SEC Football Players Worried About Their Safety While Playing During the Pandemic

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One day before the SEC announced its conference-only football schedule, players expressed their concerns about playing during the coronavirus pandemic on a call with conference leaders.

The Washington Post obtained an audio recording of the private meeting between more than a dozen players, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, members of the conference’s medical advisory board and more. Players who participated in the call are part of a "student-athlete leadership council."

"There are going to be outbreaks," an unnamed official told players on the call, per The Post. "We're going to have cases on every single team in the SEC. That's a given. And we can't prevent it."

Players asked questions about whether it was worth holding a football season during the pandemic and if the SEC would later regret doing so amid all the uncertainty.

"We want to play. We want to see football. We want to return to normal as much as possible," Texas A&M linebacker Keeath Magee II said. "But it's just that with all this uncertainty, all this stuff that's still circulating in the air, y'all know it kind of leaves some of us still scratching my head. ...I feel like the college campus is the one thing that you can't control."

Safety on college campuses has been a big concern, even before classes start. Numerous schools have held workouts this summer, only to suspend them after teams experienced outbreaks. Football programs like Houston, Michigan State, West Virginia and Rutgers are among those already impacted by the virus, and the Scarlet Knights' outbreak has been tied to an on-campus party attended by several players.

According to The Post, Mississippi linebacker MoMo Sanogo shared his fears over schools bringing thousands of students on campus for the fall semester. Sanogo said even if football players adhere to strict COVID-19 guidelines, they could still be infected by classmates who go to parties at night and then possibly bring germs to class.

An official told Sanogo that class sizes would be smaller so students can sit six feet apart but admitted the situation is "not fair" to athletes who are around students that don't follow the guidelines.

"As un-fun as it sounds, the best thing that you can do is just try to encourage others to act more responsibly and not put yourself in those kinds of situations. I'm very comfortable with what we've done on campus," the official told Sanogo. "I'm concerned about what happens from 5 p.m. until 5 a.m."

As COVID-19 concerns caused several NFL players to sit out the upcoming season, a few college players have followed suit. On Tuesday, Illinois RB Ra'Von Bonner elected to opt out of the 2020 season and said he didn't want to risk spreading the virus to his loved ones. Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley opted out the following day "due to uncertain health conditions and regulations." Players in the SEC and other conferences will retain their scholarships if they opt out this season. 

The SEC, ACC and Pac-12 have announced starting dates for camp and their game schedules, but Sports Illustrated's Pat Forde argues Power 5 conference leaders need to articulate their financial motive behind pushing to hold the 2020 season.