SEC athletics directors were set to recommend to their bosses that athletes return to campus on June 1 until, according to a report Friday from Kentucky Sports Radio, Tennessee AD Phillip Fulmer argued the current ban should extend until June 15 at the earliest.
The call took place on Wednesday, but details of Fulmer’s stance went public one day after Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley argued strongly that schools should wait as long as possible to welcome athletes back to campus.
“In my opinion, we need to bring them in as late as we possibly can before we play a season,” Riley said. “Every day early that we bring them in is a day we could have gotten better. It’s a day we could have learned more about the virus. It’s a day PPE maybe gets better. It’s a day closer to a vaccine. It’s a day that our testing equipment and testing capabilities get better, and it’s just not worth it. So, we’ve gotta be patient. We get one shot at this, and we’ve got to do it right.”
Incidentally, Oklahoma and Tennessee are scheduled to play each other Sept. 12 in Norman.
The decision on when to bring students back to campus is the first of many stress tests for the college sports industry, where the need for safety and caution is placed in competition with a pathological urge to gain any competitive advantage available. Those debates could play out between two camps, but also in the heart and mind of every person with decision-making authority across the college sports industry.
For what it’s worth, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has advocated for waiting as long as possible before making any push-meets-shove decisions.
“One of the really helpful pieces of guidance provided me was from a biostatistician. It was that we’re learning more and more every day and if you look back 30 days of what you knew then and 30 days to what you’ll know down the road,” he told Sports Illustrated, “if you can be patient in making major decisions, you’ll be able to gather more and more information to inform better decision making at a later time.”
SEC presidents will hold a vote on a return-to-campus dates for athletes on May 22.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.