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"Not Good Enough": College Athletes Reluctant To Return

CJ Anderson via Flickr (Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0)

The phrase “speaking truth to power” has been said so frequently of late that it’s bordering on triteness, if not outright cliche.

But when a group of more than a dozen college football players addressed the leaders of the most powerful conference in the land last week about the return of the game this fall, they provided evidence that things won’t be as they’ve been before.

Indeed, speaking truth to power may, in time, be replaced by a new phrase: "kind of not good enough."


Those are five of the words spoken by Keeath Magee II, a graduate student linebacker at Texas A&M to officials from the Southeastern Conference, as reported by the Washington Post, which obtained a tape of the meeting.

During the discussion, Magee and other football players heard conference commissioner Greg Sankey, members of his cabinet and health officials attempt to reassure them that the SEC would do all it can to keep them safe in this time of COVID-19.

According to the Post, Sankey told the players “Part of our work is to bring as much certainty in the midst of this really strange time as we can so you can play football in the most healthy way possible, with the understanding there aren’t any guarantees in life.

Of course, there is a guarantee. The SEC and all the major college conferences need these players, the lifeblood of a multi-billion dollar machine, to come back and be the cogs that keep the equipment moving and, most importantly, the money flowing.

We’d all like to believe that conference executives as well as the athletic administrators at the individual schools are all primarily and exclusively concerned about the health and well-being of the young men and women who play these games.

The SEC officials said necessary precautions like smaller class sizes and the wearing of facial coverings would be taken to attempt to keep athletes as safe as possible.  

But another unidentified official told the group that there was a certainty, that there would be outbreaks on each of the 14 campuses in the league and positive tests on each team.

And that there was nothing the SEC could do about it.

That led to Magee’s pronouncement, that what was proposed was "kind of not good enough."

School officials all over the nation are rethinking previous decisions to reopen campuses as anxious faculty members fret about their well-being while students, many of whom haven’t adequately practiced social distancing or proper face covering, look to get back to their lives.

Caught in the middle are the athletes who generate revenue that schools badly need. Their perspectives will have to be considered to make this work.

Two players at big-time programs, Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley and Ra’Von Bonner, a running back at Illinois, have opted out of the 2020 season, and you have to think they won’t be the last to say to their conference that what’s being presented to keep them safe is not good enough. 

And that’s how I see it for this week. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games.


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Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.