The NCAA confirmed May 20 that it would allow student-athletes, including college football players, to return to campus for workouts. Voluntary workouts.
As we wrote at the time, the NCAA made sure to stress that the on-campus activities are voluntary.
“Voluntary on-campus athletics activity must be initiated by the student-athlete. Coaches may not be present unless a sport-specific safety exception allows it, and activity cannot be directed by a coach or reported back to a coach.”
This past week, one former college football player tackled the voluntary aspect of the return of workouts. And, yes, used air quotes around the word “voluntary.”
“We’re talking all things college football-related. This kind of seems, like, normal, to be completely honest with you,” ex-Notre Dame wide receiver Corey Robinson said on NBCSports.com. “Normally, I’m pretty sure we had to be back on campus June 1 anyways. And all the summer activities beyond weight-room activities were all ‘voluntary’ and led by us. They weren’t led by the coaches, the coaches couldn’t be on the field for seven-on-seven or any type of wide receiver-quarterback drills. So, this looks very normal to me.
“I think that when it comes to voluntary, we had a saying back in the day called ‘mandatory optional.’ And I think that’s what this is. You’re going to have people wondering, ‘oh, the SEC is coming back June 1*, but then the Big Ten is thinking about June 8.’ People are gonna look for any edge they can get. I feel like I’d be pressured into wanting to play or wanting not to play.
“That’s going to be a really sticky situation.”
(*For clarity, the SEC subsequently announced that schools could allow college football players to start returning to campus for voluntary workouts June 8. A handful of Big Ten schools will return at the same time. The Big 12, meanwhile, likely won’t allow a return until mid- or late June. Neither the ACC nor the Pac-12 has announced its plans, although that could very well change this week.)