One day before the Southeastern Conference approved their 10-game, conference-only schedule on Thursday, players from around the SEC met privately on a conference call with leaders and medical advisors to discuss the risks.
Among the largest voices raising concerns about the plans surrounding the return to play was Ole Miss junior linebacker MoMo Sanogo. According to a report released this morning, based on an audio recording obtained by The Washington Post, Sanogo was one of 'more than a dozen' players on the call.
"Why have students been allowed to come back on campus if we're trying to have a football season?" Sanogo said in the recording obtained by the Washington Post. "I have in-class classes. I've got four classes a week, all of them in-class, all of them four hours long. These students have nothing to lose by getting COVID. They get to miss class."
Sanogo, the Ole Miss member on the conference's student-athlete leadership council, was less concerned about the football aspect than the return of students to campus.
He seemed to trust his teammates and others within the program to make responsible decisions, but in his mind it's the others on campus they need to worry about.
"As un-fun as it sounds, the best thing you can do is just try to encourage others to act more responsible and not put yourself in those kind of situations," said an unnamed official from the SEC. "I'm very comfortable with what we've done on campus. I'm concerned about what happens from 5 p.m. until 5 a.m."
Just this past week on July 30, Lafayette County (where the University of Mississippi resides) recorded their highest daily total ever of COVID-19 cases, presenting with 34 new cases overnight. Nine have now died in Lafayette County and a handful of these outbreaks have already been traced back to Ole Miss fraternity parties in Oxford over the summer. Logically, these numbers can only rise when more students return to campus.
Currently at Ole Miss, there are five active cases on the football team as well as ten others in quarantine while deemed to have been in close contact with the active cases. These numbers were confirmed to The Grove Report from an Ole Miss spokesman on Friday.
So how can the conference help players? That's another question Sanogo posed, referencing the concept of "bubble" life that's been employed in the return of the NBA and NHL.
The answer from the SEC wasn't exactly reassuring – the same unnamed official simply recommended wearing a mask and encouraging others to do the same. Also, they recommended Sanogo sit in the back of his classrooms and not engage in close conversations.
Now, clearly the SEC is making progress in their return to play. Things are looking up. That said, as shown from Sanogo's issues, there's still a lot to work out and it's still not a 100-percent certainty that football will return as planned on Sept. 26.