Auburn Tigers men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl believes athletes can play the role of guinea pigs for the university as it decides when and how to bring students back amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pearl said having athletes on campus first presents the opportunity to conduct "some trials and errors" before the entire student body potentially arrives following time off in the summer, per Josh Vitale of the Montgomery Advertiser.
Pearl's Tigers were well-positioned to challenge for a deep run in the NCAA men's tournament before it, along with so many other things in sports, was canceled because of the pandemic. His team was 25-6 and earned the No. 2 seed in the SEC tournament with a 12-6 conference record.
The latest comments from Pearl come after Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy made waves with comments suggesting players would likely be fine to return and should because of the money they generate for others.
Gundy told reporters in April:
"In my opinion, if we have to bring our players back, test them. They're all in good shape. They're all 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22-year-olds. They're healthy. A lot of them can fight it off with their natural body, the antibodies and the build that they have. There's some people that are asymptomatic. If that's true, then we sequester them. And people say that's crazy. No, it's not crazy because we need to continue and budget and run money through the state of Oklahoma."
Gundy eventually apologized after his comments generated backlash:
As for Pearl, his sport has the luxury of some time before its 2020-21 season is slated to start, even though it lost its marquee event in March. Other leagues, such as the NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS, are working on shorter timelines as they attempt to find a way to complete and start seasons that are supposed to be underway.
Pearl is 125-78 in six campaigns with the Tigers and led them to their only Final Four in school history in 2019.