Utah State HC Gary Andersen Says Opting Out Is Not An Option
Not playing during a pandemic means you are not a team player?
There will be backlash.
The Mountain West is returning to playing football this fall on Oct. 24 and with the schedule out that means more coaches are talking but perhaps some of them should not.
Across college football, there have been announcements of players opting out during COVID-19. At Air Force there somewhere between 30 and 40 players using “turnbacks” and not play this year but will next year, and Wyoming is losing three projected starters and five overall.
With the NCAA giving everyone a free year it makes sense if there is a reason to opt out that these players do so and play in the fall of 2021. It can be their own health or the health of family members they regularly interact with.
The numbers are hard to exactly pin down, but mid-September there were 150 players that decided to not play and opt out. Some of returned as now every conference is playing but that should not matter regarding their decision to play or not.
Opting out should not be seen as something that is negative, well unless you are Utah State head coach Gary Andersen.
During a conference call last week with reporters, Andersen is very much against his players opting out and says there is no place for that on his team.
“At least in our program, we don’t have an opt out. And it’s not an option,” Andersen said via the Salt Lake Tribune. “If you opt out, you’re not with us.”
If you need a second to wipe off your screen from doing a spit take in disbelief or readjust your eyes we will give you a moment.
Yes, Gary Andersen said: “If you opt out, you’re not with us.”
When asked to clarify, Andersen chose not to do so, which on its own speaks volumes.
USU’s athletics department said Andersen did not feel comfortable responding to a request to clarify his comments. It confirmed no Aggies have opted out this season.
This is quite contrary to Andersen who said in a radio interview that he was concerned for safety and wanted to play seven games rather than eight.
— KSL Unrivaled (@KSLunrivaled) September 29, 2020
That statement is beyond irresponsible as it can put the health of his players in real jeopardy. Plus, his player’s families and anyone on staff who is in a high-risk category and if they get COVID-19 could have some real issues.
This is pointless as well since players who decide not to play can get an extra year of eligibility and be back next year. Also, this Utah State team is not likely to be a contender for the conference and making a run at a New Year’s Six Bowl. Even if the Aggies were to be in that position there should not be an ultimatum about playing or not.
Andersen did eventually issue an apology about his statements but to be honest, it seems reactionary to the heat he was taking. He had a chance to clarify to the Salt Lake Tribune but declined, so take this apology with a grain of salt.
Hopefully, Andersen does realize what he said was not in good taste and potentially harmful to his football players that do not feel comfortable playing this fall due to COVID-19.
I apologize to Utah State for causing the drama this morning.
If a kid wants to opt out we will support him academically and with the team.
— Scott Garrard (@ScottyGZone) October 2, 2020
Here is the full interview for more context.
Andersen should look to his East and learn from Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl is respecting the decision of whatever player decided to not play this year.
“We respect their decision,” Bohl said. “What they articulated to me was a health concern. Everybody sees COVID differently, and so we supported that decision. It’s certainly going to be different for them, and it’s going to be different for us.”
Does Andersen think players can just tough it out and avoid getting sick from something that has killed over 200,000 people and counting in America?
His thought process is flawed and something parents of players who are thinking about going to Utah State should highly consider if the coach is basically telling his players to gut it out during a once in a century pandemic or don’t bother being part of this football team.
Coach Andersen really needs to put things in perspective because this is not war or a life and death situation is he loses out on a couple of players.