As college football seemingly prepares to move forward despite the United States' lack of containment of the COVID-19 pandemic, coaches have become increasingly wary of players opting out of the 2020 season.
"I think everyone is scared of the opt-out right now," a Power Five head coach told Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports. "The fact that we can present no clear answers to anyone. If you have no certainty, how many games [we are playing] and when there's practice. At least opting out provides clarity for them."
Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley, a potential first-round pick, announced he would not play during the 2020 season over health concerns.
It would not be a surprise if several other prominent players followed in Farley's footsteps. College players are not paid and have no incentive to prop up a billion-dollar industry from which they receive no profit.
While some players would improve their draft stock by playing in a normal college season, there are some who are already first-round locks. Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Ja'Marr Chase and Penei Sewell are probably top-10 locks, regardless of whether they play a down this season. Others like Justyn Ross, Devonta Smith and Shaun Wade are first-round locks and are only jockeying for draft position.
All of those players would have probably been already risking something greater than the reward by playing in a normal season. Add in the pandemic, and it's hard to fathom any reason for stars to play in 2020 beyond competitive spirit.
Still, some coaches are comfortable saying they don't believe a worst-case scenario will happen.
"Will it happen?" a different Power Five coach told Thamel. "It's going to happen. There will be more than Caleb Farley. Will it wreck the game? Or is the product fans watch going to suffer? I don't think so."