Clemson's Dabo Swinney Talks Possible CFB Players Association, COVID-19, More

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2020

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney speaks at a news conference for the NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in New Orleans. Clemson is scheduled to play LSU on Monday. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Chris Carlson/Associated Press

Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney believes his team's players are safer playing football and remaining with the team amid the COVID-19 pandemic as the 2020 college football season remains in doubt.

"We all know there's risk," he said, per David Hale of ESPN. "We all know there's a virus. But if we cancel football, the virus isn't going to go away. It's my belief that we're safer here. If you told me if we canceled football nobody'd get the virus, I'd be the first person to sign up." 

The coach also advocated for Clemson's efforts during the pandemic, saying, "We've had one [positive test] since early July, and we've been together every day and practicing," per Matt Connolly of The State.

Swinney also said he "absolutely" supports a players association, although he was quick to point out "that's different from a union," per Wilson Alexander of The Advocate.

The comments on the players association come after Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields were among the college football players who issued a list of demands that included the right to "use our voices to establish open communication and trust between players and officials; ultimately create a college football players association."

Clemson running back Darien Rencher explained he and his teammate met with players from other Power Five conferences to take "a step toward one collective voice":

Trevor Lawrence @Trevorlawrencee

#WeWantToPlay https://t.co/jvQhE7noGB

Justin Fields @justnfields

#WeWantToPlay https://t.co/NgKG9Nab9c

𝐃𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐧 𝐑𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐫 @D_Rench_

@Trevorlawrencee & I got together with representatives from every Power 5 conference via Zoom Call and this is what we decided upon Pac 12 movement and #BigTenUnited were in collaboration with us. All together — a step toward one collective voice

As for Swinney's belief players are safer remaining with the team and preparing for a season, he is far from the only prominent coach to feel that way.

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said Buckeyes players want to take the field and feel safer at the facilities, per Tom VanHaaren of ESPN. He added "we cannot cancel the season right now. We owe it to these kids."

Alabama head coach Nick Saban said, per Adam Rittenberg of ESPN, "I know I'll be criticized no matter what I say, that I don't care about player safety. Look, players are a lot safer with us than they are running around at home."

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh released a statement pushing for a season, saying the Wolverines have seen zero positive COVID-19 tests in the last 353 they administered:

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

In the statement, Harbaugh makes a case for why a season could still safely go on, which includes the program having zero positive tests out of the last 353 administered. More: https://t.co/zibxMZKZVr

Swinney also said Clemson's medical team has continued to monitor for heart conditions, per Hale. That is notable because Paula Lavigne and Mark Schlabach of ESPN reported the heart condition myocarditis, which may be linked to COVID-19, has been found in at least five Big Ten athletes and some in other conferences as well.

It "is fueling concern among Power 5 conference administrators about the viability of college sports this fall," they wrote.

Despite the push from Swinney and other coaches, the 2020 college football season seems somewhat in doubt given the liability schools and conferences could face and the reality that doing something like a bubble—which has proven effective in other leagues—could require dropping the notion of amateurism and the idea the players are students first. 

Dan Patrick reported the Big Ten and Pac-12 were leaning toward canceling the season on Tuesday, while the SEC was pushing for the ACC and Big 12 to join them for a season.