USC football players pen open letter to governor stating: 'We want to play'
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As the Big Ten moves closer to announcing a return to football, per national reports, which would leave the Pac-12 as the only Power 5 conference without a start plan for a fall football season, USC's players posted an open letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom with the message: "Please let us play. We want a chance."
Junior wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown posted the open letter on Twitter at 3 p.m. PT Tuesday, and teammates and Trojans coaches joined in the chorus.
"We believe players in the Pac-12 want to play football as soon as possible," the letter reads. "The current reality is that there are too many restrictions imposed by state and local public health officials in California that prevent us from resuming practices and competitions. ... From the onset of this pandemic, the Pac-12 has rightfully and responsibly maintained that their decisions would be based on science, and it now appears that science and technology have turned in favor of playing."
The letter cites the Pac-12's recent partnership with Quidel for rapid-results daily antigen testing that in theory should prevent any infected players from reaching the practice or game field, thus giving the conference a great degree of confidence in negating any potential spread of COVID-19 through practice or game contact. That partnership was announced on Sept. 8 with schools expected to receive the new testing equipment by the end of the month.
But half of the conference's schools -- those in California and Oregon -- still do not have clearance from state and local public health authorities to have athletes return to contact practices. The conference's teams are currently allowed 12 hours a week to be around the coaches, between strength training and individual field work.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a radio interview Friday with Sports Radio 950 KJR out of Seattle, per Bay Area News Group's Jon Wilner, that: "Until we get the blessing of [health officials] I'm not even going to bring it back to the [Pac-12 CEOs] to review. Hoping that happens by the end of the month, and then we can revisit and set a new timetable."
"Governor Newsom, our request of you is that you work with us -- urgently and purposefully -- to find a path forward for us to resume competitions later this fall so that we can have the same opportunity as other teams around the country to play for a national championship," the letter reads. "We respect the careful and cautious approach you have taken to college athletics, and we have the utmost confidence that we can partner together to quickly develop a plan that allows us to compete in a 2020 fall football season. Let's find a way to say "yes!". Please let us play."
It has been stated in various interviews that the Pac-12 would need four to six weeks of preseason to prepare for the start of a football season.
The ACC and Big 12 conferences have already begun their seasons with the SEC slated to start its season on Sept. 26.
USC football coach Clay Helton supported the players' letter in a tweet of his own.
"We will always celebrate and support the voice of our players. Proud of these young men," Helton wrote.
USC athletic director Mike Bohn and senior associate AD Brandon Sosna each retweeted Helton's comments.
USC quarterback Kedon Slovis and offensive coordinator Graham Harrell were among the other Trojans players and coaches who reiterated the message on Twitter.
"We have sat by for two weeks watching teams across the country play the game we love safely," Slovis wrote. "Most schools have a fraction of the resources that our school and conference have provided to play safely. You are the only thing holding us back. Please #LetUsPlay."
Harrell posted: "The last month I have watched our team train under tents, outside, in a makeshift weight room. Even with the postponement of our season they have shown up everyday. They have done EVERYTHING asked of them and simply want an opportunity. I support our players, let's play ball!"
USC has publicly reported the results of its COVID-19 tests for student-athletes working out on campus each week since those workouts began in mid-June. As of last Friday, USC had reported 18 positive results out of 1,590 tests on athletes across six sports. There has been no breakdown given for positive results per sport, but the football and men's water polo teams were forced to pause workouts for about a week and a half earlier this month until Sept. 8) after having nine positive tests between them. There were no positive tests reported over last week.
Meanwhile, LSU coach Ed Orgeron said "most" of his team had contracted the virus at some point, while 75 Texas Tech football players have tested positive in total, per Yahoo Sports.
Helton talked last week on a social media roundtable with FOX Sports' and Trojans alums Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush about his thoughts on a Pac-12 restart and the factors that weigh on his mind. He seemed to indicate that he thought starting a season sooner rather than later would be important in the big picture.
"More questions have to be asked. One, for us as a conference, what is the start date and more importantly what is the end date? We play the most fast and violent game on the face of the earth, and you have to remember that these guys have to go from one season to the next," Helton said. "And being able to have an adequate amount of time between the end of a season that could end hopefully maybe March, somewhere in there, and give enough time for them to recover for a fall '21 season that you don't want to affect. Hopefully we're all back on line altogether.
"No. 2 is to make it significant for them, to make it a great experience -- maybe to have a conference championship, maybe to have even a merger or partnership with another league to be able to create a unique bowl game opportunity. Those are the questions that need to be asked. I know those are the discussions that are being had right now."
As for the timetable needed to prepare for a season, Helton said he thought a month at minimum would be required.
"One of the great things that's happened that the NCAA has given us that I think's very, very important in this time period as you're looking at basically 40 percent of your schools that are not playing football, is they gave us 12 hours a week to be able to work with the kids -- 7 hours of strength and conditioning, meetings, but 5 hours of skill development and being able to use football equipment, be able to use the ball, be able to use the bag, be able to get functional football movement," he said. "Now, at some point in time when you declare, OK, this is the start of the season, you do have to work backward and you've got to have a minimum I think of four weeks of training camp to be able to, one, implement scheme, but more importantly to practice the game and get their bodies in functional football shape."