When the Big Ten Conference canceled fall sports Tuesday, Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck was publicly quiet.
Other conference coaches conveyed their opinions, including Nebraska issuing a joint statement from football coach Scott Frost, school President Ted Carter and Chancellor Ronnie Green about how “very disappointed” they were in the decision.
While others voiced their support for the decision, Fleck turned to his players. He’s now a third of the way through speaking to each member of his team, he said, having asked them all, “What do you think about the Big Ten’s decision?”
“Every player has said the Big Ten made the right decision,” Fleck said in a video news conference Friday. “Were they disappointed that they didn’t play? Sure, everybody wants to play.” But the players, he said, felt it was the right choice to keep them healthy.
Gophers wildcat quarterback Seth Green echoed Fleck’s conclusion.
“All of the players that I know, we were very excited to play in the fall and all of that,” Green said. “But at the end of the day, we know the decision was made based off of our safety and health.
“ … With all the question marks that still are out there, I think they made the most educated and practical decision they could, whether it was pushing it back or whatever that may be.”
Communication is how Fleck plans to lead the Gophers through this new purgatory. The team had only just learned of the revamped 2020 schedule and started training camp last week. A few days later, the Big Ten and Pac-12 called off their seasons with only distant hopes and no concrete plans of playing a makeup version in the spring.
Fleck wasn’t forthcoming about his views on playing in the spring, though he did say in April his main concern was the toll it would take on the players having two seasons in a calendar year.
He added Friday, “there’s a lot of things out there that are very creative, that are exciting, but it’s got to pass a lot of protocols.” He also was noncommittal about the recruiting effect, as there’s still a moratorium on visits.
The coach is still emphasizing how his players should focus on the present, not dwell on the past’s unchangeable cancellations or stew about the future’s unknowns, such as whether the NCAA will preserve eligibility. All they can do is prepare for a season that will, at some point, happen.
“We’re listening to the medical staff. We’re communicating with each other every day and forming how the Gophers are going to do this,” Fleck said. “Just because other people are doing things doesn’t mean it’s right for us. … Even right now, we’re not doing as much as everybody else. But we’re doing what we feel is the best thing to do to get through this.”