Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Floodgates Should (But Won't) Open Behind First NCAA Football Player to Opt-Out

Illustration for article titled Floodgates Should (But Wont) Open Behind First NCAA Football Player to Opt-Out
Photo: Getty

Virginia Tech starting cornerback Caleb Farley, a projected first-round pick, decided he could end his monetarily abusive relationship with the NCAA a little earlier than scheduled. Farley became the first college football player to opt out of the 2020 season due to concerns surrounding COVID-19.

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In a video sent to ESPN Wednesday, Farley, says that he lost his mother a few years back to breast cancer, and wants to take the necessary precautions to make sure he doesn’t endanger himself or other family members.

“I am opting out due to uncertain health conditions and regulations and all the other opt-outs in football (the NFL) right now,” he said in a video posted to his personal Instagram account.

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Farley’s decision brings to the forefront a larger discussion of how other players likely won’t follow suit.

Farley was named first-team All-ACC last season, and led the conference with 16 passes defended with four interceptions. According to many draft boards he is projected to be a mid-to-late first-round pick.

But it’s hard to see a college football player that hasn’t at least made first-team, all-conference opting out of this season. Speaking to Dr. Mark Hamilton, who went into medicine after a career in Major League Baseball, about whether he would have participated in college sports in light of COVID-19, his biggest hesitation was missing an entire year of adding game film. As he explained, he wouldn’t have played in the majors if scouts hadn’t seen something in his college game.

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Many coaches and scouts are doing their recruiting over video right now. If it’s not on tape, you have no way to see it. Unfortunately, if you haven’t bolstered to the front of the pack before this summer, opting out of this season isn’t feasible.

For those looking to leave college for the draft, they’ll be working extremely hard to get game snaps to add to their film.

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That likely is the biggest hang up on why many players won’t be able to take this option if they were hoping/planning to play in the NFL — of course this flies in the face of the fact that Black athletes are at a higher risk of having graver outcomes if they contract the virus.

For underclassmen or those who aren’t called to play professionally, can you remain a student and stay at the university if you decide to put your health first and opt out? That is mostly still an unknown at this point. What is known is that most of these athletes can’t afford base tuition at these institutions without a scholarship, let alone the pile-on of room and board.

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Some players are trying to make a stand of their own. Witness UCLA’s football team demanding an independent third party to oversee health protocols heading into their season: Those athletes are trying to provide the healthiest space for them to compete. They intend on playing.

But let’s be honest, will college football even make it through an entire ten-game season? We know, given the financial opportunism of the NCAA, the season will almost undoubtedly kick off, but beyond that ...?

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Illustration for article titled Floodgates Should (But Wont) Open Behind First NCAA Football Player to Opt-Out
Photo: Getty

Michigan State and Rutgers’ entire teams are currently in quarantine due to outbreaks on their rosters. West Virginia, LSU, Clemson and Texas have all reported positive COVID-19 cases in the double digits this summer.

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And in the unique preactive case of Ohio State, its program has decided to shield itself of all legal liability by having players sign a waiver.

Farley’s decision could, for all we know, be foreshadowing a college football season that has the lights turned off on it within the next few weeks.

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It’s great Farley was able to put his health and safety first, but not every player in the FBS will be able to do the same.

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