My opinion is informed by two things. One, there are still a number of experts, like this guy, who have serious misgivings about cranking up a college football season in the absence of having regular students back on campus.
Two, we all know what this is really about.
And SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, almost always a voice of reason in difficult times, was probably right to say, as he did on Friday: “Thanks to the blueprint established by our (SEC) Task Force and the dedicated efforts of our universities and their athletics programs, we will be able to provide our student-athletes with far better health and wellness education, medical and psychological care and supervision than they would otherwise receive on their own while off campus or training at public facilities as states continue to reopen.”
But let’s also be crystal clear that that’s not what this is all about. It’s about money, or at least the potential loss of more than a billion dollars within the SEC if there is no football this fall.
So all that talk about not having football unless students are back on campus, well, we’ll see, because South Carolina is already planning to send its students home around Thanksgiving in hopes of avoiding a dreaded second wave of COVID-19. So would that mean the Gamecocks wouldn’t play Clemson on the Saturday after Thanksgiving if campus was already empty until the spring? Would basketball season be placed in similar jeopardy?
Is the sales pitch now that we can take better care of our athletes on campus than if they’re confined to their homes, presumably surrounded by family members only?
Certainly we all miss sports these days, and as recent reopenings have shown, a good chunk of the country is ready to somewhat throw caution to the wind in order to return to the lives we once lived. But it is also worth asking if the SEC or any other Power Five league would be considering this if it weren’t facing a potentially catastrophic economic future without a football season.
Again, I think we all know the answer to that.
So, my opinion about players coming back? It’s pretty simple. Any school president who is willing to embed themselves with the players under the same conditions has my blessing on cranking up football practice. Same for conference commissioners — let ’em rotate through practice and living conditions at every conference program exactly as the players are being expected to. If they’re confident enough in the procedures being safe, as long as they put their money where their mouths are (see what I did there?), that’s good enough for me.
Forget doing it for the kids. Make it doing it with the kids instead. You first, Greg.