Photo by John S. Peterson
Nebraska Football

Frost's Case for Football: Safest Place for Husker Players is in Lincoln

August 11, 2020

Scott Frost’s argument for a college football season really is a pretty simple one.

He’s not a medical professional and he’s made sure to couch his statements with that key fact on more than one occasion. He can’t give answers on the viability of health and safety procedures or the persistence of virus effects, but Frost does know what motivates someone to play football and he does know college-aged young men. It’s why he’s been entrusted with 150 of them.

If the Big Ten were to postpone/cancel/delay its season, The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach has reported that student-athletes would remain on campus. They wouldn’t go home because they’re still (and the NCAA will love this) students. They might be able to hold some kind of organized workout on campus. The NCAA might allow something loosely resembling a spring to take place in the fall, similar to what the NCJAA is allowing its football programs to do.

Frost, however, said Monday in such a scenario Nebraska wouldn’t be practicing. 

“If it's too dangerous to play football, it's too dangerous to do any of those (other) things,” he said. 

Some will roll their eyes, but Frost’s argument is that the danger doesn’t lay within the confines of the football field. Football is a contact sport, yes, but in some of the biggest outbreaks we’ve seen so far around the country, college sports teams have had to pause workouts because players came into contact with the virus away from practice facilities. 

Four different sports at Louisville were simultaneously halted because of a party. Rutgers’ outbreak can be traced to a party. 

“If football is a mitigating factor, if football is the reason kids are going to get sick . . . I’ll be the first one if I think football is the reason these guys are in danger to pull the plug,” Frost said. “Our kids want to play, we want to let them play and I truly believe at the bottom of my heart believe this is the safest place for them.”

Unlike some schools, Nebraska hasn’t been releasing COVID-19 testing data. Aside from an acknowledgment in late June that five players and one football staffer had tested positive, it’s unclear how many tests Nebraska has conducted since returning athletes to campus on June 1 and how many, if any, have tested positive. 

Frost says the number is small.

“I don’t have license to talk about the number of players we’ve had that have tested positive but what I can tell you is we’re very sure that the vast majority, if not all of them, contracted the coronavirus somewhere outside of our building and not in our workouts,” he said.

“I still haven’t seen any evidence to say a lot of these players are getting it in these types of activities. We feel, and I feel 100% certain, that the safest place for our players with regards to the coronavirus is right here where there’s structure, where there’s testing, where there’s medical supervision, where they have motivation to make smart decisions and make smart decisions to stay away from the virus because if they don’t, they’re going to lose what they love and lose their opportunity to play football.”

More: NU Open to Looking Elsewhere | #WeWantToPlay | Riding the Rollercoaster

Three Husker players spoke after Frost: quarterback Adrian Martinez, cornerback Dicaprio Bootle, and offensive lineman Matt Farniok. Martinez said college athletes are going to have to make social sacrifices if they truly care about have a season. Farniok said he wouldn’t have access to the same resources Nebraska is providing him now if he was at home. 

The financial piece of the equation is massive and impossible to ignore. Nebraska Athletics, Frost projected, would lose anywhere from $80 to $120 million without a football season and the local Lincoln economy would lose $300 million.

Frost dropped a line that it’s harder to reopen the longer you stay closed in reference to a football season, but that’s been the fear ever since the economy first shuttered to stop the spread of the virus. Some businesses in Lincoln, without a football season, wouldn’t come back. Some teams within the Nebraska athletic department, without a football season, would cease to exist.

“The virus is here either way and I would contend that our players are safer here doing what they love to do and being monitored and screened constantly than they would be if we sent them home,” Frost said. 

“Without the structured environment here, I worry about our kids.”

Frost would question whether they’d stay on campus. If so, what becomes of his role? He’s paid a hefty sum to coach football in the fall months. Without games, what’s his role? If it’s not safe for 150 players in a locker room who have been getting tested twice a week every week, is it safe for a general student population to live in dorms without the same health and safety procedures in place?

Redshirt freshman quarterback Luke McCaffrey’s brother, Dylan, plays for Michigan. Wolverine head coach Jim Harbaugh believes the same thing as Frost: the medical protocols put in place for the football team to safely conduct a football season creates the best environment for the kids on the team. He shared a statement on social media Monday morning laying out his case. Later Monday evening, Dylan and Luke’s mother issued her public support.

Nebraska student-athletes, Frost says, have access to a full nutrition team, academic support services and tutoring, testing for the virus, and medical care. He asked to set the financial piece of it aside and think long and hard about the health and well-being of football players if the season were to be postponed or canceled. 

“If our goal is to keep every single student-athlete in the country from contracting coronavirus, we’re going to fail whether we play football or not,” Frost said.

That’s obviously not the goal, but Frost’s argument is not to take away the thing that’s motivating players to do everything in their power to lower the risk. 

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