Lincoln Riley took on the Southeastern Conference last week. He’s not the first Oklahoma Sooners coach to take aim at the SEC; Bob Stoops did it, lived to tell about it and then got weary of everyone wanting him to repeat the process.
Give Riley credit. It takes bravado to stand up to the SEC, especially five months after a 63-28 Peach Bowl loss. But stand up Riley did when he called it “ridiculous” that college football programs want to bring players to campus June 1 in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. SEC presidents were scheduled to vote this week on that very proposal.
Then Wednesday, the NCAA sided with the SEC. The Division I council voted to allow voluntary workouts for football and basketball players beginning June 1. Which figures to mean more than just the SEC is likely to congregate linebackers and tailbacks and tackles at a campus near you.
And now, Riley is in no-man’s land. Does he stick to his principles that it’s dangerous to bring back the troops? Or does he swallow his pride and join the Land Run, trying to get ready for the 2020 season?
The SEC clearly was not on an island. University of Iowa president Bruce Harreld said three weeks ago he wanted the Hawkeyes football players back in Iowa City on June 1. Ohio State University athletic director Gene Smith said he expects the Buckeyes to be back for workouts on June 8. Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy said in early April he wanted the Cowboys back in Stillwater on May 1.
Of course, Riley is right. It’s a bad look and potentially bad policy to bring the players back to campus this soon. Major League Baseball has not resumed operations. The NFL started to open facilities this week. NBA training facilities have re-opened, on a voluntary basis with extreme restrictions.
Charging up the college football hill when even the pros are treading lightly doesn’t seem wise.
“We’re not the NFL,” Riley said. “There are some huge, huge differences in us being able to put on a successful season versus a professional league. We’re not the NBA. We don’t just have 15 players. This is a totally different deal. I do believe if we do it right and if we’re patient enough on some key areas like when we bring our players back on campus … that we will be able to play a season.”
Riley made his “ridiculous” comment last week on a Zoom call with Oklahoma reporters. The next day on ESPN, he expounded.
“We have to be very patient,” Riley said. “This has nothing to do or very little to do with actually putting them in a weight room or workout facility. Sure, we can put 10 guys in a facility, social distance them, sanitize it and make it safe. That’s not the point.
“We cannot control over 100 players for that amount of time and know exactly what they’re going to do. These guys are 18 to 22…
Read More: Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley thinks players returning June 1 is dangerous 2020-05-21 21:53:00