As much shade as I’ve thrown the way of schools with pandemic plans that seem little more than hope that nothing blows up in their institutional faces, it’s only fair to give credit where credit’s due for those programs that have put some real thought into the matter.
One example, I’m proud to say, comes from our own University of Georgia. I was impressed with what I saw from Kirby Smart yesterday; the answers in this Q&A from yesterday’s presser are exactly what you’d expect from someone who pays as much attention to detail as we know Smart does.
Q: How serious are the players taking this?
A: The last thing we need right now, if people want to have a football season or any kind of athletic season, is to have another flare-up. The biggest thing we can do as far as taking care of that is to make good decisions and be aware. So, we’re going to educate or players because, I promise you, there are some of our players who don’t feel vulnerable because of what they’ve heard because they think they have super powers. So we’re going to educate our guys to be safe and make good decisions.
Q: What will you say to a player who is uncomfortable with coming back?
A: The first thing is defer to the medical staff. We’ve got one of the best medical staffs in the country in Ron Courson and Dr. (Fred) Reifsteck. We’ve had multiple meetings with them, they’ve talked to our players and their parents in terms of trying to educate them. There is no pressure. To a man, every one of these guys is working out. If they’re working out at home, could you argue that wherever they’re working out, at home, at a local gym, the high school, backyard, that that environment is as safe as one that’s monitored and taken care of by our staff. As a parent I’d certainly feel a lot better about my daughter or son being able to work in that environment that’s been professionally taken care of outside of wherever they’re working out currently. We found that to be the case with most we’ve talked to.
Compare that to this:
SEC schools Arkansas, LSU and Missouri, however, will not require coronavirus testing when players begin returning to campus June 8. Only those showing symptoms or returning from hot spots in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Orleans will be tested upon their arrival on Arkansas’ campus. Interestingly, the Arkansas campus is located in the heart of the newest hot spot in the country for the novel coronavirus. The metro area in Northwest Arkansas has the nation’s highest average daily growth rate (12 percent), according to a New York Times report Tuesday.
“I can tell you with great assurance we didn’t get any questions or concerns from parents about returning their student-athletes to campus,” Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek said.
Maybe it’s just a case of a lot of blanks not being filled in there, but if I were a parent of one of those kids, I’d sure have questions for a guy who also said, “In athletics or in life, no plan can guarantee that anyone affiliated with our program will not contract COVID-19.”
I get that there is no risk-free path for programs preparing to deal with reopening in the face of the coronavirus. All I can ask is that a program take whatever steps are prudent and reasonable to mitigate the risk and plainly communicate that to the kids who will be exposed to it and their families. Which is why I’m well pleased with Smart and Georgia this morning.
While I’m on my soapbox about this, one other AD deserves mention.
Every school in the country ought to make that same pledge to its student-athletes, and the NCAA should join in to provide that a decision to sit out the pandemic won’t affect eligibility. That’s the real way you do it for the kids. Kudos to you, Iowa.