Reactions From Across the SEC on the Chaos in College Football
Officials from the Big Ten are meeting on Tuesday morning to discuss the postponement or cancelation of the fall football season.
To this moment, it seems like the Southeastern Conference is confident in their plan to start the season on Sept. 26, however the SEC leaders will also be meeting three times this week.
Across the conference, there have been significant pushes to play the season, with many players and leaders joining in with the #WeWantToPlay movement. Below you'll find how a number of the SEC schools are handling these chaotic times:
Alabama: Nick Saban and Alabama football players had been relatively silent since posting a Black Lives Matter video in late June, but that all changed Monday. Speaking to ESPN, Saban made it very clear that he wants there to be a college football season this fall:
"I want to play, but I want to play for the players' sake, the value they can create for themselves," he said. "I know I'll be criticized no matter what I say, that I don't care about player safety. Look, players are a lot safer with us than they are running around at home. We have around a 2 percent positive ratio on our team since the Fourth of the July. It's a lot higher than that in society. We act like these guys can't get this unless they play football. They can get it anywhere, whether they're in a bar or just hanging out."
Najee Harris made it clear that he would be willing to sign a release stating that if he contracted the virus while on the field, he would not sue the institution, which might be the key to there being any college football this fall. Harris added that he had been on a Zoom call on Sunday with roughly 30 players from across the NCAA and that the overwhelming majority expressed a desire to play football this fall. Said tackle Alex Leatherwood: "The story that needs to be written is that we want to play."
-- Christopher Walsh, BamaCentral
Auburn: Numerous players have taken to social media to express their desire to play this season, beginning with quarterback Bo Nix. He was one of the first players to tweet out the#WeWantToPlay hashtag on Sunday. He added to it Monday:
“Thanks to the support of the ENTIRE Auburn administration, we are safer playing a football season. We have worked out entire lives to get to where we are now. Don’t let it go to waste. We need football. Listen to the players. #WeWantToPlay.”
Following a similar arc, was junior receiver Anthony Schwartz. He tweeted on Sunday: “All I know is I’m ready to grind, no matter what they say,” before coming back Monday with “I’m just gonna leave it at this … #WeWantToPlay.”
Arkansas: Despite landing Florida and Georgia to an already brutal schedule when the 10-game season opponents were announced on Friday, two to quickly support the #WeWantToPlay movement were new coach Sam Pittman and athletic director Hunter Yuracheck, who has a son on the team. Pittman tweeted: “The way our student athletes have handled these uncertain times is incredible and our staff is so proud of them. As the Head Coach of @RazorbackFB#WeWantToPlay"
LSU: For the most part, LSU athletes have been relatively quiet around the #WeWantToPlay movement. Receiver Ja’Marr Chase sent out a tweet Sunday evening promoting the cause. The one that’s received the most attention is former quarterback Joe Burrow. Burrow, who of course began his career in the Big Ten, fired out a tweet Monday morning after it looked like the conference was set to cancel fall sports.
“I feel for all college athletes right now. I hope their voices are heard by the decision makers. If this happened a year ago I may be looking for a job right now,” Burrow said.
It’ll be interesting to see over the coming 24-48 hours which other LSU coaches and athletes speak up. The Tigers have had one player opt out due to COVID-19 concerns, defensive end Neil Farrell.
-- Glen West, LSU Country
Ole Miss: Potential starting quarterback, junior Matt Corral, was one of the first in the SEC to join Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the #WeWantToPlay movement on Sunday night. It since picked up significant traction, with a majority of projected Rebel starters chimed in support by Monday morning.
By mid-Monday afternoon, before SEC commissioner Greg Sankey came out with his own statement on the matter, Ole Miss AD Keith Carter had already taken a stance, one later substantiated by Lane Kiffin:
“We are blessed with some of the most passionate and hard working student-athletes in the nation. As administrators, we will fight for their health and safety as well as their opportunity to compete. #WeWantToPlay.”
-- Nate Gabler, The Grove Report
South Carolina: There hasn't been a whole lot to report from South Carolina other than projected starting quarterback Ryan Hilinski was one of the main figures to join the #WeWantToPlay movement. Hilinski tweeted the hashtag on Sunday and later the graphic mapping out the players' concerns and demands for the season. Last week, head coach Will Muschamp spoke last week and said he feels players are safer at school, including his son Jackson, who is a walk-on at the University of Georgia:
“My son is at the University of Georgia playing football, because I think that’s the safest place for him to be right now, going to school there, and to be in that building that’s got the very same protocols that we have in place," he said. "I told him at one point I'm not a doctor your mom's not a doctor in your brother's not a doctor but they've got great medical care there just like we do here at the University of South Carolina. There's no question that that's the safest place for you to be."
-- Chaunte'l Powell, Gamecock Digest
Texas A&M: Among the numerous players who have taken to social media to express their desire to play was linebacker Anthony Hines III: “No, we won’t sign waivers. But yes, #WeWantToPlay. & Yes we want a well formulated plan along with the necessary funding to keep us safe while playing in this pandemic!”
Vanderbilt: If there is one word to describe things at Vanderbilt right now, that would be silence. There have been no comments from either athletic director Candice Lee or head football coach Derek Mason on anything. Commodore Country requested a comment from Mason when the SEC made a move to the conference-only schedule format, but were denied at that time. Subsequent requests have also been dismissed.
Of course, Vanderbilt is in the middle of a shakeup inside the athletic communications staff, where several longtime employees were terminated, and others are on borrowed time themselves. Despite all that's happened and all the rumors and speculation up to this writing, Vanderbilt has held its cards close to the vest, and the silence has been troubling.
-- Greg Arias, Commodore Country