Would SEC Players Actually Sue Over COVID?

30Duck Editorials 58 Comments

This has been an amazing week of contributed articles by Fishduck readers! We thank Haywarduck, PittDuck, BigDucksFan and now 30Duck for the wonderful Ponder-Points for us all to discuss. Everyone is invited to contribute as the water is fine for all Ducks! Charles Fischer

The Pac-12 and Big 10 have postponed their football seasons, but, really, who are they kidding? The 2020 football season is canceled, along with basketball, until 2021 at the earliest. “Postponed” is just a way for the conferences to assuage the fans that the reality that sports aren’t going to be back until at least 2021.

The optics of playing football this fall don’t work in the Pac-12, let alone in California. The Big 10 sees it the same way, including even blue blood Ohio State. Yes, some of the players have said they want to play, but the conference is standing firm. As long as students are not allowed back on campus, the players won’t be either.

But, it isn’t that clear in the SEC. There’s no sending out well-intentioned (“postponed”) messages to fans. The football season is proceeding as scheduled, and it’s going to take more than a global pandemic to stop Roll Tide.

Tiger TV Video

How WOULD SEC fans feel about players suing their Alma Mater?

If Oregon or Washington played football this season, and one of the players contracted a debilitating condition, or even worse, died from COVID-19, the ensuing lawsuit would be swift and devastating to the affected university. I also believe the fan bases of both teams would support that lawsuit.

But, what would happen at Alabama? If a Tide player died I can envision the tears running down the faces of the fans as they console the player’s family, assuring them the fallen player will be remembered forever in Alabama lore. I have a much harder time seeing the player’s family bringing a lawsuit against the University. Shared pain is one thing. All the other fans would undoubtedly come together and ensure the player’s family knew they were all there for them. But, “You’re suing Nick Saban? You’re trying to take millions of dollars from the football team, for yourself?”

That’s different.

The situation could be similar at LSU, Auburn, Georgia, Florida, etc. Would players and families affected by exposure to COVID-19 through SEC football sue their University in any of these football-crazed environments?

That is quite a Ponder-Point…

Portland, Oregon
Top Photo by Sidelines-Bama Twitter

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David Marsh

The fan bases in the SEC would throw a wobbler if there wasn’t football. Football is an imperative in the south (this includes Big-12 and SEC) and its even true for parts of the B1G but there is an understanding that it isn’t safe right now. Don’t forget that Nebraska was initially looking at seeing if they could jump out of the B1G this year and join some other conference to play.

I know there is some college football being played today… but I’m not watching. Mostly because if Oregon isn’t playing I am finding it difficult to care. Especially with a season that is all about propping up the institutions rather than what is strictly safe for the players.


COVID hasn’t changed that metric, David. College bball and fball props up institutions, period. These sports in particular draw fans and potential students’ interest and support, and it pays the bills. What a “strictly safe” condition is for players…is to not play these games. They are dangerous. (I personally know this.) Don’t you agree?

I apologize if I keep going back to my overriding point. Playing organized sports in any situation, COVID or not, is voluntary. Advise athletes of the risks and if they still want to play…let ’em get after it.


As an added thought…about 30 years ago I ran into Bill Walton at a Ralph’s Market in San Diego. He was with his two sons. And he could BARELY walk. I asked him if he regretted playing all that bball which almost took his foot. He said, without hesitation, that he would do it all over again in a split second and without concern. That is the draw of playing sports!


But the difference in this issue this year in the PAC 12 and BIG is that the players ‘united’ and basically told the leagues they would sit out if their demands were not met, or if they played ‘unsafely’; literally a ‘shot across the bow’ of warning, greasing the skids towards lawsuits, even if they played. After these, I believe the PAC and BIG had no choice but to not play until daily testing / vaccine could be utilized.

This did not happen in the SEC / ACC / #2 Big. The new PAC agreement on daily testing is a big step, but the shot across the bow from the athletes still remains.

Mike West

Where do you think this leads Doneal?

What at college sports going to look like the next two years?


Mike. I could hypothesize, deduce, even guess, but, in truth, I am not sure. What comes to mind first is that sports to me has always been, and in ‘my world’ should be an escape from the tumultuous ‘real world’. When sports, and especially ‘my team’ becomes embroiled in the tumultuous world, it loses some of it’s profound draw. If this happens, the fans, especially here on the west coast, may care even less, and the money which everyone wants to fight over may not even be available in such amounts in the future.

Mike West

Amen to that.

I can’t predict it either, but I’m not feeling very positive about it.


I don’t feel positive about it either.

Jon Joseph

SEC is suggesting a 53 healthy player roster for a team to play ball. This includes X numbers at Y position; for example, 7 OL guys.


Things can get complicated quickly. Only 1 QB is required and if thats what your team is playing with guess who has the large target on his back. Knock him out and it’s game over. Even if you have to take a 15 yard penalty and one player kicked out of the game, you win.

Mike West

Tennessee is looking pretty suspect. More than thirty out due to a few with COVID, more than twenty out from contact tracing.

Sports is going to be wired for a very long time (hunt-I don’t buy that vaccine narrative. Will people get to sue once people start dying like they did after the first few HIV Vaccines?).

David Marsh

Prep the cancellations … the season will end when they can’t field a team and forced for forfeit games.


-labor laws fail to protect students from harm due to students being “students” instead of employees
-NCAA denies students to either have agency to advocate for health or collective bargain for health concerns.
-NCAA denies students the right to implement any health policy

-if a student fails to play due to health their spot is given to those who will play
-Those who control both the students health concerns and financial concerns have a large financial interest to make them play

because of these constraints, the liability of the matters should fall on the organizers of the event to bear full financial responsibility to those in their care.

In my opinion, It is the family’s obligation to pursue civil recourse for all future and immediate damages. If these were collegiate employees it would be a different matter.

Well stated. (other than punctuation)

All your reasons are why I felt that the liability risk to any football-playing school outweighs the benefit until we have cheap/accurate testing and a vaccine.


If you replace “NCAA” with “Municipal School District”, exactly the same terms apply to high school athletes. Always keep in mind that absolutely nothing prevents either a high school or college student/(athlete) to participate in sports. Participation is voluntary as are assuming the risks of any kind of injury not due to negligence.

David Marsh

However, a big difference between the two are the scholarships. If a high school player opts out of a season they can still attend school free of charge. Then the athlete can return to the team the following year without a problem, assuming they make the team. Yes, opting out of a season for some high school players might reduce their chance of being recruited for a scholarship at any level of college play. Though most high school athletes don’t make the leap from high school sports to college sports anyways.

If you choose to opt out for a season on the college level, whether or not you maintain your scholarship seems to vary. This year with COVID athletes can opt out and maintain their scholarship, which is a huge deal. Though if we look beyond just COVID, not all colleges treat someone wanting to opt out a year the same way. Especially if the intent is to return the following year.


If a 5 star quarterback or linebacker, projected to be a high pick in first round of the NFL draft gets COVID-19 and survives, but suffers from a permanent heart or lung inflammation, eliminating his ability to perform ever again?

I think the sharks will be lined up three abreast to get a piece of that action.

We are talking about a multi million$$ career derailed so a college could make millions by making a decision that keeps student athletes on campus when the powers that be decide it is unsafe for regular students!

It will be very hard for that young man whose dreams were taken away, to turn down an offer from Dewey, Stickum, & How.


You raise an interesting point on lost income. Athletes get insurance in case of injury Ifo collected, I think $3 million, on his policy to play for the Ducks. Maybe there is an insurance company that wants the action on injury cases in case they play this season.

Each university would have to pay into the insurance policy for each player. Crazy idea, but it would be another step in protecting the players.

For every risk there is an insurance company that wants to make money on the spread between those affected and and the money paid out, maybe not on this one.

Jon Joseph

How can you ignore the ‘if you don’t win, we don’t get paid,’ offer from Low, Ball + Lynch.

Mike West

What’s to say he won’t get the same “injury” in the NFL?

Not to mention, what is this going to do for high school players? You have to play in order to prove your mettle. The NFL isn’t going to pay millions on “maybes”.

Catch 22 if I ever saw one. There are maybe ten Penei Sewells in the world. I’m not gambling millions on potential. Show me the goods, or take a league minimum contract.

Looks like the future will be cloudy for hundreds of players in colleges, thousands in high school.


Anybody can sue, but the larger question is…………..in the southern part of the country where football is king can that “anybody” get a jury of their peers to agree and give them a favorable judgement.

Jon Joseph

I’m waiting on Paul Finebaum’s comment. Pawwwl, where are you man?


“Go get-em Vanderbilt”


I think the bigger question is will the Pac-12 begin sports after the daily testing program is available at the end of the month?

I have been calling for somebody in the Pac-12 or the Pac12 to put in place a cutting edge testing program for months. The amount of revenue lost as compared to the cost of a cutting edge testing program is a compelling equation. Now that the Pac-12 is doing this will the dollars begin to scream again?

I will say lawyers will sue if they don’t play, Nebraska players are, sue over concussions, and these are just the headlines. Administrators do all kinds of crazy things in pursuit of athletic dollars. Will they again, as the risk is better mitigated?


A question I have is, if the PAC-12 conference decides to have a season starting some time this fall (November?), will all 12 teams go along with this? If not, then what happens? No early season? Or an early season with, say 10 teams.


Great question Annie, the California schools may not join the fray. It looks like, right now, the Oregon schools may not either. I think both of those situations can change on a dime, or should I say, on millions.

I think the dollars will talk and as the risk is mitigated the lost opportunity ($’s) will begin to scream play the games.

It is easy to talk big and I think we are seeing the administrator begin to see the reality of no football revenue, no basketball revenue and they are beginning, I say beginning to act towards making sports happen.

What has been shocking to me, so far, is that this type of equation hasn’t happened before now. I suppose with our Pac-12 commissioner it shouldn’t be too shocking to see the inaction.


30Duck, of course someone will sue (signed releases notwithstanding). This is a litigious society. Should they? Not by a mile in my world. Should I sue the USPS if I get COVID going to the post office? Should I sue Safeway if I have to go buy some food? Should I be able to sue my neighbor if I get COVID talking to him at the back fence? No to all. I have made the CHOICE to do these things…not any negligence on the part of the USPS, Safeway, or neighbor. That’s just the way virus diseases spread. I almost died of the flu a couple of years ago in spite of getting a flu shot. Should I sue the vaccine maker? The place I likely contracted it? No, these would all be nonsense lawsuits. Or conversely, why not sue the real cause of COVID…China?!

On a side note, but related, I’m teetering on the edge of foregoing college sports completely…just as I have the professional variety. It appears that college athletes will be able to express their unique, individual political opinions on their jerseys (or pants or shoes or helmets or socks or wherever) during TEAM/university games. Well…I personally agree that they have the 1st Amendment right to free speech, but not at games. It’s much too divisive and certainly not a unifying act. FishDuck doesn’t allow it here…and for sound reasons. And for the same reason, I don’t want to have political views permeate my work space, nor my church choice. I’ll turn on professional sports again when I decide I really need to get my political fix watching football or basketball. Likely never. And this hurts me because they have been my joy and passion since playing them as a youth.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Powerful stuff, Mudslide–whew!

Your second paragraph is the subject of a future article I am working on, and you absolutely nailed my thinking.

This is what I love about this community, and especially so many of the new people commenting; they can state things better than I could have ever hoped to, and I’m grateful to see it.

Thank you Mudslide, for the observation and your regular commentary.


Good thoughts Mudslide

With the ability of a person to get the virus weeks before the symptoms show up I think it would be hard to make a case against the USPS or even Safeway. A football player might have a better chance of doing it if it’s a group out break on the team but still how can you point to a single source when there are so many.

As far as someone suing China – – – good luck with that.

College athletes being able to express their unique, individual political options on their jerseys – – – that would be a good reason to sell the TV and cut the cord.

If the player is injured enough….then yes, money is money and he and his family will sue. But they will be ostracized, and it will be a different life for them in the south.

What if….the vaccine is available in November, and the 15 minute inexpensive test is available then as well? It is quite possible the Pac-12 plays in early February in that scenario, since we can protect the players and test them every day.

Thus if a player in the Big12, SEC or ACC gets COVID and suffers some long-term consequences, it is only because those three conferences could not wait just one NCAA sports season to protect the players? I can see that closing argument already in court….

And the Pac-12 will look smart, prudent and focused on player safety. (Whisper….and liability!)


But how can you make the argument that a player got the virus on this day from this particular other player/coach when he could have gotten it from going out for pizza with his girlfriend two weeks before, or from the other students in his English 101 class ?? Thats the problem I have with the litigation thing.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

BDF….you are being very logical, and that does not work in front of a jury who is sympathetic to” the poor young man who wanted to play football, (for the benefit of all of us) and had his medical future compromised.” (Quoting an attorney presenting on a future COVID case)

See what I’m getting at? Attorneys who litigate are GOOD, and can twist any emotional component into a prime selling point for a judge or jury. “Can you prove the player did NOT get infected when he was in close contact with so many teammates and had hitting contact in practice?” “What is the higher probability of infection for this poor player who meant well?”

Perhaps you have not had much “work” with such attorneys, and my own life experiences have shaded my perspectives to become quite a realist, and cynic pertaining to legal issues.

Attorneys always win, not logic.

If you embrace the slogan above, you will be right the vast majority of the time.


My thoughts about attorneys is summed up with this:

“There was once a bus full of attorneys that drove off a cliff to their sure death and the tragic thing was there was one empty seat.”

The attorneys are the only ones that win in any litigation.


My experience, dealing with lawyers is like wrestling pigs. The pig is going to win and they will enjoy it.

Jon Joseph

There once was a small town with but a single lawyer; he was starving to death. Another lawyer moved to town and opened shop.

Lawsuits commenced. Both made bank and once a month celebrated at an upscale restaurant 100 miles from town.

Jon Joseph

What is 1.000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea called?

A good start.

Jon Joseph

Good morning from Dixie, Y’all.

Drive E on interstate 20 through Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and you will see, in addition to some beautiful country, myriad billboards advertising the services of sharks, er, lawyers.

No doubt that there are more CFB zealots down south than out west, but I have no doubt whatsoever that a player ‘injured’ by COVID, especially a player on campus when ‘regular students’ are not, will not hesitate to litigate.

Would such a plaintiff be able to overcome an ‘assumption of the risk’ defense? Is a school that provides testing 3 times a week as is the case in the SEC, negligent by allowing players to gather to practice and play? These schools are also requiring that masks beyond helmet face masks, are worn at practice. And the medical advice regarding COVID has hardly been uniform.

The SEC powers-that-be are comfortable that football players are no more at risk than other members of their age group and likely, are safer in a restricted on-campus environment. Campuses that opened and then closed due to COVID for the most part closed because young people, unsurprisingly, refused to social distance. I also note that the players in the SEC are allowed to opt out of the season with no scholarship related consequences.

In the SEC the season is not, of course, coming off as originally scheduled. 10 conference-only games to assure uniformity in safety measures and testing procedures and the season start date has been moved back to September 24th.And I would expect that there will be COVID caused roster issues. In the opening game of the 2020 season, one of the teams had no healthy long snapper on hand and it cost the team the game. I think we will see more of the same.

The NCAA has by its action and not its words, has encouraged student-athletes to play ball. Playing in 2020 will not count against a player’s eligibility.

I do not believe the SEC is wrong attempting to and likely playing in 2020. I do not believe the Pac-12 is wrong in not playing. It will be fascinating to see come January whether the Conference of Champions made the correct decision to leave multi-millions of dollars on the table?

The SEC leaders decided to accept the risk of litigation and with the safety measures for players in place I believe this was a prudent decision. However, being south of the Mason-Dixon does not mean SEC schools will not have to deal with COVID related litigation.

BTW, Utah is not playing ball this fall; BYU is playing. 2 of the teams on BYU’s schedule, Army and Navy. And Mountain West member Air Force is playing a 2 game season, versus Army and Navy.


Love the “Race For The Rose Bowl” idea, but I won’t give Larry the credit for coming up with it.

Jon Joseph

A decade + of spendthrift incompetence.

Jon Joseph

$5M+ a year, Larry don’t need no stinkin’ credit!


I have to wonder how many players can really get up for all out practices for a 2 game season.

Jon Joseph

I know, very strange. But they wanted to keep the run for the Commander In Chief Trophy going.


North Dakota State is going to play a one game season (and it’s not against the Ducks). Yea, like the players are going to put in a months worth of high energy practices for one game.

Often wonder who things this stuff up.


You raise a good point 30Duck.

In an area of the country where football is life. I don’t see a lawsuit if a player die’s from COVID-19 well attempting to play football. Keep in mind that it would be rare for a young, extremely healthy and fit player to actually die from the virus. Getting the virus is much easier but dying, rare for this category of person.

I do believe that attorneys would certainly push the parents to sue but in SEC land where football is king, not an easy persuasion. However in Pac-12 land it would be the parents searching out the attorneys, as a much different mindset regarding football exists.

Mike West


And frankly, that may spell the end of the PAC12 as a P5 conference. Out West, we just have more going on than football, and it seems clearer and clearer maybe we are just as high minded as the Ivy League schools after all.