Yesterday, the Pac-12 voted to resume its football season on Nov. 6 after months of delays due to the coronavirus pandemic and the concerns associated with the health of its players.
"The Pac-12 CEO Group announced today that based upon updated Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee recommendations that take into account material changes to testing capabilities, the prevalence of COVID-19 and cardiac issues, along with updated state and local health official guidance, the Conference will resume its football, basketball and winter sport seasons," the Pac-12 said in a statement released on Sept. 24.
Former Gators running back, Emmitt Smith has a close connection to the Pac-12, and its decision, this year, and for at least a few years following. His son, E.J. Smith is currently enrolled at Stanford University and was looking forward to playing in his first collegiate season.
"I told him to look at it this way, 'You got a year to transition into the school and get acclimated to not only study halls and going to classes and taking classes online and adjusting to the college life but also adjusting to how what is like the workout and train with your team you have a whole year to do that'," Emmitt Smith told Sports Illustrated - AllGators on Thursday prior to the Pac-12's decision to resume its season in November.
"So, don't get over-anxious you're not on the football field because it will come and when the time comes, you will be ready. And, so, just take this time to not only soak in these moments but turn these moments into something memorable as yourself and take advantage of the opportunity to work out and train with your team and get physically fit, physically ready for wherever, whenever the team calls you to come play."
As a freshman at Florida in 1989, Smith didn't start right away but went on to break a record for the fastest freshman to reach 1,000 yards, in just seven games. The Pac-12's decision to resume its season on Nov. 6 allows for seven games. While that doesn't mean E.J. will look to top his father, it does illustrate just how much production can be had many games.
In an uncertain season, as a freshman, he can apply lessons from his dad. There's so much out of his hands right now as commissioners and league presidents fight to be on top of a decision that no one is going to be able to make corrections. So, he just has to stay in his bubble and do what he can to improve.
"Those are the things that you can do, those are things that you can control, is your attitude, in terms of how you prepare for the school, as well as the game," Smith said. "And the way I see it Stanford is truly taking the lead in terms of student-athletes by protecting their players, and doing what they have to do to sacrifice, but, you know, to each their own."
Currently, Stanford is unable to conduct any athletic contact practices or competition, but the university and its president, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, are making a concerted effort to work with Santa Clara County which has one of the strictest regulations regarding the coronavirus.
"We deeply respect the thoughtful decision-making our county has undertaken to protect public health throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and we have a shared goal of providing for the safety of our community," Tessier-Lavigne said in a statement yesterday.
With the athletes unable to participate in physical activities, they are still able to get a head start on their education, something that is one of the benefits of what is currently an unfortunate situation.
"They can start preparing and training and getting their minds right and focusing on the things that are really truly important," said Smith. "When the NCAA starts talking about student-athlete, this is truly what a student-athlete looks like, when a pandemic or something like this hit you, you have to do what's right, you have to be a leader and show the country and show the world, this is what leadership looks like.
"We shut things down because we need to protect not only our student-athletes, and notice I said student-athletes, that's the way that they term it as well, and it's important that we do what is right by the kids, other parents. So, to me that's, that's the way I look at it."
While the majority of conferences have come to the same decision - playing football in the fall -, they didn't all make that decision right away. The Pac-12 and Big Ten were two conferences that opted to play a patient game, instead of conceding to public pressure - at least at first.
While they've been criticized for their lack of patience in playing, Smith feels their patience with the protocols and protecting its students is more important.
"I think Stanford's putting school and education truly ahead of sports right now. And I think some other conferences need to follow and do the same thing."
Now, athletes will be able to remain focused and prepare for a season with as many protocols and regulations as possible, instead of having a rushed decision that can quickly come crashing down as many programs have seen, unable to play their first game of the season.
"When you start talking about student-athlete and how important education really is at the collegiate level, and then you have some conferences, do the things that they're doing all because they are the powerhouse conferences, unfortunately, I think you send an arrogant message."