Some players skipping season, but all Cards still onboard

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- With fall camp opening Tuesday, Louisville football coaches will undoubtedly be keeping a close watch on recent developments in the Pac-12 Conference that could spread to other conferences and other teams.


Thirteen football players from 10 schools in the Pac-12 announced Sunday they are opting out of the coming season, saying they won't play until systemic inequities that have been highlighted by college football's response to the coronavirus pandemic are rectified.


The players cited inadequate transparency about the health risks from the virus, a lack of uniform safety measures and an absence of ample enforcement.


Pushback is building about whether schools should be requiring unpaid college athlets to keep hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into athletic departments by largely assuming risks associated with Covid-19. The movement started by the Pac-12 players could pick up momentum quickly on other campuses.


So naturally that controversy was the subject of the first three questions directed to UofL defensive coordinator Bryan Brown Monday afternoon during a media teleconference.


UofL head coach Scott Satterfield has said previously that he and his staff are keeping lines of communication with the players open and will listen to any concerns they have. Brown said another team meeting was scheduled for Monday and that he isn't aware of any Louisville players who have expressed a desire to sit out the season.


"I think our players are doing a good job of expressing themselves and having conversations with people on the staff, as we always do," Brown said. "We want to make sure everybody's on the same page. Our guys are good, they're ready to get rolling. They're excited about the season, they're excited about making this team better than last year. . .They're ready to get out there."


Brown is a former player himself, having been a defensive back for Ole Miss from 2003-06, and he noted how drastically times have changed, thanks to Twitter, Tik Tok, Facebook and a host of other social media outlets.


"We've always said our players have the platform to be able to speak out and voice their opinion," Brown said. "Our players have a voice and you let those guys voice their opinion. It's just a different day and time from when I played to now with social media and things of that nature, and all the things going on in this country. It's sad to see. You really don't know what to think. We want what's best for our players and our university. We want to make sure we're doing everything in our power to help those guys succeed on and off the football field and most important, get a degree."


Could Brown have imagined anything like the Pac-12 boycott happening when he played near the turn of the century?


"I could not. I could not, just because the social media aspect of it has pushed a lot of things these people feel," he said. "I just can't see a lot of the things going on in today's game going on back in my day."


UofL's conference, the ACC, as well as the Big Ten, Southeastern and Pac-12, reduced their schedules mainly to conference games. Only the Big 12 has yet to act. But there are still no NCAA-wide standards on the frequency of testing or other protocols, subjects the NCAA Board of Governors may address during their meeting Tuesday.


Satterfield said last week that he and his staff have talked to the players both in a team setting and smaller groups about any apprehension they had about practicing or playing, and that he would respect any decision a player made about participating this season.


"I've told all the guys, 'If you don't feel comfortable being here, go home," Satterfield said. "You'll still be on scholarship, and if you just want to go to school this fall and not play ball, then go ahead and do that. I don't want anybody here who has apprehension about playing. This is what they love doing. They want to do it in a safe manner, they want to be taken care of, and we're doing everything we can to make that happen."


UofL athletic director Vince Tyra said: "If they don't feel safe and need to leave, then we'll deal with that on a case-by-case basis. We certainly have expectations of them to keep themselves and our athletic department staff safe, and they have expectations of us to do all we can to keep them safe. And I think we're doing that."

GAVITT HIGHLY CONFIDENT IN HOOPS RETURN


While college football season is still up in the air as the coronavirus continues to cause problems nationwide, there has been some speculation about the possibility of college basketball season also being at risk of being cancelled or postponed.


However, Dan Gavitt, NCAA Senior Vice President and director of the men's NCAA basketball tournament, tried to alleviate some of those doubts during a brief interview over the weekend with Andy Katz. Gavitt said the NCAA has planned for the season to begin on Nov. 10.


"In college basketball we are still planning, right now, on starting the season on schedule," Gavitt said. "We have plans across the country through our schools and conferences to bring students back to campus safely, this month and early September. Many players have been on campus for weeks now, training in a very safe way and have been very happy to be back, playing the game they love.


"So we've got a high level of confidence. As I've said before, as long as basketball is being played safely anywhere in the world this season, we'll be playing NCAA college basketball as well, both regular season and certainly the tournament in 2021.


"We've got all sorts of plans and alternatives we're looking at in order to be able to do that in a safe and responsible way, but a high level of confidence that it's going to be, while different, a great experience again."


In a teleconference last week, Tyra said that ACC ADs and presidents hadn't discussed basketball season because they are focused on football and other fall sports.

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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