From USA Today Network
One group we haven’t heard much from during the SEC’s decision to move forward with a 10-game, conference-only football schedule amid a global health pandemic is the players that would actually be playing in those games.
That finally changed Saturday, though not by the conference’s doing.
The Washington Post obtained audio of a conference call conducted Wednesday between SEC administrators including Commissioner Greg Sankey, medical advisers and members of the SEC Football Student-Athlete Leadership Council, during which the latter expressed their concerns about the upcoming season as COVID-19 cases continue to spike throughout the country.
So far, most SEC programs have been able to avoid widespread outbreaks of the novel coronavirus within their facilities. LSU reportedly quarantined as many as 30 players at one point related visits to bars in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but never paused voluntary offseason workouts. Programs in other areas of the country haven’t been as lucky, though — Michigan State and Rutgers recently decided to isolate their entire rosters after multiple positive tests.
The question Ole Miss linebacker MoMo Sanogo posed was, what happens when thousands of students return to campus for the fall semester? He told them he has four classes per week, and if those classmates go to bars and parties, he could be at risk of being infected even if he doesn’t, even with smaller class sizes and required face masks.
One of the officials on the call told the 21-year-old “as un-fun as it sounds, the best thing that you can do is just try to encourage others to act more responsibly and not put yourself in those kinds of situations. 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.”
“There are going to be outbreaks,” another official said, according to the Post. “We’re going to have positive cases on every single team in the SEC. That’s a given. And we can’t prevent it.”
Another player, who did not identify himself, asked the officials if they knew what lasting health effects players might experience if they contract the virus.
“The problem is a lot of this we don’t know,” Ole Miss sports medicine physician Marshall Crowther said. He added that some people don’t have long-term complications, but acknowledged that there are growing concerns about how the virus affects people’s hearts.
On Saturday, Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez was shut down for the season with heart inflammation related to his infection with COVID-19. He’s 27.
“You guys have answered a lot of questions the best way that you guys could, and we really appreciate it. But as much as you guys don’t know … it’s just kind of not good enough,” Texas A&M linebacker Keeath Magee II said. “We want to play. We want to see football. We want to return to normal as much as possible. But it’s just that with all this uncertainty, all this stuff that’s still circulating in the air, y’all know it kind of leaves some of us still scratching my head. … I feel like the college campus is the one thing that you can’t control.”
The SEC responded to the Post’s story with a statement later Saturday morning:
“The SEC hosts videoconferences with the SEC Football Student-Athlete Leadership Council to engage in candid conversation, share information and develop greater understanding of issues important to our student-athletes. The calls are intended to be confidential …
“The information we gather while engaging with student-athletes helps inform Conference decisions and provides an opportunity to share information with our campus leaders to further enhance our continuing support of the student-athlete experience. The student-athletes on the all expressed appreciation for the honest dialogue, indicated the discussion was beneficial and requested a similar videoconference in the future.
“As we all work to adapt to the realities of COVID-19, we will continue to support the health of SEC student-athletes.”