Most of the focus on how college football will safely operate during the coronavirus pandemic has been focused on the players. Of the 150 or so players, support staff and coaches on the sideline for any given home football game, there is a higher percentage of coaches who fall in the at-risk category. Today ESPN looked at how coaches across the country are handling that situation as we approach the start of college football season.
Today is the two-year anniversary of a somber UK Football media day that opened with Mark Stoops revealing Josh Paschal and John Schlarman were battling cancer. Their fight against cancer has been well-documented. For Schlarman, that battle is not yet over.
The former Kentucky offensive lineman that helped build the Big Blue Wall into one of the nation’s top offensive lines has cholangiocarcinoma, a rare cancer of the bile ducts. Schlarman has undergone various forms of treatment in Houston yet he has not missed a day of work at the football facility. The risks of continuing that trend during the coronavirus pandemic are far greater. The coach is operating cautiously and as of today he plans on continuing coaching Kentucky’s offensive linemen this fall.
“If I didn’t have cancer, would I have been as conscientious of that (safety)? Who knows, but probably not,” Schlarman said. “It puts me at a heightened level of awareness.”
And yet, Schlarman said returning to football was never a particularly tough decision. It’s his job, and he plans to keep doing it — at least for now.
“I’m certainly hoping that’s not a bridge I have to cross,” Schlarman said.
As for Paschal, the Kentucky defensive lineman completed his final immunotherapy treatment almost one year ago to the date. Shortly after the outbreak canceled spring football, Paschal’s trainers reached out to his oncologists. To summarize it briefly, he’s in the clear. “As far as being something I was really worried about,” Paschal told ESPN, “that cleared up fast.”
Paschal, Schlarman and the rest of the Kentucky Wildcats are set to begin preseason practice Aug. 17.