Oklahoma football coach Lincoln Riley faces a dilemma.
The Sooner coach has been one of the more glass-half-full voices about the prospects of college football in the fall. But he has also gone on record saying starting up football activities on campus again at the beginning of next month is too soon.
The NCAA Division I Council voted this week to allow voluntary on-campus activities to resume in football and men’s and women’s basketball.
“Reopening our campuses will be an individual decision, but should be based on advice from medial experts,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun and reported by multiple media sources, including ESPN’s Andrea Adelson. “We encourage each school to use its discretion and make the best decision possible.”
Not a day too soon, some would say, with 100 days before the scheduled start to the 2020 college football season. But is pent-up frustration getting the best of wisdom and common sense?
A number of major schools are planning to open up football activities, if not on June 1, shortly thereafter.
In a Zoom call with reporters a week ago, Riley said “bringing back players on June 1 is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”
Earlier during the shutdown period caused by the widespread coronavirus outbreak the Oklahoma head coach had said college football would need to have a plan in place no later then mid-June if there was to be a 2020 season.
Riley has made it clear that he wants to get back to football as much as anyone and that he believes there will be a 2020 season, but he wants schools to exercise patience in bringing the players back and look at the big picture.
“We get one good shot at this, and we’ve gotta get it right,” he said, adding that every day that we could have brought the players back in is a day we could have learned more about the virus.
Lincoln Riley says patience is paramount in bringing players back to campus
A number of schools in major conferences, including the Big Ten, SEC and even the Big 12, plan to resume football activities the first week in June.
Regardless of whan it happens, one thing is absolutely certain, things are going to be much different than what everyone is accustomed to. Coronavirus testing will be a major element as will social distancing guidelines.
Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos offers an example of what life in the “new norman” will be like:
When the Nebraska players first get here, they will be quarantined for 48 hours and then tested, he said. If anyone tests positive for the virus, there is a dormitory provided to quarantine them.
The Big 12 has not made a formal announcement regarding a voluntary return to campus after June 1, but a vote is scheduled for May 22.
Multiple college coaches have said they will need four to six weeks of practice to be ready for the season. Riley says, “We can have 15 to 20 practices and be ready to play.”
Getting the teams and players prepared to play, while continuing to ensure for their health and safety and taking all precautions to protect them from unnecessary risk to COVID-19 exposure remains a giant obstacle. The follow-up issue of what to do with the fans is the next big hurdle.