Opinion: College football programs need to get comfortable with transparency or risk losing credibility
On Wednesday night, Florida State receiver D.J. Matthews tweeted — and then rather quickly deleted — that he had tested positive for COVID-19. The next morning, Matthews cryptically tweeted “All the Lies smh” before Seminoles receiver Warren Thompson posted a note accusing FSU of misleading players about “conditions of other players health as well as mine.” Another receiver, Tamorrion Terry, tweeted his support.
Those tweets were all sent while the Seminoles were in the middle practice Thursday, suggesting they weren’t present. And because Florida State has decided to build a false pretense around medical privacy laws to avoid acknowledging whether they have a coronavirus outbreak in their locker room, we are left to put two and two together and assume the worst.
“I want too (sic) play football September 12 but I also want to keep my family safe I have a 7 month kid at home….” Terry tweeted.
Florida State wide receiver Tamorrion Terry catches a pass in front of Boise State cornerback Avery Williams during the second half of their 2019 game at Doak Campbell Stadium. (Photo: Melina Myers, USA TODAY Sports)
Whatever is happening at Florida State — and details are still fuzzy — has the distinct whiff of shenanigans, the variety of which bring up a very legitimate question for the ACC, SEC and Big 12 as they try to push forward toward a fall season. Can we really trust these schools to be honest about whether or not they have a COVID-19 problem?
It’s fair to note that several players subsequently spoke up and said they supported the school’s safety protocols, and first-year coach Mike Norvell disputed the general tenor of the allegations.
“It is our job to make sure we provide an open and transparent protocol and policies for how we’re going to operate within COVID, and I absolutely feel confident in how we’ve done that,” Norvell told reporters.
LOOKING AHEAD: Can spring college football really work next year?
SAVING SEASON: Can the playoff go forward without Big Ten and Pac-12?
But like many schools, Florida State has chosen not to release their testing statistics to the public. They also won’t be acknowledging who sat out of practice.
Which means if a player tests positive, nobody will know unless they post it themselves on social media. Unless, of course, they quickly take it down, which would beg the question of why they posted it in the first place.
And the obvious answer is that any acknowledgement of positive tests — and putting a face and name to those stories — is bad for college football at a very fragile moment for the sport.
Despite the rhetoric coming from the ACC, SEC and Big 12 that they believe they can play a season and keep players safe, many figures within those leagues remain skeptical that it will happen. In an environment where Pac 12 and Big Ten have already canceled fall sports and infectious disease experts advising the NCAA are speaking with somber statements about the current situation, there’s almost no margin for error.
So do you think any of these schools who really, really want to play football in five or six weeks think it would help their cause to be talking about a whole position group having to sit out due to positive tests and contact tracing issues? Of course not.
But regardless of the consequences, everyone who is involved in college sports needs to get comfortable being transparent about the conditions within their programs.
If the school was not honest with Thompson about some aspect of the team’s health situation, as he alleged in his letter, that’s a major problem. But it’s also counterproductive for this stuff to leak out publicly — and it almost certainly will — if schools are attempting to cover up a problem.
Obviously, schools cannot release a list of players who test positive for COVID-19 without their consent. That is the law. But there is absolutely nothing preventing them from releasing the data on how many players test positive during every regular testing interval. Dozens of programs around the country, in fact, have done just that.
Not only is that good public health information in the middle of a pandemic, it’s the kind of transparency that will lead administrators into better, more trustworthy decisions about whether programs are capable of pulling off a season.
As we’ve already seen in multiple places — notably Colorado State, where multiple players alleged poor safety protocols while others stood up for the coaches — people can interpret things differently. Football locker rooms have around 100 players in them, and they’re not all going to experience the same things. There’s room for disagreement about whether things are being done correctly or not.
But the veil of secrecy that many college football programs prefer to operate under is counterproductive in this circumstance.
If the return of regular students to campus results in a big spike of cases for football programs, being open and honest about that will help inform the best course forward. Being shady about the numbers and having players make cryptic accusations on social media only makes the public think there’s something to hide.
If college football happens this fall, it’s only because schools and conferences are transparent about everything — especially whether their safety protocols are working or whether there’s big holes that need to be addressed. College football is already hanging by a thread for this fall. Trying to form a narrative around anything other than the truth will only lead to a knockout blow.
Source: Read Full Article