If state governments and medical experts allow a majority of schools within a conference to play college football, they should play, even if coronavirus restrictions prevent a few other teams within the same league from returning, Penn State coach James Franklin told reporters on Wednesday.
Franklin said he expects a “way inconsistent” return across the Power 5 conferences because of varying state-by-state restrictions and reopening plans.
“I can’t imagine that right now we’re all going to open at the same time,” he told ESPN. “If the SEC, for example, opens up a month earlier than the Big Ten, and the Big Ten is able to open up and 12 of the 14 schools, if two schools can’t open, I don’t see a conference — any conference — penalizing 80% or 75% of the schools because 25% of them can’t open.
“To me, unless there’s a level playing field and the NCAA comes out and says that no one’s opening before this date to try to help with that, what you really end up doing is you end up hurting the conference,” Franklin said. “Say two or three of the schools in our conference that are ranked in the top 10 have the ability to open and a couple schools don’t, and you make the decision to hold the entire conference back, you’re hurting the conference as a whole in terms of your ability to compete.”
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren has been reluctant to make any major public declarations or share any plans because “this situation is so fluid,” but said the conference has a Big Ten Emerging Infectious Disease Task Force to help in the decision-making process.
“I’m just counting on our chancellors, our presidents, our provosts, our leaders on our campuses, our Big Ten Emerging Infectious Disease committee, our local, state and national government, that we’ll take guidance from, at the appropriate time,” Warren told ESPN’s Ivan Maisel. “It’s so early now. This is a fluid situation, and so important, it wouldn’t be prudent for me to speculate. But one thing I do know: I know more now today than I did when I canceled the men’s basketball tournament. I think these next 45 to 60 days, with the information we’re getting regarding testing from the government and different areas, we’re learning so much every day. I’m looking forward to gathering information and leaning on experts.”
Franklin said it would be helpful for the NCAA to give some national guidelines in addition to what each state and university determines, and “you better be able to answer these criteria and be able to document that you’ve met this threshold.
“That could at least help with it a little bit,” he said. “In a perfect world, everybody opens at the same time. I just don’t see any way that [will] be possible. Are you going to not have college football this year or sports in general because two states in the country won’t open? I don’t see that happening.”