The Mountain West will probably announce its plan for the 2020 football season today. My bet is the “8+2” plan, allowing for the usual number of conference games plus two nonconference matchups. That would enable Air Force to keep its games against Army and Navy—and Boise State to hold onto its marquee home game versus BYU (plus one other non-league contest). So who decides how football works this year? For the past several months, we’ve heard from commissioners, athletic directors, the media, the medical community and more. But the faction affected the most, the players, have not had a visible voice, and they deserve one. That’s started to change, and yesterday it blew up in a what could be the tipping point in whether anything happens a month from today or not.
VOICES THAT COUNT
Take the Pac-12’s #WeAreUnited movement and set aside its calls for racial justice and revenue sharing. The point the group makes that has legs is the demand for player safety in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. That was magnified Tuesday when longtime national college football scribe Brett McMurphy said sources told Stadium that “nearly three-fourths of Idaho’s football players don’t want to play this fall because of health concerns regarding the unknown long-term impact of COVID-19.” The Vandals have tested 125 student-athletes across all fall sports with nine testing positive for COVID-19, a school spokesman told Stadium. In all, 24 student-athletes currently are being quarantined or in isolation. “We feel we have been neglected by the NCAA in terms of wealth over health,” one player said.
McMurphy reported that “players talked to Stadium on the condition of anonymity because they said they feared being cut from the team and/or losing their scholarships if they were identified.” According to McMurphy, Vandals players conducted a confidential poll last week, and 60 of 82 players (73 percent) indicated they didn’t want to play this fall because of concerns over the current COVID-19 policies in place. Multiple players told Stadium they have communicated those concerns to head coach Paul Petrino, assistant coaches, athletic director Terry Gawlik and school president Scott Green.
COVERUP AT COLORADO STATE?
So in the end, will it be players who bring down the 2020 season? Things are worse at Colorado State. Kevin Lytle of the Coloradoan summarizes his story on what some CSU student-athletes are calling a coverup. “Among complaints from Colorado State athletes and staffers: Coaches have told players not to report COVID-19 symptoms, threatened players with reduced playing time if they quarantine and claim CSU is altering contact tracing reports to keep players practicing.” Lytle said players and staff confirmed that 27 players, about a quarter of the team, were out due to COVID-19 at the Rams’ last practice a week ago before the university voluntarily shut down workouts.
SHIFT IN THE BRONCOS’ QB ROOM
Boise State quarterback Zach Matlock has entered the transfer portal. The sophomore from Las Vegas has been in the program for two years. Calling Matlock a “camp body” would be unfair. But he was a walk-on and was stuck behind Hank Bachmeier, Chase Cord and Jack Sears on the depth chart with not much hope of moving up. Matlock understandably wants to play, and certainly he can somewhere. That leaves Timberline High walk-on Andy Peters as the Broncos’ No. 4 QB. Calling Peters a “camp body” would be unfair as well—he was the 2019 SIC Offensive Player of the Year for the Wolves.
MERRITT’S LEDGER IN MAJORS
Troy Merritt has his tee time Thursday at the PGA Championship in San Francisco. The former Boise State standout and Meridian resident goes off the No. 10 tee at 3:04 Mountain time at Harding Park, joined by Wyndham Clark and Chan Kim. This will be Merritt’s fourth career major, but his first in three years. It’s his second PGA Championship—he tied for 54th in 2015 at Whistling Straits in Kohler, WI. Merritt’s best finish in a major was a tie for 42nd at the 2016 Masters. He missed the cut at the 2017 U.S. Open.
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August 5, 1985, 35 years ago today: Jim Cobb, a 69-year-old amateur golfer from Craig, CO, scores three holes-in-one over a 30-hour period. The odds against this happening are 8,404,101,101 to 1. Calculated by some guy with entirely too much time on his hands.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)