OU football: Big 12 meetings could resolve what Lincoln Riley sees as uneven playing field amid COVID-19 shutdowns

Big 12 conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby answers questions from reporters after his opening remarks on the first day of media days at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David Kent)

One conference is allowed to do one thing, another isn’t.

That’s how Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley sees it.

In his first public comments since OU’s pro day two weeks ago, Riley told Toby Rowland in a KREF radio interview that a competitive disadvantage exists among conferences as they self-regulate amid the COVID-19 shutdowns at universities across the nation.

Many athletes are at home without access to training necessities, which range from apparel to equipment to nutritional items. Riley estimated 20 to 30 percent of his players have nothing to work with.

He said the ACC, however, has been allowed to hold virtual meetings with players and send them equipment through the mail, while the Big 12 has not.

“Our conference has been more stringent on it,” Riley said. “So that hasn’t been a positive in that it hasn’t really been an equal playing field.”

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby offered some clarity during an hour-long media conference call, saying league leaders are likely to find resolution on those topics when meeting this weekend.

While he’d like conferences to “sing off the same sheet music,” he added, “I don’t know if we all have to be doing the same thing.”

Bowlsby broadened the conversation by including what nutritional goods schools may send players through the mail. The NCAA began communicating with school nutritionists and dietitians on that topic last week.

Weights and food are basic needs for Power 5 athletes, many of whom are still participating in school online amid campus shutdowns.

Bowlsby still wants to discuss implementation of those regulations and the process of overseeing them.

“How long does it all go? When do we get a look in? How do we go about revisiting things?” Bowlsby asked. “The things we have already agreed upon is that we need to make sure sports medicine, physical therapy and rehabilitation are taken care of. We need to make sure we keep up with academic support. And we need to give support to kids in mental health and wellness ways.”

As for banning league coaches and players from conducting virtual meetings, which have increased nationwide at traditional workplaces as community lockdowns become more common, the Big 12 felt it was appropriate at the time.

“I’m not going to get into the specifics of any of it. We felt like, given the circumstances nationally, that everybody should shut it down. Coaches ought to go home and take care of their families. Kids ought to go home and do what they’re directed to do in their locale,” Bowlsby said. “We’re still trying to figure that way in ways that will have us all singing off the same sheet music.

“I think we’ll get there, sooner rather than later.”

Riley understands things have happened quickly.

“I know that’s something that they’re trying to work through and get done here quickly, because we’ve got to level the playing field,” Riley told Rowland.

Shipping athletic necessities to players is becoming more important, as odds increase that this college spring football season, in its traditional sense, has ended.

Bowlsby seemed sure of that.

“I think it's very unlikely that we're going to have any spring games,” he said. “And I don't think, except for those that have already had some days of spring practice, I don't believe we'll have any additional days of spring practice.”

OU, Texas and Oklahoma State have all yet to officially cancel their spring games scheduled in late April. The Big 12 doesn’t control cancelation of spring games, so schools must make their own determination.

“We're looking at a window for a return to activity that is, you know, six or eight weeks,” Bowlsby said. “And I just think it's very unlikely that that's going to happen.”

Tyler Palmateer


Follow me @Tpalmateer83


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