In an audio recording obtained by the Washington Post, an SEC official told college football players that there will be a positive case of COVID-19 on every team in the conference this season.
We can't be 100%. We're never going to be 100%. There are going to be outbreaks. We’re going to have positive cases on every single team in the SEC. That’s a given. And we can’t prevent it.
The SEC officially unveiled an all-conference, ten-game schedule on Thursday that will begin on September 26.
[Listen and download for free ‘Sports Uncovered: The uniform craze that revolutionized college football].
The comment happened during a conference call hosted by them with members of the conference’s medical advisory board, and over a dozen SEC college football players.
The call was supposed to give the players a chance to have questions answered about the upcoming season as a "confidential free exchange," per an SEC spokesman.
One of the large talking points for SEC officials was that they are more worried about the spread of the virus off the field when students, who aren't taking as many precautions, spread it to players.
In response, Ole Miss linebacker MoMo Sanogo had a simple question: "Why have students been allowed to come back on campus if we're trying to have a football season?"
“It’s one of those things where if students don’t come back to campus, then the chances of having a football season are almost zero,” an official who did not identify himself said. While class sizes will be smaller with proper social distancing, he did admit that it's "not fair" to athletes.
When Sanogo asked about the possibility of a bubble, a method that has worked wonders for the NBA, WNBA, MLS, NWSL, and NHL, he was told that his mask would protect him, that he could be a role model for others, and "to sit at the back of classrooms and not engage in close conversations," the Washington Post reported.
Eventually, one player who was not identified asked “If we were your kids, would y’all let us play in this same football season with the same protocols and uncertainty?” He was told that one official has had his son play baseball for the last five to six weeks while other kids have played soccer during that same time frame.
Soccer and baseball are two sports that by design have far less chances of spread than football. COVID-19 "mostly spread[s] by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough, or sneeze," per the CDC. In football, players line up across from one another for nearly 40 seconds at a time breathing in each other's faces.
SEC spokesman Herb Vincent said the players found the call "productive" and that he will try to schedule another one.
[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent]