Spring football was put on the shelf as conferences responded to the COVID-19 pandemic stretching throughout the country. While the NCAA did its part to shut down all spring competition and tournaments, as well as college football recruiting, it has been pretty much up to each individual conference to allow what is and is not allowed when it comes to spring football practices and how programs can be run within their conferences. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley has expressed his concerns about how the Big 12 has handled things so far, suggesting it puts the Sooners and every other Big 12 team at a disadvantage.
“Our conference has been more stringent on it,” Riley said in a radio interview with KREF on Thursday (according to a Norman Transcript report. “So that hasn’t been a positive in that it hasn’t really been an equal playing field.”
Riley made note that coaches in the ACC, for example, have been able to stay in somewhat direct communication with their players through the use of video conferencing technology. The ACC has also allowed for players to receive gear for training through the mail, while the Big 12 has not yet made that option available. Coaches in the Big Ten have also been able to hold conference video calls with players during this abrupt stoppage in spring.
If Riley is hoping the playing field can be evened out soon as the pandemic continues to shut everything down, he may not have to wait too much longer.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby suggested some changes could be made in the coming week after leaders from around the conference have a chance to hold a meeting. Bowlsby stressed the importance of making sure players are able to get the proper nutrition and any medical needs from their schools that are a part of the football program. But, logistically, so much is still up in the air without much certainty on the horizon.
“How long does it all go? When do we get a look in? How do we go about revisiting things?” Bowlsby asked, again according to the Norman Transcript report. “The things we have already agreed upon is that we need to make sure sports medicine, physical therapy and rehabilitation are taken care of. We need to make sure we keep up with academic support. And we need to give support to kids in mental health and wellness ways.”
Bowlsby may have some allies in the push to clarify just what exactly players should be able to receive. The SEC is reportedly set to offer football instruction via remote technology, according to 247 Sports. In addition, the University of Florida is looking to endorse regulation of what a program is allowed to provide players with respect to nutrition.
“Nutritionally, right now the biggest thing we have in place is the education,” Florida strength and conditioning coach Nick Savage told 247 Sports. “Our job is to coach them, teach them, show them, educate them, all those things. Now behind the scenes we’re working on a few things that we’re trying to get accomplished, but obviously we’re waiting to hear back if it’s all approved and things like that.”
The longer this pandemic continues, the more important it will be for the NCAA to set the standard and for the conferences to find any sort of uniformity on certain issues important to the student-athletes.