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What college football coaches are saying ranges from smart to pretty dumb

The rantings of some of the top coaches in college football range from nuanced and thoughtful right down to stupid.

Head coach Mike Gundy of the Oklahoma State Cowboys runs onto the field for a Bedlam game against the Oklahoma Sooners on November 30, 2019 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. OU won 34-16. Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

There’s been a lot of speculation on the future of the college football season. Whether it will begin at all, if it will be on time, if there will be fans in the stands, and plenty more.

The gamut of how they’re dealing with the coronavirus crisis is pretty wide, with everything from thoughtful reflection to knuckle-dragging conspiracy theory mongering.

From Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly:

“We will get through it. If we stay at home, we stay vigilant, if we stay patient, we’re going to see ourselves on the other side and we’re going to be stronger for it,” “We have not won yet. We’re just getting to halftime. We’ve got a second half to play here. Really good job in the first couple of quarters, but we’re just getting into the locker room. But let’s look to have a better second half. If we have a better second half, we’re going to win this game.”

Kelly was also realistic about the Fighting Irish’s schedule season opener in Dublin, Ireland against Navy.

“Clearly, we can’t wait until May 15 to have the first discussion about going overseas. Those discussions are taking place. [Athletic director Jack Swarbrick] has a number of things on his plate, those are one of them. Navy is aware of it. We’re looking at all options at this time.

“We’d like to play the game in Ireland. Whether we can or not, that is still obviously a topic that is being discussed, but we will have some alternatives.”

Reasoned, thoughtful, and even mixing in a football analogy. Kelly certainly has plenty to be critical of during his time in South Bend, but this is a terrific answer. He also doesn’t claim to be a scientist or aware of how the science works.

Same for UCLA’s Chip Kelly (no relation), who says he’ll leave it to the experts as to when football will begin again.

“The governors of the states and mayors are going to be the ones who tell you whether we can do it because the NCAA can say, ‘Hey, you guys are all going back’ and if Governor Newsom says, ‘We’re not going back’ then we’re not going back.”

“I’m not well-versed in infectious diseases. I’ll leave that to the Dr. Faucis of the world, who I’ve got a lot of faith in. When I listen to him talk, it seems like he’s got a pretty good grasp of it, so when he says ‘Go,’ we’ll go.”

For a man famously obsessed with football to the point where it consumes him, this is sharp analysis.

But let’s move on to doctor specializing in infectious disease Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy, who said some galactically stupid things in a video press conference a few days ago. He also pitched his idea as to how his staff and players could get back to playing by May 1st.

“The NCAA, presidents and universities, the conference commissioners, the athletic directors all need to be meeting right now and need to start coming up with answers, OK?” Gundy said. “In my opinion, if we have to bring our players back, test them, they’re in good shape, they’re all 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 years old, they’re healthy. A lot of them can fight it off with their natural body, their antibodies and buildup they have — and there’s some people that are asymptomatic. If that’s true, yeah we sequester them. And people say that’s crazy. No that’s not crazy. Because we need to continue to budget and run money through the state of Oklahoma.”

Besides the point about young people being absolutely not true, a coach making $5 million a year endangering his unpaid labor force to make money for a state is not a great look! Especially when all the money from Cowboys home games goes to the Oklahoma State University Department of Athletics, not some general treasury fund that would help aid those that are sick.

Those that are in charge won’t let this happen, as the Big 12 has locked down all team activities until May 31, and Oklahoma State itself issued a statement saying it isn’t happening. But it doesn’t help that the head coach is promoting conspiracy theories from places like One America News.

“The drugs that are out — the three drugs, supposedly if it’s true — I’m reading where those drugs are working. People are getting the virus, they’re getting over it, they’re back out there in public, they have the antibodies, they can help fight it, you know, the mainstream of people that are healthy enough to fight this.”

That’s... not true. There’s no evidence of that to this point, so maybe don’t mention it using your platform to hundreds of thousands of people?

And then there’s Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, probably the most successful football coach of this decade. While his words weren’t necessarily harmful, they seemed to be somewhat divorced from reality.

“I have zero doubt [we’re going to play],” Swinney began. “This is America, man. We’ve stormed the beaches of Normandy. We’ve sent a car and drove around on Mars. We walked on the moon. This is the greatest country and greatest people in the history of the planet.”

“We’ve created an iPhone. I can sit here and talk to all you people and all these different places. We got the smartest people in the world. Listen, we’re going to rise up and kick this thing right in the teeth.”

Optimism is one thing, but having zero doubt about playing football at this point seems pretty naive. We’re all hopeful — but zero doubt? Seriously? Especially when the medical professionals certainly aren’t there yet?

Swinney also traveled from his home in South Carolina, which was not under a stay-at-home order at the time, to his vacation home via a private flight to Marco Island, Florida. He answered the criticism thusly:

“I am not surprised. Listen, there are so many blessings to having this job that I have and I have worked my whole life to get to this point. The blessings are unlimited as far as the job I have and the things I get to do. But there are a lot of negatives that come with this job, too, and one of those is criticism and that is something that I’ve just accepted. It doesn’t matter what I say or what anybody says there is going to be criticism. It doesn’t surprise me at all. You know, I could say the sky is blue and somebody would be as mad as anything. That’s one thing I’ve learned over the years. I don’t get affected by that. I just speak my heart.

“I just answered the question the other day. That is the other thing. You answer questions and you try to be honest and transparent and you answer questions, and then you get blasted because somebody might not agree with your answer or something like that. But I am not out blasting somebody else because they have a different opinion than me. It just comes with the territory. That is just the way it is.

He claimed because the plane was sanitized he had no concerns, but traveling for pleasure is certainly not endorsed at this time.

The game of college football engenders emotion and passion like no other sport in American culture. But the range of answers here certainly aren’t settling, much like plenty of what we see right now everywhere.