The NCAA voted on a significant new step in the process of collegiate sports reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic yesterday, announcing that campuses nationwide could host voluntary student-athlete workouts from June 1 through June 30.
We all want sports back. But we also want them back the right way: namely, in the safest possible manner for all involved. And there are some important questions to be addressed regarding this new step, specifically regarding 2020 college football, since it's up well before basketball season.
Practices may have been suspended in March, but that doesn't mean that competition ceased. As I discussed earlier today, recruiting has taken on a new face during this new normal-- and the resumption of play will require preparation.
And while programs have control over the extent to which they address this new NCAA ruling, they're not operating in a vacuum. 12 teams on their schedules are taking necessary steps to better them on the gridiron come autumn, and although they may share a conference, their campuses are not necessarily located in areas equally affected by COVID-19.
In the ACC, for instance, the situation for Georgia Tech in Atlanta, the Hurricanes in Miami, or Boston College is certainly quite different than that of more rurally located schools like Clemson or Virginia Tech. Or what of the Pac-12, with USC and UCLA in Los Angeles, which recently extended its stay-home order through July, with a program like Oregon State in far-less affected Corvallis?
That's on the team level, but what about the individual players themselves? They'll be faced with the decision of heading back to campuses across the country from disparate hometowns, all of which have experienced varying forms of coronavirus impacts.
Playing time is a finite commodity-- but competition for it knows no bounds. Every position on the field is constantly being contested. So just how "voluntary" is this, practically speaking? Are players, perhaps from more hard-hit areas of the country, who may not feel comfortable with returning to workouts really going to stay home and risk losing their position to teammates who are in attendance?
Is that fair? Is that safe?
I'm not editorializing against this NCAA decision. But while it may inspire a certain amount of confidence in sports' eventual return, it prompts a plethora of questions, too.