The timeline for college football’s anticipated return is about as hazy as the smog layer on a southern California morning.
One day, things are looking “up” in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. Other days, we are right back in the heat of it. And as part of the country starts to open back up, college football remains a mystery.
What is also a mystery and called into question is how UCLA head football coach Chip Kelly runs his program.
J. Brady McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reported that 30 players on the team have submitted a document asking for a “third-party health official” to oversee compliance when voluntary workouts start on Monday.
One of those players was reportedly starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
Breaking: UCLA football players are demanding that a “third-party health official” be on hand for all football activities to see that protocols for COVID-19 are followed, saying they don't trust coach Chip Kelly’s program to act in their best interest https://t.co/8fMfHRn1dj— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) June 19, 2020
The players also demand that anonymous whistleblower protections are provided for athletes and staff to report violations; and that each player can make a decision about whether to return to Westwood without fear of losing his scholarship. https://t.co/8fMfHRn1dj— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) June 19, 2020
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“These demands reflect our call for an environment in which we do not feel pressured to return to competition and if we choose not to return, that our decision will be respected,” the document reads. “If our demands are not met, we will refrain from booster events, recruiting events and all football-related promotional activities. The decision to return to training amidst a global pandemic has put us, the student-athletes, on the frontlines of a battle that we as a nation have not yet been able to win. We feel that as some of the first members of the community to attempt a return to normalcy, we must have assurances that allow us to make informed decisions and be protected regardless of our decision.”
Shouldn’t this be pretty obvious? Shouldn’t player health and safety and that of the coaches and staff be at the forefront of every major decision?
The decision to return to training amidst a global pandemic has put us, the student-athletes, on the frontlines of a battle that we as a nation have not yet been able to win. We feel that as some of the first members of the community to attempt a return to normalcy, we must have assurances that allow us to make informed decisions and be protected regardless of our decision. — Bruins football players
UCLA’s senior associate athletic director has stated the school will guarantee aid for fall sport athletes in the coming 2020-2021 season, but there are no guarantees being made about scholarships beyond that point.
According to the LA Times article, the NCAA has announced it would allow UCLA and other teams with Aug. 29 season openers to begin mandatory workouts July 6, UCLA has not called its players to return by that date because it has not received clearance from the county to start the second phase of training by then.
UCLA has designated a task force in order to prepare the best safety protocols, but is that enough for the players to have peace of mind returning to school and the team on their own timeline?
“We put our lives at risk every single time we put on that helmet,” said one UCLA player.
The student-athlets shouldn't have to fear for their safety or the status of their scholarship during these uncertain times.
Trust goes both ways.