South Carolina is losing two promising linemen this season after they opted out due to COVID-19 safety concerns.
The NCAA is requiring all member institutions to honor scholarships and give athletes an opt-out option this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and the list of athletes who won’t participate this year just keeps growing. The newest additions are Mark Fox and Jordan Rhodes, a pair of offensive linemen from the University of South Carolina.
Both players have chosen to stay home with their families because of concerns about the spread of COVID-19 according to South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp. Muschamp also said that he fully understands and supports the athletes’ decision to sit out the season.
South Carolina football will be without a pair of linemen after opting out
Rhodes was a starter on the offensive line at left guard for the Gamecocks last season after the first two games of the year. Fox was a highly sought-after recruit who redshirted in 2019. He would have competed for the first time this season as a redshirt freshman, but he will now miss his second year in a row.
Players across the SEC have expressed concerns with the conference’s flimsy COVID-19 safety plans and protocols, but only one other athlete — a graduate transfer at Vanderbilt — has opted out in addition to the South Carolina duo. The conference has already had to push back the start of the 2020 season from its original plan, delaying the start of preseason until August 17. The SEC will also play a conference-only schedule this season, which means South Carolina will not face long-time rival, Clemson.
Players from other conferences have also begun to announce their choice to opt-out. So far, the decision has been prevalent among top athletes who are anticipated to be upper-tier draft picks. Penn State’s Micah Parsons and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley, anticipated first-rounders, will both end their collegiate careers and spend 2020 preparing for the 2021 draft.
Watching how the MLB’s bubble-less season is unfolding, it seems like the smartest option for players concerned about the virus to opt-out. It’s going to be incredibly difficult for colleges or conferences to ensure player safety, and as much as we all want to see college football in a few weeks, no sport is worth catching a deadly disease.