Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said on Friday that while he’s still hopeful for a fall season, spring football is “very doable.”
As COVID-19 cases have surged in Oklahoma and across the South, Riley said it’s important that all options are considered.
“I think the people who say it’s not [an option], in my opinion, just don’t want to think about it,” Riley said on a Zoom call with reporters. “I just think it would be wrong of us to take any potential option off the table right now. I think it’d be very difficult to say the spring is not a potential option. I, for one, think it’s very doable.”
Riley emphasized that he thinks the current schedule can still work, including the Sept. 5 season opener against Missouri State.
“I hope like hell we can play in the fall and do it as close as how we’ve always done it before,” Riley said. “If we can do that, I’m all for it, if that’s the best option. But we’ve seen, at least right now, that the hot weather doesn’t affect this [virus] very much, which we kind of hoped it would.”
A spring schedule would mean shortening the season, more than likely, along with adjusting summer schedules and possibly working with the NFL to move the draft dates.
“It’d probably be a conference season and postseason only,” Riley said. “We’ve seen often teams go in and play well into January in the College Football Playoff and start spring practice at some point in February, and nobody says a word about that. You’d have to give players plenty of time off to get their bodies back in the summer. Maybe a little later start back the next fall.”
One reason for a possible change is national medical leaders raising the possibility of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of this year or early next year.
“There have been positive things in terms of some of the treatments they’re starting to develop that obviously would have would have an impact on players, staff, fans, everybody,” Riley said.
He said he knew the Sooners would have positive coronavirus tests before the players began workouts Wednesday. Fourteen Oklahoma football players tested positive, along with two of the 72 staff members who were tested, the school said.
“We’re kind of a microcosm of the whole country right now,” Riley said. “We certainly weren’t expecting zero.”
Riley was one of six staffers who earn $1 million or more who was asked to take a 10% pay reduction as athletic director Joe Castiglione implemented budget cuts of approximately $13.7 million. The coach said it wasn’t a hard decision.
“Joe stopped by the house and told me what he was thinking,” Riley said. “It took me about 2½ seconds, and I said I was good with it. We’re all having to adjust. It’s all unprecedented, and we’ve all got to do our part. I didn’t see any reason why I should be any different.”
For now, Riley said he’s focused on keeping his players safe and trying to figure out the next phase of workouts.
“At some point, you do have to practice football, and it’s tough to do that without two people close to each other,” he said. “It’s hard to go to the next step until you’ve done the one before it. I would think we want to take our time and see how it plays out.”