By Juan Lozano | April 15, 2020
The conversation this time of year regarding college football prior to 2020 was generally centered on team spring games and player movement on the depth chart. Due to COVID-19, the college football discussion this year instead is about whether there is even going to be a 2020 season at all.
There is little indication that fans, administration, coaches, and players will know anytime soon.
Athletic directors and coaches have been quick to opine about what the absence of a season would mean for their athletic departments. Many administrators and coaches alike are quick to point out to anyone that will listen that without a 2020 college football season, many football programs or athletic departments may cease to exist. In addition to this doomsday tale, they argue football will bring us back closer to a sense of normalcy and that college football is necessary, even essential, to unite a school, a region, and the country.
Unfortunately, the voices of the well-paid administrators and coaches are the only voice we hear. This is purposeful. The players are not made available for interviews.
We’re not surprised the players have been muzzled. The players– remember them? You know, the people fans pay to watch. Fans don’t pay to watch a middle- aged person administrate. Yet we have heard nothing from them and what they are going through during these times. We don’t even hear athletic directors talk about the players. They are worried about “their” donors. (Run in athletic director circles and you will see that’s how they refer to them).
College coaches tell parents on recruiting trips or home visits that they are going to take care of their son. Coaches talk about a “family” environment in their programs. What are coaches and athletic administrators telling their “family” members about the path forward? We have not heard much in the way of feedback. Players are left in the dark. Coaches are telling players to keep their grades and keep in shape. They have ZOOM meetings with players.
The player focus thus is on getting ready for Week 1 of the NCAA season. But what if there is no season? What if there is an abbreviated season? What about the player then?
In recent weeks we have heard of players struggling to get basic needs such as nutrition met that were part of the scholarship agreement and thus the inducement to have a player sign at State University. (Are these schools sending players food?) Other items such as internet access that were once provided for in dormitories and necessary to complete school work are inaccessible to players.
We have heard of players taking on jobs at fast food outlets during these times to help their families make ends meet, in addition to shouldering the responsibilities that come with being a full-time university student and college athlete.
Who is looking out for them? Who is qualified to help them?
Here are some questions players and their families should be asking of administrators and coaches. After all, the players are part of the “family” the coaches advertised to them.
QUESTIONS PLAYERS SHOULD BE ASKING
- What does my National Letter of Intent (NLI) say?
- Is the National Letter of Intent a one-year or multi-year agreement?
- 2020 Summer school questions
- Will summer school be provided for?
- Will I be receiving a scholarship check for the summer? When will checks be sent out? (Athletes be sure to update your address information with the school registrar)
- If so, has that amount been reduced from what had been previously received?
- Am I going to get a scholarship renewed for the next academic year?
- Note: At last check, schools have until July 1 to send a player a letter of non-renewal of scholarship.
- If the scholarship is renewed, will the scholarship check be reduced from what was previously received?
- Will the school honor the scholarship commitment if the season is canceled? Will the school honor the scholarship commitment if future seasons are canceled?
- Will the school honor the scholarship commitment if football drops down a level (FBS to FCS or FCS to Division II)?
- If the program gets discontinued prior to the season, can I transfer?
- If the program gets discontinued during the season, can I use that year as a redshirt?
- If the season is canceled, how will this impact my eligibility? Do I lose a year of eligibility?
- How many years of eligibility do I have left?
- If the program gets discontinued or drops down a level, can I transfer to any school without restrictions?
These and other situation specific questions are important ones to ask. Administrators and the NCAA express that the value that the player receives in exchange for participating in college athletics is an educational opportunity. If that is true, the player is entitled to know if he will have that opportunity going forward.
Unfortunately, leadership is not communicating with football players about these important points. During difficult times, leadership needs to step up and answer difficult questions. It is no different in college football.
After all, we are all “Family” right?