Oct 26, 2019; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Mack Brown disputes a call as his team plays the Duke Blue Devils in the second half at Kenan Memorial Stadium. The North Carolina Tar Heels won 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

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UNC’s Mack Brown: Delaying season to gather facts is sensible

North Carolina head coach Mack Brown said Tuesday it makes sense for the ACC to play defense and gather facts related to the coronavirus before players take the field this season.

Brown said he is hopeful the 2020 season can be played but admitted the conference would be in a pickle if multiple other leagues opt to shift the season to later in the fall or next spring.

“I don’t see leagues playing by themselves. If you see three or four saying, ‘We don’t think it’s healthy,’ then why would we do it?” Brown said Tuesday in a Zoom call with reporters.

However, the chair of the ACC’s medical advisory team told Sports Business Daily that a season could be played safely.

“We believe we can mitigate it down to a level that makes everyone safe,” Dr. Cameron Wolfe, a Duke infectious disease specialist, told SBD. “Can we safely have two teams meet on the field? I would say yes. Will it be tough? Yes. Will it be expensive and hard and lots of work? For sure. But I do believe you can sufficiently mitigate the risk of bringing COVID onto the football field or into the training room at a level that’s no different than living as a student on campus.”

Big Ten officials are reportedly contemplating postponing the season until the spring and the Pac-12 is expected to follow suit. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said Monday he wouldn’t rush to make any decision with the start of the 2020 regular season already delayed.

Brown said all options, including pushing the start of the season back again, should be considered equally.

“One thing the players have probably done is by saying, ‘We want to play,’ then what people might do is slow down because we’re learning more about the virus every day, and let’s wait and look at every possible option since they want to play,” Brown said. “I think that’s what everybody is looking at right now; let’s take a deep breath, let’s make sure they’re safe and then let’s look at options. Is it safe to start when we want to? Do we move it back a little bit, or do we move to spring? We’re so splintered; it seems to me we’d all be better if we were on the same page, but hopefully we’re getting there.”

North Carolina has not had a positive COVID-19 test in more than a month, a number that supports the sentiment of high-profile coaches Jim Harbaugh (Michigan) and Ryan Day (Ohio State) who are arguing that players are safer on campus.

Of recent myocarditis (swelling of the heart) concerns related to COVID-19 cases, Brown noted any positive coronavirus tests result in players being sent for a complete EKG and heart checkup after quarantine before they can be cleared to practice.

Wolfe told SBD that the ACC — or any conference — would need to accept a level of risk.

“You have to feel some level of comfortable playing in a non-zero risk environment,” Wolfe told SBD. “You can’t tell me that running onto a football field is supposed to be a zero-risk environment. Look at all of the regular sporting injuries that we accept as a certain level of risk as part and parcel of football. Now the reality is that we have to accept a little bit of COVID risk to be a part of that.”

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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