'The world is going to need football': Lincoln Riley keeps an open mind about 2020 season

(Getty Images)

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley's typical days consist of virtual staff meetings, players meetings, recruiting and film study.  

That is not so much different than most social-distancing Americans during the continued spread of COVID-19 across the United States. 

"Every waking hour is in front of a screen," Riley said on a teleconference Tuesday. "It's the new normal. ... A lot of times you take a step back and wonder if it's real. In a lot of ways, it feels like we're living in a movie." 

Despite that, Riley is maintaining a forward-thinking and open-minded approach about when and how the 2020 college football season will be played. On March 31, six months before the first week of the season, that is the best script for now. 

"I feel like by September the world is going to need football," Riley said. "A lot of that will be determined by our country's response to this." 

MORE: 10 questions that remain unanswered without spring football

There are more than 180,000 reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of Tuesday afternoon, and that has led to speculation about whether college football will be played in 2020. That scenario gained traction after ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit's comments that he would be "shocked" if college football is played this year. Riley, who is 36-6 and has led the Sooners to three straight College Football Playoff appearances, is not thinking in those terms.  

"I haven't considered it just because that's so far out in front that I don't know that it will do me or us any good," Riley said. "There are still so many unknowns, but we do have a plan if it does happen." 

Riley knows the coaching staff should have 20 hours a week with his players and the limitations to the virtual football world. He still is looking at ahead — and June 1 is a target date that could be telling.

Riley said there are a few players still in Norman, Okla., but the first step is getting players back on campus safely.  

"The next realistic time most people are going to be looking at are the summer period and whether or not you have camps," Riley said. "Whether or not you are able to have prospects on campus. That's going to be the next realistic possibility. What we do the rest of the summer will probably hinge on how that plays out."  

MORE: Kirk Herbstreit will be 'shocked' if NFL, college football happen in 2020

Riley is flexible on a possible start date for the season and whether fans will be allowed to be in attendance. He was asked what it would be like to play Texas in the Cotton Bowl without fans.  

"It would be very, very unique," Riley said. "If that what it comes to do for games to still be able to be played and guys to still be able to play and then for our fans to connect and be a part of it virtually, that may be where we could end it."  

Riley also was open to a later start date, which would be easier than logistically than a summer season. How much preparation would a team need in order to be ready to play a regular-season game?  

"We could have 15 to 20 practices and be ready to go play, without a doubt," Riley said.   

Would that football be good enough? Riley said it would resemble spring football or early fall camp to the coaches, but most fans would still enjoy the experience.  

In that regard, Riley is right. The return of football would mean the threat of COVID-19 has been mitigated on some level. In that respect, Riley is willing to take all the necessary precautions and adjust the time frame as needed.  

By September, that might be what every needs. Riley is willing to wait longer, too.  

"I don't know that we can put on a limit," Riley said. "Football, just purely the game, can be played anytime, anywhere. I think we all have to be open-minded about it."  

Latest News

Big Ten predictions 2021: Conference standings, Heisman hopefuls and best games
Bender: Big Ten predictions - Is it the 'Big One' and 'Little 13' now?
Quinn Ewers explains decision to forgo senior high school season, join Ohio State: 'This is not just a financial decision'
Quinn Ewers explains decision to forgo senior high school season, join Ohio State
ACC predictions 2021: Conference standings, Heisman hopefuls and best games
Bender: ACC predictions - Can anyone catch Clemson?
Dabo Swinney-Nick Saban-123018-GETTY-FTR
With Texas, Oklahoma on board, SEC should target these schools next
Bender: Why SEC should entertain more expansion
Who is Quinn Ewers? Five-star QB could change NIL, Ohio State and more with decision
Bender: How Quinn Ewers could change Ohio State, NIL and more