USF coaches, players join growing chorus desiring to play football in 2020

Bulls senior KJ Sails crafts a statement calling for a 2020 season, among other measures.
USF linebacker Brian Norris (29), center, joins his teammates on the Morsani Practice Complex field Friday for the Bulls' first preseason workout.
USF linebacker Brian Norris (29), center, joins his teammates on the Morsani Practice Complex field Friday for the Bulls' first preseason workout. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Aug. 10, 2020|Updated Aug. 10, 2020

As the maelstrom of uncertainty over the status of the college football season kept intensifying Monday, a growing chorus of USF players joined peers nationwide in declaring their desire to play in 2020.

The culmination of their sentiment came with an expansive statement released on social media early in the afternoon, composed by Bulls senior cornerback KJ Sails — with coach Jeff Scott’s endorsement — featuring the American Athletic Conference logo.

“We have the best medical staff in the country and they are doing all that they can to protect us so that we can play the game we love,” Sails said via Twitter on Monday. “There is a plan. LET US play!”

Sails collaborated with several conference peers in developing the statement, including Memphis quarterback Brady White and Houston receiver Marquez Stevenson, among others.

Atop the statement were the hashtags #WeAreUnited and #WeWantToPlay. Similar to (but not a duplicate of) one sent out hours earlier by a group of nationally prominent Power Five players, it called for six measures.

Among them: the development of universal health and safety-mandated protocols in the fight against COVID-19, the support of players in their ability to create a players association, and the preservation of the eligibility of players who choose to opt out in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns.

By late Sunday, after numerous reports that Big Ten presidents were close to canceling their conference’s season, several prominent Bulls were tweeting or re-tweeting the #WeWantToPlay hashtag, which presumably surfaced — and gained significant national traction — after Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence tweeted the phrase Saturday afternoon.

Among the Bulls chiming in: Sails, quarterback Jordan McCloud and center Brad Cecil, with a number of other USF players re-tweeting one or more of those teammates. Before 9 a.m. Scott and some of his assistants had joined them.

On Sunday, Lawrence (whom Scott coached while co-offensive coordinator at Clemson) and a number of other nationally prominent players reportedly met via a Zoom call and developed their own mission statement of sorts that was quickly developed in a graphic shared on social media.

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Related: Trevor Lawrence, other college football stars want to play, start players association

No formal Big Ten vote had been taken by the league’s chancellors and presidents, a Big Ten spokesperson said Monday. Later Monday, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey issued a lengthy tweet indicating his conference would remain patient and continue gathering information before making a decision.

The first significant Division I-A domino fell Saturday when the Mid-American Conference announced it was postponing fall sports.

“It’s gotten to a critical stage,” one unnamed Power Five commissioner told Sports Illustrated. “I think all of us will be meeting with our boards in the coming days. We have work to do that is no fun.”

On Friday, Scott said two of his players, defensive tackle John Waller and receiver Jernard Phillips, have opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 threat. Scott said both have his support and remain in good standing with the program.

“I asked our guys, ‘Hey, do y’all want to play?’” Scott said following the team’s first preseason practice Friday morning.

“I just wanted to make sure it’s not just me as a first-year coach all excited. They said, ‘No coach, we want to play.’ But obviously they have concerns and they want to be educated on all the protocols.

“But I think we’ve been very fortunate with USF Health in our backyard, to really be able to stay on top of all the things going on and let our guys know that we’re gonna do everything we can to keep them healthy and safe.”