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Lincoln Riley says players back on campus is 'ridiculous.'
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 Posted: Thu May 21st, 2020 01:40 pm

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Lincoln Riley says players back on campus is 'ridiculous.' Will he bring them back in wake of NCAA vote?
by Berry Tramel

Lincoln Riley took on the Southeastern Conference last week. He’s not the first Sooner coach to take aim at the SEC; Bob Stoops did it, lived to tell about it and then got weary of everyone wanting him to repeat the process.

Give Riley credit. It takes bravado to stand up to the SEC, especially five months after a 63-28 Peach Bowl. But stand up Riley did when he called it “ridiculous” that college football programs want to bring players to campus June 1 in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. SEC presidents were scheduled to vote this week on that very proposal.

Then Wednesday, the NCAA sided with the SEC. The Division I council voted to allow voluntary workouts for football and basketball players beginning June 1. Which figures to mean more than just the SEC is likely to congregate linebackers and tailbacks and tackles at a campus near you.

And now, Riley is in no-man’s land. Does he stick to his principles that it’s dangerous to bring back the troops? Or does he swallow his pride and join the Land Run, trying to get ready for the 2020 season?

The SEC clearly was not on an island. University of Iowa president Bruce Harreld said three weeks ago he wanted the Hawkeye football players back in Iowa City on June 1. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said he expects the Buckeyes to be back for workouts on June 8. Mike Gundy said in early April he wanted the Cowboys back in Stillwater on May 1.

Of course, Riley is right. It’s a bad look and potentially bad policy to bring back the ballplayers to campus this soon. Major League Baseball has not resumed any operations. The NFL started to open facilities this week. NBA training facilities have re-opened, on a voluntary basis with extreme restrictions.

It seems quite clear that a decent number of professional athletes are in no hurry to end their social distancing.

“People are suggesting we should go back … like we’re guinea pigs or lab rats,” English soccer player Danny Rose said on a Lockdown Tactics podcast. “I could be potentially risking my health for people’s entertainment, and that’s not something I want to be involved in.”
   
Plenty of athletes on this side of the Atlantic have expressed similar sentiments, though not quite so eloquently. And charging up the college football hill when even the pros are treading lightly? Doesn’t seem wise.

“We’re not the NFL,” Riley said. “There are some huge, huge differences in us being able to put on a successful season versus a professional league. We’re not the NBA. We don’t just have 15 players. This is a totally different deal. I do believe if we do it right and if we’re patient enough on some key areas like when we bring our players back on campus … that we will be able to play a season.”

Riley made his “ridiculous” comment on a Thursday zoom call with Oklahoma reporters. The next day on ESPN, he expounded.

“We have to be very patient,” Riley said. “This has nothing to do or very little to do with actually putting them in a weight room or workout facility. Sure, we can put 10 guys in a facility, social distance them, sanitize it and make it safe. That’s not the point.

“We cannot control over a hundred players for that amount of time and know exactly what they’re going to do. These guys are 18 to 22 years old. They’re going to socialize. They’re going to want to be around each other. They’re going to want to be around their peers. And that makes it dangerous, not only for our players, but also for our staff … you’ve got a lot of staff members that are a more susceptible age range.”

Riley uses a phrase: “advantage our time.” There is no great hurry for college football. Except that everyone is in a hurry.

According to reports, SEC athletic directors — Tennessee’s Phil Fulmer the lone dissenter — pushed for the June 1 return, so that players can adequately prepare for the season. Others across the sport have suggested later would be fine. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said July 1.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN that if programs are not functioning by mid-July, the season likely would be delayed. Bowlsby also said it’s too early to tell if mid-July is a reasonable time frame.

Bowlsby said the conference commissioners are working together, and West Virginia president Gordon Gee recently said he has complete faith that SEC commissioner Greg Sankey will do the right thing. But a competitive advantage could develop for any schools that open significantly before others.

“That's why we work together, to try and avoid those things,” Bowlsby said, “but there's a range of outcomes that are probably satisfactory and that allows some local discretion. To the extent we can, we'll try and do things similarly, but it doesn't have to be identical.”

Football coaches are wired to win. Riley himself is wired to win. You don’t reach the heights he’s reached without a competitive drive that is on overload.

But Riley says he also promises the parents of recruits that he will look after their sons.

“The people making decisions have got to keep that the No. 1 priority,” Riley said. “So yeah, I think it would be completely irresponsible of us to bring these guys in.”

Yet now Riley and OU has a decision to make.

https://oklahoman.com/article/5662809/ou-football-lincoln-riley-says-players-back-on-campus-is-ridiculous-will-he-bring-them-back-in-wake-of-ncaa-vote

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