CFB Players' Comfort with Playing Amid Pandemic Gauged in Anonymous Survey

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2020

The national office of the NCAA in Indianapolis is shown Thursday, March 12, 2020. The NCAA canceled the men's and women's Division I basketball tournaments amid coronavirus fears on Thursday. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

In a poll of 45 anonymous college football players conducted by David Ubben of The Athletic, the vast majority said they want to play even if other students aren't allowed to return to college campuses amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Every Power 5 and Group of 5 conference was represented in the poll, as was the FCS. Of the 45 players who were asked, nearly 80 percent said they would be comfortable returning to campus regardless of if their fellow students are permitted to.

When asked what their comfort level would be on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being extremely uncomfortable and 5 being extremely comfortable, no player said they would be extremely uncomfortable returning to campus to play.

A Group of 5 linebacker said: "I think the general consensus is we want to play, but the levels to how badly we want to play and how badly we want to get back to it, it kinda varies. Some dudes are like, 'F--k it, I'm not gonna get sick, let's play.' And other dudes will probably be scared to death like, 'Damn, I don't wanna get sick, fuck that.'"

The NCAA took a step toward preparing to go ahead with the 2020 college football season Wednesday when it voted in favor of allowing the start of voluntary workouts on June 1.

Oklahoma head football coach Lincoln Riley wasn't a fan of the decision, calling it "ridiculous," according to Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman.

Riley added:

"We have to be very patient. 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 a hundred players for that amount of time and know exactly what they're going to do. These guys are 18 to 22 years old. They're going to 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 ... you've got a lot of staff members that are a more susceptible age range."

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby preached patience during an appearance on ESPN's Get Up on Thursday, but he also said he believes it is important to "get back to [college football] as quickly as we can and as close to what we had previously as possible."

Although playing while campuses are still largely shut down isn't a concern for most of the players who were polled, 24 of the 45 players voted in favor of delaying the start of the season rather than playing games with no fans in attendance.

Power 5 quarterback said: "If it's not safe for fans, it's probably not safe for players."

Power 5 linebacker expressed a different view:"We love our fans, but I'd have to play the season. I'd play without the fans. I love the game too much. I put too much time and effort into it. Fans missing will hurt, but at the same time, this is the game we fell in love with. We didn't fall in love with it because people were watching back when we were playing as kids."

In terms of their concern about contracting coronavirus, no player said they are extremely worried, while 18 said they are not worried at all, and another 18 said they are a 4 on the scale of 1 to 5, meaning 36 of the 45 players aren't very worried.

Also, 27 players said they would be very comfortable playing in front of fans next season, while another 11 players were a 4 on that scale. No players said they are very uncomfortable with the idea, and only one player was a 2 on the scale.

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