The college football world continues to be muddled in misinformation, lack of information, and just the general unknown as to whether there will be a 2020 season.
Pac 12 Coaches: “We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know.”
Pac 12 coaches continue to deal with the unknown. Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith, Arizona State’s Herm Edwards, and UCLA’s Chip Kelly met with the media Wednesday to discuss how they are handling the shutdown with their teams and what they might expect going forward.
While there are daily rumors on social media about each school’s alleged plan, Kelly was as succinct as always. “We don’t know what we don’t know. The virus will tell us when we are going to be able to come back. Until that time, we are just going to keep planning like we have a season coming up. No one has told us that we are not playing. No one has told that we definitely are playing.”
Kelly, more than many other coaches, has had to deal with the wealth of misinformation and misreporting that has come out over the last 36 hours. There was the coverage of the status of colleges in California, as well as reported directives from the LA County Health Director about an extended shutdown that does not actually exist.
Tuesday, the California State University system announced they would be limiting in-person classes and minimizing on-campus living. It caused media and audiences outside the state to assume that all California colleges would be doing this or were already. Kelly said his phone and text messages were blowing up Tuesday. “Nothing that was said in the last 24 or 48 hours directly impacts us playing games in September. We will continue to monitor it and let the experts and the medical people determine whether it is safe for our people to come back and play.”
Smith, for his part, has a governor, Kate Brown, who some thought was rather dismissive at the idea of there being college football in the Fall. “This game means a lot to me and to Oregonians. This is something I am passionate about and I am not laughing a lot about it,” Smith said. Brown notably did laugh at her recent press briefing when she was asked about the possibility of high school or college football in Oregon this Fall. “I know we are always learning more and more each week. We’ve got some great people in this conference and leadership at Oregon State and they will be the decision makers as we continue to make a move forward in unison with health officials and government leaders.”
In terms of checking in on their players, specifically with regards to their mental health, Edwards said he has a big picture message for his team. “This is a moment in your life when you actually need to reflect on your life. Our whole life when you grow up, as a child, there has been a schedule. Everyone is on a schedule. Now all of a sudden you don’t have a schedule. It’s like you’ve got to make your own schedule. I challenge guys with that. I say, ‘you know what? This is a time you need to look at you, reflect on you. What does your schedule look like every day?’”
Kelly said he has yet to use the eight hours per week the NCAA allows to meet electronically with players. He said they talk a wide variety of topics. He is also utilizing a leadership team of 16 players. “What you do miss is that comradery in the locker room. You know, just hanging out in the locker room and not talking about football but talking about life, and making sure we can still have those connections. It is physical distancing we are going through right now, not social distancing.”
But of course, what anyone wants to know about is if there will be a season in the Fall, in any configuration. There are too many conflicting messages from different regions of the country. Yesterday, Washington head coach Jimmy Lake suggested the NCAA step in and set the calendar for everyone. There is some question as to whether the NCAA has that jurisdiction. Smith said he would welcome players being allowed to get back to working out and being in the weight room as state and local guidelines allow. But, he added, he does think there needs to be uniformity in terms of practice dates across the country.
Edwards would welcome the uniformity. “I think every coach, regardless of what conference he is in right now, would want it to be an equal playing field.” Kelly said the Pac 12 coaches and administrators have been meeting with medical staff from the NCAA and is comfortable with the big picture communication.
Coaches across the country have pontificated about their team’s ability to play this Fall. And pundits have discussed how the young athletes should be medically fine in the path of the virus, Edwards is the first to notably bring up the parents of he players. “These are student athletes, and with that being said, parents are involved too. It’s not just the student alone. Parents are a big factor because it is their children. It may look like they are grown men. But a parent is going to be involved in a lot of this as well, so that is part of it. They want to make sure their son is safe. We, as coaches, want to make sure their son is safe.”
What can’t be overlooked from Wednesday’s meeting was the visual. There were three coaches from three states that are handling the current state of the virus dynamics in dramatically different ways. It is a microcosm for college football as a whole and the lack of unified answers.