Power 5 Commissioner: Prospects of College Football Playing This Fall Becoming 'More Perilous'

Christopher Walsh

College football has reached a "critical" juncture in terms of trying to get on the field this fall.

That's the word Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott used with Andy Katz of NCAA.com as part of his NCAA Social Series podcast. He and Dr. Brian Hainline, the NCAA's chief medical officer, discussed some of the ongoing challenges of dealing with the coronavirus, and neither sounded very optimistic. 

“Unless we see a change in the trajectory of the spread of the virus and its impact pretty quickly, I think the situation’s a lot more perilous than it was a few weeks ago,” Scott said.

While Scott emphasized the importance of flexibility, and that a one-size-fits all plan would likely not be feasible on a school-by-school basis, its still be like trying to build a house on an unstable landscape. The only constant has been continual change.  

For example, Southern California, which is slated to open the regular season against Alabama in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 5, announced it would be changing course on its plan to have all undergraduate students on campus for the fall semester. 

That was thought to be a prerequisite to playing sports. Instead, USC will primarily be online until things improve.

"We need to keep learning and understanding what's happening, until the latest point where we have to make a decision, one way or another, and we're trying to take baby steps," Scott said. "What we thought the narrative was a month ago is now very different. 

"No one can predict right now what the fall is going to look like, in my opinion."

Football players were able to return to campus for voluntary workouts last month, with mixed results. For example, a day after Oklahoma announced 14 players had tested positive for the coronavirus, Kansas suspended its workouts Friday after 16 positive tests, 12 on the football team. 

Hainline called the voluntary workouts stage "the easy part of trying to get teams on the field. 

"Over time, as you start getting into more interactive-type exercises, that's when we'll understand even more if this is working—and that's in the setting of making certain that the local healthcare infrastructure can support what's happening," Hainline said. "So we have to really pay careful attention to that as well."

He called this a "really important transition phase" as mandatory workouts, and coaches able to directly work with players on July 13.

But look for schools to start making some tough choices before then. 

“There could be decisions next week that some schools or some conferences make … I don’t know that there will be one date when the world of college sports decides, or the world of college football decides," Scott said. "I think we may see some individual decisions be made in the coming weeks. But I do think it’s a matter of the next few weeks that things will come into more focus.”

Tensions running high at Texas A&M

Coach Jimbo Fisher received a six-month show-case order from the NCAA after he and an assistant coach had impermissible contact with a high school recruit before he completed his junior year of high school. 

According to the NCAA, Fisher "failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance because of his personal involvement in the recruiting violation."

The negotiated penalties include one year probation for the Aggies. 

However, that's only the second-biggest story surrounding the athletics department.

Texas A&M linebacker Keeath Magee II and sprinter Infinite Tucker were among the dozens of students who marched and protested against the statue of Sullivan Ross, a Confederate general, at the Academic Plaza on the College Station campus.

Following the peaceful demonstration Infinite was confronted by an older white man who appeared to ask him, "Are you an Aggie or a Blackie"? 

On Monday morning, Tucker shared a 17-second video to Twitter captioned, “Racism still exist [sic] on Texas A&M Campus. Here is proof: As you can hear, by the birds chirping, I was peacefully and calmly protesting until Leroy [sic] asked me if I was an “Aggie or Blackie.”

Sports Illustrated host Robin Lundberg talked with Infinite and writer Chris Chavez who has reported on the incident and push to have the statue removed. 

Texas starter vows to sit 

Also in the Lone Star State, projected starter DeMarvion Overshown is vowing to sit until the school makes significant changes to help promote equality on campus for athletes and students of color.

The linebacker posted on Twitter that he's no longer participating in team activities.  

"First off, I will like to start by saying I have love for my teammates, coaches and the University of Texas. As most of you know, the Student-Athletes put out a statement three weeks ago demanding some changes that are long overdue. We have been told that things are bing done behind closed doors, but have yet to see any changes. We are constantly preached urgency throughout the program and I fell the university should be held to the same standard. I watched WNBA All-Star Maya Moore sit out a whole year because of something that meant so much to her. With that being said, until real action is taken and changes are made I will be sitting out of all team activities. I will support my team in whatever they do but this is something I'm very passionate about and I can not continue to perform for a program that doesn't show me the same love and support I do for them."

Among the changes students asked for in June included the renaming of buildings, the replacement of statues on campus, the inclusion of modules for incoming freshmen discussing the history of racism on campus, an outreach program for inner cities, more diversity in the school's Hall of Fame, the Texas athletics department to donate 0.5 percent of the annual earnings to black organizations and the BLM movement, and the replacement of "The Eyes of Texas" with a new song without racist undertones.

Per Longhorns Country, the former five-star recruit has played in 17 games with two starts during his collegiate career, and is poised for a breakout season after moving from defensive back to linebacker in Chris Ash's new scheme.

They say timing is everything 

It looked like the most laughable use of a holiday weekend news dump that we've seen in quite a while, when Oklahoma State issued statements of support for football coach Mike Gundy after 8 p.m. Thursday.   

The statements addressed findings from interviews with current and former players following the much-publicized concerns within the program, first spoken by star running back Chuba Hubbard and echoed by others.

“We have spent the past couple of weeks reviewing our program and talking with current and former players,” athletic director Mike Holder said in the release. “Our internal review found that Coach Gundy needs to invest more time in building stronger relationships with his student-athletes. However, our review has uncovered no signs or indication of racism."

On Friday, Holder met with reporters. He announced that Gundy has agreed to take a $1 million pay cut, with his contract was also shortened from five to four years, the buyout cut from $5 million to $4 million, and the guarantee dropped from 75 percent to 50 percent.

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