Caleb Farley, the Virginia Tech cornerback who opted out of the 2020 college football season, says he has no regrets after making the "toughest decision" of his life.
"This was the toughest decision of my life. I live for football. But now that I've made the decision, I am totally at peace. I know I've done the right thing," Farley wrote for NBC Sports.
Farley is expected to be a first-round pick and was the first major collegiate star to opt out of the season over COVID-19 concerns.
A combination of unsafe conditions, including a lack of testing and teammates not wearing masks, led to Farley's decision:
"This year at Virginia Tech, at our workouts, I started having deep concerns about staying healthy. Guys were going home, going to Myrtle Beach, coming back to campus, and we weren't getting tested. We're all together, working out, close to each other, and you have no real idea who might have it, if anybody might have it. One day, I looked around, and we were like 100-deep in our indoor facility, no masks. My concern grew more and more.
"I started being really conflicted about playing. What this came down to is, I lost one parent. My dad is so important to me. Growing old with him means so much to me, more than football. I don't know what I would do if I contracted it and gave it to him, and he passed. I couldn't live with that. Part of me thought 'I put all my eggs into this basket since I was 6 years old...just suck it up and play. Try to stay safe.' But I couldn’t ignore all the doubts in my head."
Because college football players are not employees, NCAA teams have no recourse to punish players who make unsafe decisions. The players also do not have rights to demand safer working conditions, consistent testing and other measures that would potentially allow them to play the 2020 season without an outbreak.
A group of Pac-12 players are threatening to boycott the 2020 season if the conference does not adopt stringent safety protocols and revenue sharing, among other demands. It's unclear if players from other major conferences will make similar demands, but if anything, the pandemic has made it clear the level of value players provide to their schools.
If changes aren't made to college football's structure soon, it's likely several stars will follow in Farley's footsteps.