University of Miami receivers coach Rob Likens told the media that Monday night’s practice, the fourth since training camp opened Friday, was “amazing’’ — perhaps because the players realize just how valuable each day with each other has become amid a COVID-19 pandemic that has put the college football season in jeopardy.
“It was like Christmas day,’’ Likens said. “That’s how much these kids just want to play football. There’s so much craziness going on in our country right now, going on in the world, and it’s like two hours of relief that they can put all of their worries and cares aside.
“We have such a close-knit group of guys. They love each other. They’re brothers and it just reminds me of being young and going out and playing backyard football, and how much fun it is. That’s how they have taken these last couple days.
“That shows you how much they love this sport. They don’t know if this practice is going to be their last.”
The 24 hours leading into Miami’s Monday practice were some of the most uncertain in college football history.
On Sunday, reports surfaced suggesting the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences were both planning to cancel the 2020 season with an announcement potentially coming as early as Tuesday. As of late Monday night, neither conference had announced a decision.
The reports — and lack of any official announcement or clarity from conference, university and NCAA leaders — prompted massive player-led backlash late Sunday and into Monday. The hashtag #WeWantToPlay trended on Twitter late into Sunday night and the grassroots movement eventually led to a 12-player video conference with representatives from every Power 5 Conference, including the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Shortly after midnight, Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields tweeted out a list of demands, including “universal mandated health & safety procedures” and for the NCAA to “ultimately create a college football players association.” Quarterback D’Eriq King quickly tweeted the image, too, as did at least half a dozen other Hurricanes.
“2020 is just a year that you stand on all your 10 toes and speak out your chest,” said fourth-year senior wide receiver Mike Harley, who said he would most likely return for another season should this one be canceled or postponed. “As you saw yesterday, a couple guys, we spoke out and it made headlines and now we’re moving something because of what the players said instead of the coaches, and the presidents and stuff like that. So, I feel we’re on a great start and it only started 24 hours ago.
“The more negativity coming out, the more the student-athletes are going to speak up for ourselves and be ready for our season coming soon.”
Harley, like so many other players across the country, feels it’s important for the season to happen because of how much their lives revolve around the sport.
“You’re not in our shoes,’’ Harley said. “You don’t know what we’re going through with family issues or you don’t know the work we put in to have this season.
“Me, I just think positive. When I hear negativity, I just block it out. I know have family members, I have friends, I have fans on Twitter saying this and that. Just keep it moving. Just stay positive.”
As for Miami’s ACC, Sports Illustrated reported the league’s athletic directors met and “are moving forward in an attempt to play.”
“It started from spring when we had four great practices,’’ running back Cam’Ron Harris said. “This pandemic stuff really ruined a lot of stuff. ... I don’t really speak about the Big Ten. I’m just worried about ACC. We’re ready to play and we don’t worry about what’s on the outside. We worry about the Miami Hurricanes.”
Harris believes it’s safer being with the team.
“We don’t want to go home,” Harris said. “I think going home is riskier than staying on campus because we have the best medical staff at Miami that is taking care of us.”