Missouri's Eliah Drinkwitz Says SEC COVID-19 Testing Is 'Kind of a Free-for-All'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 30, 2020

FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2019, file photo, Eliah Drinkwitz is introduced as the new head football coach at the University of Missouri, in Columbia, Mo. Last week, members of the Missouri football team marched from The Columns on campus to downtown Columbia in protest of racial injustice. The idea came from sophomore safety Martez Manuel, but it quickly gained the support of new coach Eli Drinkwitz and his staff. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

Missouri head coach Eliah Drinkwitz offered a frank response when asked how much communication he had with fellow SEC coaches regarding the results of COVID-19 testing.

"It's kind of a free-for-all," Drinkwitz told reporters, explaining that the conference doesn't have a policy about programs exchanging information on testing results.

Prior to the Tigers' season-opening loss to Alabama, Drinkwitz disclosed his team would have 69 scholarship players available, with some out because of COVID-19. He demanded more transparency across the board.

"This is a public health issue, not a competitive issue," Drinkwitz told reporters. "This is not an injury we're trying to keep. People should know what's happening within our football program as it relates to the pandemic. That to me is more important than, you know, whatever competitive advantage it might be to win or lose a football game."

His comments called to mind when LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said Sept. 15 he thought "most" Tigers players had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger reported in June that at least 30 Tigers had been placed into quarantine, but Orgeron's revelation still qualified as a surprise.

This isn't a problem isolated to the SEC, though. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley said Sept. 8 he wasn't going to announce COVID-19 testing results, arguing it would put his team at "a competitive disadvantage."

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ESPN's Paula Lavigne and Mark Schlabach reported Sept. 3 that "almost half" of Power Five programs "declined to share data about how many positive tests their programs have had."

"Many of the schools that declined to give data to ESPN cited federal student privacy laws, university protocols and other confidentiality considerations, although legal experts say those laws shouldn't be applied to such a request because the data wouldn't identify specific students," they wrote.