PONTIFICATING FROM THE SUNSHINE STATE – MAY 23
By Leo Haggerty
AND THE PLOT THICKENS
First of all, and I will start EVERY article with this paragraph, sports pales in comparison with what is occurring with the Coronavirus. Hopefully, the columns that I, and the rest of our correspondents, provide you is a momentary escape from the trials and tribulations that Americans, and the rest of the world’s population, are experiencing. The COVID-19 is not a video game that you can press reset and get a new life. This is real and dangerous so, above all, be prudent and stay safe.
As I have stated in earlier columns, I wondered how the NCAA was planning on “covering their butt” in case an athlete was diagnosed with COVID-19 after they returned to campus. Well, that cat is out of the bag.
The Big 12 answered that question earlier this week. Below is the press release put out by the conference as to how their member institutions will begin to prepare for athletic competition.
The Big 12 Conference Board of Directors today approved a phase in for student-athletes to return to campus to engage in voluntary activities related to sport participation. Beginning June 15 football student-athletes will be permitted to access campus athletic facilities and support personnel for voluntary conditioning and training exercises. Volleyball, soccer and cross country student-athletes are able to return July 1. All other Big 12 student-athletes may return to campus for voluntary sport-related activities July 15.
If you haven’t carefully read the above paragraph, please go back and take note of the verbiage in the second sentence. There’s a word there that you must take note.
By calling the conditioning and training exercises “voluntary” for student-athletes, it absolves the Big 12 of any liability if any of them contract the Coronavirus. It all goes back on the athlete.
If an athlete is stricken with COVID-19, the Big 12 has an out. It will state that the workouts were voluntary and the student-athlete wasn’t forced but chose to participate.
Ok, let’s pull the curtain back, shall we. These will not be voluntary sessions. Every athlete will be in attendance for fear of falling down the depth chart to another player that showed up or, even worse, having their scholarship revoked.
Here’s what the Big 12 did. They didn’t make it a volunteer activity but made it voluntold. If you’re an athlete in that specific sport, you better be there no matter what your feelings happen to be about being safe from the pandemic.
It’s all about “dollars trump safety” when it comes to taking this approach. All the Big 12 did was avoid a lawsuit if, god forbid, something happens to one of their athletes.
And let’s not throw the Big 12 under the bus. Expect the other Power Five conferences to follow suit.
This, in my mind, is unconscionable. I hoped institutions of higher learning would set an example and put the safety of players, as well as fans, at the forefront until a vaccine, or at least a treatment, has been developed.
I guess I was wrong. And that’s a shame because, as we sadly find out again, it’s all about the Benjamins.
So, now we know the rest of the story.