages into the billions of dollars.
And with that, Fischer and Smith are already seemingly historical figures in the movement toward, at the very least, pushing for small stipends and medical financial support for athletes moving forward.