Over 70% of Idaho's football players do not want to play football this fall due to COVID-19 concerns, according to Stadium's Brett McMurphy.
Several players told Stadium that they are worried about the "unknown long-term impact of COVID-19" and have conveyed those fears to head coach Paul Petrino.
"I know that this will get drastically worse as the season progresses and I know in my heart it's not the morally correct thing to do," an unnamed player told McMurphy. "We feel we have been neglected by the NCAA in terms of wealth over health."
Players requested anonymity because they feared they would be cut from the program or lose their scholarships if they were named.
Last week, Vandals players took a confidential poll on whether they "felt comfortable participating in 2020 season given the current COVID-19 policies that are in place." In the poll, 73% of players said they did not want to play this fall due to their safety concerns. Players said the coaches were not informed about the poll.
Some players suggested moving the season to the spring as a safety precaution.
The players at Idaho, who moved from the FBS to the FCS in 2017, are the latest group to voice their concerns about playing college football amid the pandemic. Over the weekend, a group of Pac-12 football players from several schools threatened to opt out this season if their list of demands were not met by the conference. Their list included racial injustice, player safety amid the coronavirus pandemic and financial compensation. Several SEC players also expressed their safety concerns on a recent call with conference leaders.
A few players, including Illinois running back Ra'Von Bonner, Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley and Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman, have already opted out either due to COVID-19 concerns or to declare for next year's NFL draft.
As a member of the FCS' Big Sky Conference, Idaho is waiting to hear what the league will decide on holding fall sports, including football. The Big Sky plans to reach a decision after the NCAA Board of Governors' meeting on Tuesday, where the board could vote to push back the start of fall sports schedules, cancel all fall sports or move all fall competitions to the spring.
Idaho confirmed on Monday that nine students have tested positive for the coronavirus out of 125 student athletes that were tested in the past month.