Indiana hasn’t had any players choose to opt out of the upcoming 10-game conference-only season.
But if and when that time comes, IU coach Tom Allen says he’ll encourage his players to do what they feel is best.
“If someone doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t feel comfortable playing, then there’s no pressure to do that,” Allen said after IU’s first practice of fall camp. “There’s not. If they choose to opt out because of the fear of getting sick, or they don’t want to infect someone at home or have yourself infected by this, then it’s clearly stated by the Big Ten, by Indiana University, by the NCAA that those individuals would keep their scholarship and be in good standing with the team.”
Since starting voluntary workouts in June, the Hoosiers have been among the growing number of college football programs nationwide to be confronted with the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. IU halted workouts for two weeks in July after six members of the football team tested positive for the virus, including offensive lineman Brady Feeney.
Feeney’s experience made national headlines this week after his mother wrote a lengthy Facebook post detailing how the virus has affected her son. Allen said Thursday that although Feeney is back with the team, he has not yet been cleared to practice.
Other Big Ten teams, meanwhile, are seeing their share of high-impact opt-outs. Stars such as Purdue’s Rondale Moore and Penn State’s Micah Parsons have decided not to play. At Maryland, six players have opted out of the season.
On Wednesday night, Allen hosted a Zoom call for parents, during which he detailed Big Ten protocols, answered direct questions and outlined how his program plans to handle the upcoming season. Another part of Allen’s message during the meeting was transparency.
If a player doesn’t feel safe, Allen told parents, he hopes they’ll feel empowered to voice that concern.
“We’ve had some discussions with guys and talked them through some different things,” Allen said. “Hopefully, we’re creating an environment here where our guys feel comfortable saying, ‘Hey coach, I need to talk to you about something,” whether that’s on the phone or we come in here and sit down. ... You help them manage these unknowns and all these things that we’ve never dealt with before.”