Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley would prefer to proceed as normally as possible this fall, but he views a spring college football season as a reasonable alternative if the coronavirus pandemic forces a change.
“I just think it would be wrong of us to take any potential option off the table right now,” Riley told reporters Friday on a video conference call. “I think it’d be very difficult to say the spring is not a potential option. I, for one, think it’s very doable.”
A surge in COVID-19 cases across the United States, along with dozens of positive tests at several major college football programs, has many questioning the viability of playing the season as scheduled in the fall. More than 52,000 new cases nationwide were reported on Thursday, with much of the surge coming in the South, especially Florida and Texas.
“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 thing very much, which we kind of hoped it would.”
Delaying the season could provide enough time for a coronavirus vaccine to be approved and distributed before the season begins.
Riley said he would expect a spring season, if implemented, to be shorter, likely without any out-of-conference games, which would cut down on travel.
The state of Oklahoma has not seen as severe of a spike as Texas, but the Sooners have had 14 players test positive since they returned for workouts on Wednesday. Two staff members also tested positive, Riley said.
“We’re kind of a microcosm of the whole country right now,” he said. “We certainly weren’t expecting zero.”
The Sooners enacted budget cuts of nearly $14 million earlier this year, with Riley one of several staff members to have his pay cut. He said the reduction took him “about 2 1/2 seconds” to approve.
“We’re all having to adjust,” Riley said. “It’s all unprecedented, and we’ve all got to do our part.”