Ole Miss athletics director Keith Carter remains optimistic that the college football season will start on time.
In an interview on the Oxford Exxon Podcast, Carter said today he is hoping to bring student-athletes back to campus by July 1, a date that would allow for the season to begin as scheduled.
“I just feel like there’s some momentum,” Carter said Tuesday, via RebelGrove.com. “Will we be playing football Labor Day weekend? I can’t say that yet but that’s our hope and that’s what we’re going to continue to push for.”
Though the goal initially was to get student-athletes on campus in June, he is confident that a July return would allow for a smooth transition into fall sports, including college football.;
“That would give us a great opportunity to get ready for September and have a somewhat normal fall,” Carter said. “None of those decisions have been made.”
After returning on campus, Carter said student-athletes will need roughly six to eight weeks to get back in game shape and ready for competition.
The timeline is quick and there are moving parts, but this is the best-case scenario.
“We want to start there and try to make that happen,” Carter said. “We’d be crazy if we didn’t talk about all other scenarios. We’re talking about that as a best-case. Worst-case is you go and start football in the spring and overlay it with all your spring sports and fall sports. And then everything in between (is being discussed) — starting October 1, starting November 1, playing a shortened season. …Everybody is working together. We all have a common goal. We’re optimistic.”
As for the fan argument college coaches have been discussing, Carter said he’s comfortable beginning the season with no fans in the stands and slowly bringing them back if they can do so safely.
“That’s going to be our goal — figuring out a way to make that happen,” Carter said. “I think that’s the route we’re going and certainly the structure we would love to have. I think we’ve got to look at this from all angles. To me, if we can play football and the fans are not there and it’s safe for our student-athletes and safe for our staff, then I think we do it and then slowly bring those fans back.
“If fans can’t physically come to the stadium, but they know every Saturday that Ole Miss is going to be playing football and they can gather around their TVs and watch it, that helps morale and everybody’s mental wellness and all sorts of things. Sports are so important in our region, especially here in Mississippi, and I just think we have to figure out a way to get back and to play. We’ve got to have an open mind about all these scenarios. Obviously, we want to get fans back to our campus as soon as possible but we’ve got to do that in a safe way.”
Yesterday, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said in a Zoom video conference with the media that he was uncertain the no-fan approach is a “viable option” financially.
“I think there are definitely some different challenges for us. I think the first thing that comes to mind is there’s going to be a lot of critics out there,” Stoops said. “The optics of it, to say you’re going to have college players out there that are allowed to play and line up six inches apart from each other and breath on each other, sweat on each other, get in big piles and do all that, but you’re not allowed to have fans in the stadium? I mean, that’s going to be the first thing you hear, right?
“Other people are going to make those decisions but I’m not sure that’s a viable option. The other thing compared to the NFL is financially. I think it’s very important to have fans in the stands. Universities are counting on that. We need people in the stands. Before this whole situation happened you heard me talking about it, encouraging our fanbase to pick it and pick up season tickets, get in there because we need them. It makes a difference to us having them in there, both financially and for their support.”
If it were up to him, he would only allow football to be played with fans in attendance, but will listen to decision-makers either way.
“Obviously I want to be there. Our staff and our players want to be there and we want the fans to be able to attend,” he said. “It’s of my opinion we should play football with fans in attendance. I’m going to do the things I’ve been told and that’s go about my business and do the best we can to prepare our team to be able to play September 5th. That’s what we’re doing. Until somebody tells me otherwise that’s the way I’m going to go about my business is getting my team ready to play.”