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Georgia football players challenging students to help ensure there’s a 2020 season
Every Georgia player that has spoken to the media this week has reiterated how safe they feel in the football facility. Kirby Smart revealed the players are the ones policing social distancing and safety matters when it comes to the team.
The Georgia football players very much want to play. To this point, they’ve done everything they can to help ensure a season. Georgia hasn’t publicly released any data on how many football players have tested positive for COVID-19, but Georgia players, whether it be Jamaree Salyer or Kearis Jackson have made it very clear how important it is that they take proper protocols so that Georgia can play Arkansas on Sept. 26.
“Everybody in this building has done a great job making sure everyone has been wearing their mask, washing their hands,” Jackson said. “As long as we do our job, hopefully, we can have a season.”
The members of the Georgia football team will likely continue to do the right things because they understand what’s at stake. They’ve already seen friends —such as former Georgia quarterback Justin Fields — have their season got wiped away. They don’t want to suffer the same fate.
The problem for the players, the SEC and college football at large is that the next step is out of their control. As students return to campus and classes start, the attention will shift to how the student body goes about handling the virus.
Georgia’s students are about to come into focus, with classes starting today. Those very same students, whether it be a freshman just getting started or a senior who just needs a few more credit hours, control whether or not there will be a college football season.
The players seem to understand this pretty well. The coaches do too. That’s why you’ve probably seen a number of social media posts with either Smart or basketball coach Tom Crean imploring students to wear a mask and practice proper social distancing techniques.
— UGA (@universityofga) August 19, 2020
Some members of the Georgia football team have gone a step farther in pushing for proper safety in the Georgia community.
“I just want to challenge the student body and challenge my peers to wear their face mask, just like we all will be wearing ours in class.” Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean said.
Dean wasn’t alone in publicly asking for his classmates to make the necessary sacrifices to ensure a safer campus and environment.
“We have to get on the student body as well to wear their mask and wash their hands,” Jackson said. “Because if we do our job and the student body does their job, making sure we’re staying safe and practicing social distancing, we’ll have a season.
“But if we don’t do that, we don’t have a season.”
One only has to look at schools like Notre Dame or North Carolina to see how quickly things can turn on campus and the ramifications it has on athletics programs. Notre Dame has reported 222 active cases, while North Carolina has 135. Because of the spikes, both institutions have gone to online learning, while also pausing football practices.
If things aren’t taken seriously, the University of Georgia will experience something similar.
In announcing the stadium seating plans for the 2020 season, Georgia plans to have 3,000 students in the stands for games. The school is planning between 18,000 and 23,000 total fans this season.
In a time when many professional teams aren’t allowing fans — the Atlanta Falcons won’t have any fans at their Septemeber home games as of now — the school recognized it was important to have students at Sanford Stadium. The leaders know how important a student’s presence is to Sanford Stadium.
“It was important to us early on that we maintain the student section, and [the student] footprint was not affected,” Georgia senior deputy athletic director Josh Brooks said. “We actually increased the students’ footprint slightly.”
The players understand that and want them there. They also happen to know that it will be up to the students on if anyone gets to see a game inside Sanford Stadium.
“If you want to see the Dawgs in uniform and in Sanford Stadium this year, the student body, even us being leaders and wearing our masks, just be smart about the situation,” Jackson said.
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