As SEC is set to vote on opening athletic facilities June 1, OU's Lincoln Riley thinks that target date is 'ridiculous'

Lincoln Riley wants colleges to exercise patience in bringing football players back to campus.

In meeting with reporters on Thursday, Riley said the thought of some schools bringing players back to campuses on June 1 was “ one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard.” Multiple SEC athletic directors said Thursday that the conference had a vote scheduled on May 22 regarding opening up their athletic facilities to players after the end of the month.

“I definitely think we’ll play,” Riley said about the 2020 season. “When we play, I just think everybody, whether it’s our decision makers, our coaches, our players, fans, everybody’s gotta have a very open mind about this. We’re not the NFL. There are some huge, huge differences in us being able to put on a successful season versus a professional league. We’re not the NBA, we just don’t have 15 players. This is a totally different deal.

“I do believe that if we do it right, if we’re patient enough on some key areas like when we bring our players back on campus. All this talk of schools wanting to bring players back on June 1st is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard.”

“We’ve got to be patient. We’ll get one good shot at it. Bring them back at the right time when we’re as prepared and know as much about this as we possibly can.”

Like many other conferences, SEC schools’ athletic facilities are closed through the end of May. The May 22 vote would decide whether that shutdown is extended or lifted when it’s currently set to expire.

The Big 12’s athletic moratorium also goes through May 31. Per, Texas’ coaches could return to their offices as soon as Monday.

‘We’ve got to look way beyond’ competitive advantage

Riley urged other coaches to look at the big picture when it came to wanting to get football-related activities started. Most coaches have said they need a minimum of four weeks of preparation for a season and would prefer to have six (or more, of course). Riley said he thought six weeks was “very doable.” But he also wanted coaches to think about more than football.

“I think it’s our job as football coaches that we’ve got to look at this way, way beyond what’s competitively the best thing for our own team,” he said. “And for a lot of coaches, that’s hard. We’re wired trying to do everything we can to help our teams win.”

“This is different though. This is totally different … people making decisions have got to keep that the No. 1 priority. I think it will be completely irresponsible to bring these guys in. In my opinion, we need to bring them in as late as we possibly can before we play a season. Every day early that we bring them in is a day we could have gotten better. It’s a day we could have learned more about the virus. It’s a day PPE maybe gets better. It’s a day closer to a vaccine. It’s a day that our testing equipment and testing capabilities get better, and it’s just not worth it. So we’ve gotta be patient. We get one shot at this, and we’ve gotta do it right.”

Mizzou AD: Games can be played with classes online

Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk told reporters Thursday that there’s a distinction between a closed campus and a university system that is instead holding classes online in lieu of in-person classes. And if a school’s campus is open — even if classes are all online — it wouldn’t necessarily preclude sports from happening.

“If campus is operational, we can have sports,” Sterk said via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Now, classes are a different matter. They may need to decide at an earlier date that they're going online or online with some classes and some students working in labs and those kinds of things. So it's not an all or none as far as if a school is online, it doesn't necessarily prevent athletic events from happening. Because if a campus is operational, then we could possibly have athletic events.”

Many people across college sports have expressed doubts about the viability of athletics without students on campus. The Cal State University system announced earlier in the week that it would be exclusively holding classes online during the fall semester. Three Cal State schools — Fresno State, San Diego State and San Jose State — are in the Mountain West and it’s currently unclear how the decision to move to online classes will impact the upcoming football seasons at those schools.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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