Sun, 31 May 2020

Oklahoma coach Riley: 'Irresponsible' for players to return June 1

Field Level Media
22 May 2020, 08:55 GMT+10

Count Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley among the college football principals who believe June 1 is too soon for players to return to campus.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and known variables regarding the communicability of the virus in team settings, Riley is adamant that bringing his roster of more than 100 to Norman, Okla., is "ridiculous."

"We're not the NFL," Riley told The Oklahoman. "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 is in the outspoken minority on getting college football players together. Across the state, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said he wanted players back May 1.

According to reports, Southeastern Conference programs voted to return June 1 with only one dissenting opinion -- Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer -- before the NCAA adopted that plan.

"This has nothing to do or very little to do with actually putting them in a weight room or workout facility," Riley said. "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 100 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 in a more susceptible age range."

There is no requirement, per se, for Big 12 programs to bring players together in June.

Riley is expected to confer with like-minded coaches. Alabama's Nick Saban has been outspoken about taking science and medical opinion ahead of political opinion, and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said a July 1 return to campus for players would be sensible.

The college football season is scheduled to begin the last week of August. Most teams are scheduled to start fall camp the first week of August.

Riley said player safety has to be a priority when decisions such as these are being made.

"I think it would be completely irresponsible of us to bring these guys in," he said.

--Field Level Media

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