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Retired football coaches in SWFL believe teams will find a way to play in fall

Like everything else related to the coronavirus, the world of college sports is divided. Of the Power Five conferences, two say it’s not safe to play in the fall. Three say it is.

We spoke to two former coaches in Southwest Florida who have instructed from the high school to professional level. They both believe college football teams should find a way to play in the fall, while ensuring player safety.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences decided to shut down fall sports, and it got everybody’s attention.

Mike Westhoff, who coached in the NFL and retired in Lee County, told us these uncertain times call for creative solutions, solutions that allow athletes to play.

“I talked to an SEC coach the other day,” Westhoff said. “We had this very discussion. What if they created an SEC bubble … or an ACC bubble?”

Westhoff’s brainstorm idea would involve a place where teams went to specific locations as well as school online.

“It’s probably possible,” Westhoff said. “It could get extremely expensive … But, yet, at the same time, the money that you lose from not having a college season is off the charts.”

We asked other local folks about their opinion of sports this fall.

“We’re dealing with the beast,” said Rodelin Anthony said. “I mean, you can’t social distance in sports.”

Anthony, a former Immokalee High School coach and collegiate athlete, is glad the SEC, ACC and Big 12 still plan to play in the fall.

“we create a formula so we can make sure our younger kids are safe,” Anthony said.

The SEC, ACC and Big 12 conference commissioners say they trust the medical advice they are getting and the protocols they have in place to keep players safe.

With the SEC and ACC still expecting to play in the fall, that means the Gators, Seminoles and Hurricanes are a go.

When UF will play its first game is still to be announced.

Miami plans to kick off its season Thursday, Sept. 10, and FSU plans to get underway Saturday, Sept 12.

But a big question still remains: How can those conferences say it’s safe to play, but the Big Ten and Pac-12 say it’s not?

“Everyone is scared to push the start button in order for us to fix the problems,” Anthony said. “Somebody has to go in there and get their hands dirty.”

Both Westhoff and Anthny believe there’s a safe way to get players on the field.

“As a parent, I want it to the outmost safe safety standards for my young kids,” Anthony said.

“I would hope they could find a way, and I think some of them will,” Westhoff said.

Reporter:Melinda Lee
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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