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July 27, 2013

Fischer vows to keep football, NCAA lawsuit separate



CULVER CITY, Calif. -- Jake Fischer is at the forefront of a historic moment in college football history. But the senior Arizona linebacker said his involvement in a lawsuit against the NCAA takes a backseat to football.

"It actually hasn't been a distraction at all," he said Friday at Pac-12 Conference media day, adding with a laugh, "aside from a few negative comments on Twitter."

A Pac-12 championship and the program's first Rose Bowl appearance are Fischer's priorities

"All of us [on the team] being competitors, something that doesn't have to do with the season, gets put to the side," he said.

UA embarks on the 2013 campaign, starting with training camp next week. Fischer, tight end Terrence Miller and head coach Rich Rodriguez addressed reporters at the event, touching on such on-field topics including the new quarterback, position changes and defensive improvements.

A courtroom seems about as far from the gridiron as one can get - "[lawsuits] aren't fun," Rodriguez quipped - but Fischer's case is vital to the long-term stability of the college game.

The lawsuit former and current players have initiated against the NCAA and Electronic Arts for use of their likeness is a landmark moment in the growing debate over player compensation. Fischer and UA teammate Jake Smith are among the six active college football players involved.

For Fischer, the lawsuit transcends simple "pay-for-play."

"Athletes having more of a voice and say in what goes on," he said was his reasoning for joining the landmark lawsuit. "I would like to see guys get health issues taken care of after football, and be able to continue their education."

His motivations have earned Fischer the endorsement of his coach, among others.

"We love the support we're getting [from] coach RichRod, [UA athletic director] Greg Byrne, our families, teammates and players across the country," he said.

Rodriguez may not agree with every argument in the player compensation dialogue. He said he "believe[s] in the amateur model."

However, Fischer's motivations and the inclusion of a student-athlete perspective have earned the coach's endorsement. And Rodriguez hopes to see NCAA reforms as a result.

Dialogue is open to an unprecedented degree, as coaches like Rodriguez weigh in with their ideas on how to share some of the multibillions in revenue generated through licensing and broadcasting rights.

"There are things we can do better to help the student-athletes," Rodriguez said. "The NCAA had it on the right track with the [proposed] extra $2,000 cost-of-attendance [stipend]…but that fell through.

"My simple solution is this: Every student-athlete, walk-on or scholarship in every sport, [the athletic program] should be able to feed them breakfast, lunch and dinner, year-round."

Ideas like Rodriguez's are being brought to the table, and reform is coming to big-time college football.

Eventually.

Until then, Jake Fischer and the rest of the Wildcats are just thinking about football.

"On fourth [down]-and-10…I'm not thinking about [a lawsuit]," Rodriguez said.

Kyle KensingKyle Kensing
GOAZCATS.com Staff Writer

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