Orange Watch: Syracuse’s Kent Syverud should take charge with ACC football

Syracuse football Carrier Dome
Syracuse football from the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: Stubbornly, the ACC, SEC, and Big 12 among the Power 5 conferences, the AAC, Conference USA, and Sunbelt among the Group of 5 conferences, and three independents (Army West Point, BYU, and scheduled ‘Cuse foe Liberty) are clinging to hope of pulling off the 2020 college football season during the midst of the months-long pandemic.  With counterparts in the Big Ten and Pac-12 taking the advice of their health experts and declining the major risk of future potential medical incidents involving the well-being and safety of athletes in those programs, the decision, although painful to the players, needs to be made sooner than later.  With the balance of health and safety versus the potential loss of major revenue, it takes leadership to bring sensibility to such a major decision.

Mistakes and miscommunications are common in all industries, and that was disturbingly illustrated in national news stories this past week involving SU.

For the third time in pre-season camp, the Orange football team opted out of practicing last Friday, seeking clarification of communications regarding Covid-19 testing protocols, specifically when weekly testing would commence during camp, and how often players would be tested if the ACC season comes to fruition the week of Sept. 7 (the ACC will test three times per week).

Then this past weekend came word that the university’s admissions department blundered in inadvertently sending out dozens of emails congratulating prospective students for being accepted by the university, citing a technical glitch for the embarrassing error.

Although he was not directly responsible for either unfortunate incident, Kent Syverud oversees the work of athletic director John Wildhack and dean of admissions Maurice Harris.  When all is said and done the “buck” stops with him, that’s why he’s paid handsomely with a total compensation package close to $1,100,000 according to the most recently released IRS filings.

As the initial Chair of the Board of the revamped ACC Board of Directors and an esteemed scholar, Syverud commands, and receives, the respect of his 14 conference counterparts and soon-to-be-retired commissioner John Swofford.  His voice is loud and his colleagues pay close attention to what he advocates in all conference matters.

That’s why Syverud needs to step up and lead in regards to changing the notion that the league can forge ahead with playing the 2020 season.  That thought process directly contradicts Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s chief medical officer, and his most recent declaration several days ago that college athletics cannot move forward without proper testing protocols in place for its students.

» Related: Previewing Syracuse football’s matchup with UNC

Despite the amplified pleas of coaches, players, administrators and many parents of the athletes who have put in untold hours of hard work preparing for a football season, there are simply too many medical unknowns revolving around the ability to play a game with inherent bodily contact.

These are large college campuses without the benefit of a genuine bubble of protection employed by professional sports leagues, with a mix of the general student body and local residents in a socially conducive (non-social distancing) atmosphere, and required interstate travel to play the schedule.

In addition, and of pertinent interest to the conferences intent on playing beginning next month, the NCAA is expected Friday to announce details on eligibility if players opt out of the season or decide to redshirt.

Over the summer as teams gathered back on campus to begin football workouts, and the fluid nature of COVID-19 developments played out almost daily,  virtually every press release from the ACC or Syracuse athletic officials concerning various elements of the disease has included a sentence that reads along the lines of:  “We are committed as a top priority to doing everything possible to ensure and protect the health, safety, and well-being of our athletes, staff, the campus, and community.”

There’s no time like the present to back those words with the proper direction from conference and university leadership.

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Brad Bierman
About Brad Bierman 678 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.