Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley: Coaches Will Be Tempted to Push COVID-19 Protocols

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 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 head football coach Lincoln Riley said Wednesday he's concerned the "temptation will be high" for some coaches to push boundaries during the early phases of players' return to campus amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The NCAA announced last month football and basketball players could begin taking part in "on-campus voluntary athletics activities" beginning June 1 but they "must be initiated by the student-athlete." In other words, no mandatory practice schedule set by the coaching staff.

"Sadly, in our college game, 'voluntary' has always been a very loose term," Riley told reporters. "The reality of the matter is there's different institutions and there's different conferences that allow you to do a different amount, or some just look the other way.

"It's unfortunate that that's what it's come to right now, but we have other parts of our year where that's always been an issue, and it's well-known across coaches, players across the country, that's a rule that's applied very differently different places and in different parts of the country."

Last month, Riley urged caution when it came to allowing players to come back, noting college football had to get it right the first time to have a chance at a 2020 season.

"Every day early that we bring them in is a day we could have gotten better," he said. "It's a day we could have learned more about the virus. It's a day PPE maybe gets better. It's a day closer to a vaccine. It's a day that our testing equipment and testing capabilities get better. And it's just not worth it. So we've got to be patient. We get one shot at this and we've got to do it right."

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College football's spring practices were wiped out by the pandemic and, with the Aug. 29 start of the regular season now less than three months away, the Sooners' coach understands the urge to quickly ramp up preparations.

"I'm sure the temptation will be high, just like the temptation to get players back on campus right away was high," Riley said Wednesday. "I think it all just comes down to your priorities and what you believe is best."

Riley has led OU to a 36-6 record with three straight Big 12 championships since taking over the program in 2017.

The Sooners are scheduled to kick off their 2020 schedule Sept. 5 against Missouri State.