Louisville coach Scott Satterfield wasn’t scheduled to speak with the media on Monday, but the head man had something to say, so the decks were cleared. Satterfield has watched events unfold in college football all weekend. He had seen initial reports that the Big Ten may already have voted to cancel its college football season this fall.
And he had been dealing with players concerned with the reports, and what those reports meant for them.
He was frustrated, and came ready to try to talk sense, as he sees it, to the powers that be, and in the public.
He criticized the leadership of Power 5 conferences that appears to be ready to balk at a season after spending much of the spring making plans and committing to a season with an actual schedule just a week or two ago.
And he’s confused at what has changed the conversation. I know because I asked him if he had any insight into what may have prompted all the cancellation talk in the past few days – beyond the Mid-American Conference making a decision to forgo football in the fall, which has zero impact on the Power 5 conferences.
“I don’t,” Satterfield said. “. . . It’s lack of leadership. And, you know, how do you put a plan together for months? We all were in our houses for three months. Plenty of time to put a plan together. And when you put a plan together, then you work your plan. So, you plan your work, and you work your plan. That’s what we do as football coaches, that’s what we do as leaders. Well, you have lack of leaders, then you plan it out and then you say, ‘Oh well, we can’t do that we got to just shut the whole thing down.’ That’s a lack of leadership, in my opinion.”
What it amounts to, Satterfield said, is jerking around players who came to campus and put their trust in a protocol, only to be threatened with pulling the plug on a season even though they followed it.
“That’s the frustrating part,” Satterfield said. “We’re playing with these 18-22-year-olds’ minds by some of these leagues doing these things, this yo-yo, saying we’re going to do one thing one day and two days later tell them we’re going to do this right here. That’s not leadership. We had months to plan out how we’re going to come back, how we’re going to do this, and we’ve been doing it.”
But he wasn’t finished.
“All of a sudden, we get negative talk coming in here this weekend, and again, it’s hurtful, actually,” Satterfield said. “It really is. We had players crying this morning in our meetings. They’re crying, because they want to play. ‘Coach, we’ve done everything we’re supposed to do. What’s this talk about these leagues? What’s that going to do to us?’ And other people don’t have to see that. We’re dealing with this on a daily basis, and we have to tell this senior that, I don’t know, right now we’re moving forward.”
In the end, Satterfield said that to play football is to assume risk. From Day One. And the virus presents a different kind of risk, and one that no one fully understands, but that for the age group that football players make up, the risk is minimal compared to other groups.
Satterfield said moving the season to spring brings its own set of problems, and added that there’s no guarantee the virus will be any less of a problem in the spring – or moving forward at all.
“We don’t know how long we’re going to have to live with this virus,” he said. “I would anticipate for probably the rest of our lives. We’re going to have to deal with it, we’re going to have to maneuver. We got to do some protocols and some different things that we didn’t in the past. And that’s what we’re doing. And we’re moving forward with it. And so, you know, when we told our players, ‘Man listen, if you don’t feel comfortable, f you have an underlying health deal, and our staff, if there’s something that you have you don’t feel comfortable, don’t come here. We’ll still pay for your scholarship. We’ll still take care of you. But, if you don’t feel good about being here, don’t be here – go home.’ And so our guys want to be here. Our guys want to want to coach. Our guys want to play. And so we’re maneuvering through it.”
Satterfield said he’s in frequent communication with athletics director Vince Tyra, and that his indications are that the ACC is moving forward.
“We have a great relationship,” Satterfield said. “Again, we’re all tied to this thing together and we have constant communication. And as I said earlier, the latest I’ve heard this morning is that the ACC is moving forward, no matter what any other conference does, Big Ten, Pac-12, we’re moving forward. And it’s because of the advice we’re getting from our Medical Advisory Board. They’re saying that we’re OK to keep pushing forward. Our presidents are OK to push forward. And that’s what we’re going to do until we hear otherwise.”
Satterfield said Monday was a light practice for the program. And he said he’s had discussions with his players about the “We want to play,” movement and other issues where players have come together to advocate for change.
“We all know the power that the players have,” Satterfield said. “Their voice has really, in the last, I want to say four or five years and we all know this year, it has really come out strong with a lot of things that they want to try to get out there on the table, and a lot of them are great things. If they do want to play, I think now’s the time to put it out there, when you know these presidents and leadership groups are making decisions about them in their future. And, so, again, I’ve always supported our guys. If they feel strongly about something they need express their views. And, one of the things we met yesterday with our leadership group and, ‘Coach we want to play, what do we need to do and well, you know, try to get the word out there?’ I didn’t even realize that nationally that was kind of gaining momentum anyway. And then they kind of just jumped on that and kind of joined in that movement of we want to play. And I encourage it. “