When Jackie Hamilton thinks about the upcoming college football season and her son — Kyle, a sophomore defensive back at Notre Dame — her routine concerns about the safety of the sport are joined by a new fear: covid-19.
Notre Dame plans to test all players every week for the novel coronavirus, and Hamilton said in a phone interview this week she believes the school is doing everything it can to keep her son safe. But what about Arkansas — Notre Dame’s opponent for its home opener in September — where players are getting tested only if they have symptoms or learn they were near an infected person?
“Do I want my child on the field, tackling some kid who may have it but doesn’t know because he’s asymptomatic?” said Hamilton, a human resources manager from suburban Atlanta. “How is that supposed to work?”
Nor is she stupid.
Mya Hinton, a retired lawyer, expressed concern college athletic departments are prioritizing their financial well-being over the health and safety of football players by barreling forward with their normal schedule in the middle of a pandemic.
“The reality is, the whole reason we’re having this conversation is money. These football programs, especially in the Power Five [conferences], fund the majority of the other sports, and the majority of everyone’s salaries,” Mya Hinton said. “There’s a ton of money involved here, and that’s not a secret.”
I don’t understand how this is expected to work, either. Even if Georgia, for example, is doing everything in its power to take care of its players and doing that well, what good with that do when the Dawgs play a team that isn’t? What’s Butts-Mehre going to do if an opponent refuses to disclose health details about its players during the week before the game?
And it’s going to have to be Georgia that makes the call. The NCAA won’t.
On June 10, the Hintons sent an email to every athletic director and president at a Division I school, as well as to the NCAA, outlining their concerns.
“Why is it when it comes to transfer rules, profiting from name image and likeness, or eligibility requirements the NCAA can find a ‘size 7′ that every school can comfortably fit but comprehensive safety guidance for Covid-19 is delegated to the individual schools,” the Hintons wrote. They requested the creation of a parent advisory committee that would have input on safety policies with the NCAA, as well as with each of the football conferences.
Nine days later, the Hintons received a letter from Emmert. Initially, they were excited the NCAA chief had responded. Until they read the letter.
“It didn’t really address anything we asked for,” Chris Hinton said. “I thought it was pretty generic and somewhat dismissive.”
“As a parent, I empathize with you on the importance of knowing more about the environments your sons could be going back to,” Emmert wrote. “Our role is to provide guidance … State and local protocols around COVID-19 vary based on each school’s location … As such, it is the responsibility of each campus to do all they can to support and preserve the health of student-athletes.”
Too bad nobody’s paying the kids to be exposed. Emmert no doubt would find cause to jump in then.
And the kids themselves?
“Virtually every conversation I have about college sports, anywhere, boils down to this: The athletes have no voice or representation,” Nevius said, “And they’re the ones taking all the risks.”
They can’t. Don’t mess this up, Georgia.