It’s very difficult to comprehend the fact that just several months ago, all was normal in the world. COVID-19 did not yet exist, and fans of College Football were enjoying the wrap up of the 2019-20 season. The Tennessee Volunteers were finishing the year strong, on a 6 game win streak, and a come-from-behind victory in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. Following a horrific start to the season, with losses to lower caliber teams such as Georgia State and Brigham Young, the Volunteers were able to completely change the trajectory of the program’s future. The Vols were riding high, and many were still celebrating the improbable comeback that they had witnessed, however, with the sudden global COVID-19 Pandemic emerging without warning, their joy was cut short.
The world of athletics was brought to a screeching halt, as the United States of America, along with every other nation in the world, attempted to slow the virus’ spread — which is for the most part where sports has been for the last few months; in a complete standstill. The Southeastern Conference’s athletic directors recently sat down to discuss the timetable for its return to normalcy through an online meeting, according to Tyler Thompson of Kentucky Sports Radio.
“The vast majority of the athletic directors supported allowing players to return to campuses on June 1; however, one athletic director spoke out against it, arguing the ban should be placed indefinitely: Tennessee’s Phil Fulmer,” wrote Thompson. “After discussing it with the group, Fulmer proposed the date of June 15, but many believed that was too late for players to be ready to start the season on schedule. From there, the discussion was tabled for next week.”
“Had Fulmer not spoken up, the assumption is the group would have given the (University) Presidents a unanimous recommendation to lift the restrictions to allow players to return to campuses June 1, with a vote possibly taking place earlier than May 22,” Thompson went on to write. “We’ll find out for sure what will happen one week from today (May 15).”
Fulmer’s unique viewpoint on the season should come as no surprise, as the Tennessee athletic director made his opinion on the shutdown crystal clear since its beginning: slowing COVID 19’s spread is his main priority. “The only way any of us can declare victory (against COVID-19) is if we prevent this from overloading our medical system,” said Fulmer in mid-March. “That has to be the main priority of all of us, and we all have a part to play in that.”
Giving players time to prepare for the season prior to its beginning is the ultimate key in assuring that it occurs, which makes this step incredibly critical for what happens in September. In the end, all 14 SEC athletic directors seem to be on board with bringing players back to campus, the only disagreement is in regards to the time table; with Fulmer holding the belief that June 15th is the safest plan, while the other 13 men proclaim that June 1st would assure a punctual season.