SALT LAKE CITY — Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham joined Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Penn State’s James Franklin and Stanford’s David Shaw for a roundtable discussion on ESPN’s “College GameDay” show Saturday morning.
The coaches represented the Big Ten and Pac-12, the two Power 5 conferences that chose to postpone their football seasons. Topics covered during an eight-minute segment included daily rapid testing for COVID-19, which could bring fall sports in the leagues back to action sooner than expected.
“Well obviously we’ve got a great medical staff and people that are going to make those decisions,” Whittingham said. “We’ve got guys working around the clock, literally, in trying to determine when it’s going to be safe to return to play. We’re really just listening to them and adhering to what they recommend.”
Big Ten officials are reportedly taking a closer look at the rapid testing advancement this weekend. Both Day and Franklin noted the need to refer to the medical experts in their conference. Shaw and Whittingham expressed similar thoughts about the Pac-12.
“We’ll just defer to their decisions and their conversations,” said Day, who added that there are people around the country and within the Big Ten footprint that have the same goals and the same values who have found a safe way to play football — and they’re doing so this weekend.
“I think a lot has changed, too. Every day it changes,” he said. “It’s changed a lot in two weeks. It changes every day and so we’re learning more and more every day and so we’re just looking forward to see what comes next.”
If all goes well, Day expressed hope to get things going by mid-October to be in the College Football Playoff conversation. However, he prefaced the comment by saying there probably isn’t an exact date.
“But again, it’s first things first,” Day said. “Let’s just make sure that we can figure out a way to do this safely and then we’ll tackle that next.”
Having daily rapid testing, obviously, has added optimism to the situation.
“The biggest thing for us was being able to make sure that everybody that steps on the field is virus free,” Shaw said. “That’s the safest thing for our players, safest thing for our football coaches, our staff.”
The Pac-12’s announcement to begin such testing by the end of the month through a partnership with Quidel, he added, could lead to the football season beginning “as soon as it’s prudent.”
Whittingham acknowledged that he is pulling for everybody to pull it off and get their seasons completed.
“I think it’s good for everyone if it happens,” said Whittingham, who planned to watch football over opening weekend and is rooting for everybody to stay healthy and keep playing.
The Pac-12 still has six teams (California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA and USC) that have yet to be cleared to practice because of local health restrictions. The state of Arizona also had concerns when the Pac-12 decided to postpone fall sports until at least Jan. 1.
“For us, it was very difficult to imagine even practicing, let along playing football games as a conference, but with this new deal with Quidel to have rapid daily testing, now we’ve started our planning,” Shaw said. “We’re excited. Our players are excited that football is on the horizon — maybe not as early as we want it to happen, but at the same time our guys are getting ready.”
In the meantime, Shaw explained that all you can do is prepare and have a mindset to be ready and play in the safest manner possible. However, it isn’t easy. Nothing is with the coronavirus pandemic and its accompanying restrictions.
Franklin said communication is key, especially when it comes to keeping players and parents informed.
“We just want to know what the future holds,” he explained. “First and foremost, we want to keep everyone safe and healthy, and if we’re able to do that, then we want an opportunity to compete.”
Day also advocated for the players. That’s what the Buckeyes are focusing on.
“We certainly understand that there’s been hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their lives and lost loved ones during this time,” Day said. “By no means comparing what they’ve been through — compared to what we’ve been through — but it has been very difficult for our players. They’re having a hard time in the last month and certainly the last couple of weeks just understanding how this is all fits for them. They’ve done everything we’ve asked.”
Watching other teams play, though, has been most difficult. As such, Day said everyone is just taking things one day at a time.