Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley Expands on Concerns About Rushing CFB's Return

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 15, 2020

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 28: Head coach Lincoln Riley of the Oklahoma Sooners looks on during warm ups before the game against the LSU Tigers in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 28, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley said Friday the NCAA must proceed with caution amid efforts to push forward with the 2020 college football season during the coronavirus pandemic.  

Riley explained in an appearance on ESPN's Get Up that reuniting teammates from around the country and then having them work alongside older coaches, who may be more at risk of serious COVID-19 complications, is a concern that can't be overlooked:

"These guys are 18 to 22 years old. They're gonna socialize, they're going to want to be around each other, they're going to want to be around their peers and that makes it dangerous, not only for our players, but also for our staff. Because our staff obviously doesn't fall in that 18- to 22-year-old range and you've got a lot of staff members that are in a more susceptible age range.

"This affects a lot of people to get it done. We're constantly learning more and more about this virus, and why we would not advantage our time is beyond me."

Riley moved to the forefront of the comeback conversation Thursday when he told reporters the idea of players returning to campus for practice June 1 is "one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard."

He expanded on those comments Friday, saying on Get Up he's not necessarily worried about the practice atmosphere but rather what goes on once the players leave the football facility.

"Sure, we can put 10 guys in a facility, social distance them, sanitize it and make it safe. That's not the point," Riley said. "The point is, if we have them for two hours a day in a workout facility, what are they doing the other 22 hours a day? We cannot control over 100 players for that amount of time and know exactly what they're gonna do."

Professional leagues like the NBA, NHL and MLB have floated the idea of playing in a select number of "bubble cities" with strict testing guidelines and limited or no outside interactions.

That's not going to work at the collegiate level, which features 130 FBS teams around the United States from the East Coast to Hawaii.

In turn, NCAA president Mark Emmert confirmed Friday it's unlikely fall sports are going to happen unless students are back on their respective campuses.

"If a school doesn't reopen, then they're not going to be playing sports. It's really that simple," he said.

The underlying factor is the potentially dire financial impact for athletic departments around the country if the college football season is ultimately canceled. UCF athletic director Danny White told ESPN in April there isn't an easy solution.

"There isn't a model I can run to fix the problem of not having any football," he said. "I don't think there's anybody in my position with a big football fan base that could make decisions to fix that. I don't know what happens—there's not a model, there's not a solution, there's not an action I can take that's going to solve that problem."

That said, Riley reiterated the focus should be on preventing a "potentially dangerous situation."

"Some of the arguments are we can provide better care from here, and that's not true," he said on Get Up. "There's an NCAA interpretation right now that we can actually provide medical care to our players no matter where they're at."

For now, the 2020 college football season is scheduled to kick off Aug. 29.

Bleacher Report's David Gardner interviews athletes and other sports figures for the podcast How to Survive Without Sports.