OXFORD • With players back on college campuses and athletic departments having season ticket conversations, there can be a sense of hope that college football will work its way back from the COVID-19 shutdown.
Players across the SEC returned to campus facilities to begin voluntary strength and conditioning workouts earlier this week.
The SEC has also announced a plan for its big summer blowout, Media Days, shifting an event that brings together thousands of people over a four-day window at one location to an online format instead.
There are signs, but first-year Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin has mixed feelings about what they mean. Ole Miss is scheduled to open the season Sept. 5 against Baylor in Houston.
“I don’t know how confident I am,” Kiffin said on Wednesday in a Zoom call with local media. “That changes kind of weekly for me. I sometimes think it’s going to be fine because the kids are coming back, starting to work out. There are other times I’m like, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to play if this is still going on.’”
While Ole Miss athletics director Keith Carter has expressed confidence in the safety plan put forth by the committee chaired by AD for health and sports performance Shannon Singletary, Kiffin has concerns about the possibility of a virus impact during the season.
A team could be down “15 players and eight (defensive backs) because corona got in the DB room,” he said. “All of a sudden you’ve got no idea who’s playing that week, and they’re sitting for two weeks until I get more figured out. How do you play?”
Ole Miss had one player and one athletics staff member test positive last week. There have been no other positive tests. Those infected were asymptomatic and are recovering in isolation with no complications, Carter said.
Kiffin said the loss of spring practice and the scattering of players has set back his transition farther than he first realized.
While he has questions about the future, he’s been pleased with a smooth start for conditioning workouts.
Relationship-building has been slow, but he’s finding trust in the process from players’ parents. He said he thought he would have to reassure some.
“It’s been kind of surprising. I’m assuming they trust us and our medical staff. We have not had issues with parents,” he said. “The issue is about knowing players. As I’ve said before this situation is not ideal for a first-year staff. It’s created more issues than I thought.”