Lincoln Riley understands the prevailing concern surrounding football’s feasibility this fall.
A month ago, the Oklahoma head football coach imagines most people assumed the 2020 season would play as normal.
Now two months ahead of the Sooners’ season opener, he isn’t so sure.
“If you’d asked everybody three weeks or a month ago, everybody probably would have said 100 percent,” said Riley during a Zoom call with media on Friday, “and now that these numbers have surged, that’s created some more doubt in peoples’ minds, and understandably so.”
The Oklahoma State State Department of Health reported 526 new COVID-19 cases Friday — the second-largest single-day increase in the state. In Norman, cases grew by 49, which is the city’s largest single-day jump. OU has also shared it has 12 active cases among its football players on Wednesday.
Riley expressed optimism through the 35-minute media session, saying he thinks there’s a good chance OU will face FCS foe Missouri State on Sept. 5.
He at least would like OU’s regular schedule to run as on-time as possible.
“I hope like hell we can play in the fall and do it as close as to how we’ve done it before,” Riley said. “If we can do that, then I’m all for it. That’s the best option.”
Riley’s mind still seems open to other avenues to start and complete the 2020 season.
The Big 12 Conference might be forced to move its Dec. 5 championship game later into the month to accommodate games postponed because of COVID-19, according to CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd, who spoke with myriad Big 12 athletics directors.
If the Big 12 is unable to complete play in the fall, college football might be pushed to the spring.
How a spring college football season would look is difficult to predict. Riley wouldn’t shut the door, however, on the idea.
“I think the people who say it’s not doable, in my opinion, just don’t want to think about it,” he said. “I think it would be wrong of us to take any potential option off the table right now. I think it would be very difficult to say the spring is not a potential option. I, for one, believe it’s very doable.”
Riley said a full season might be out of play if the schedule is ultimately moved to spring.
“It would probably be a conference season, post-season only,” he said.
The 2021 offseason would likely be the most impacted by the change. Players will need adequate time off, which could potentially affect when the 2021 season can start.
Thinking about a spring college football season might be looking too far ahead. But if there’s one thing Riley seemed to agree with most Friday, all plans are fluid as long as the pandemic sticks around.
“These things can change in a moment’s notice,” Riley said. “But I feel confident in the plan that we have going forward right now to be ready to kick it off against Missouri State.”