Athletes right to sit out

Rich Fyle column

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

It’s time to check the late spring mailbag concerning various topics in the still mostly vacant sports world:

Question: The NYSPHSAA COVID-19 task force has had a couple of meetings regarding how fall sports would proceed in these uncertain times. If we see sports in the fall, how are football and soccer athletes expect to maintain social distancing when they are converging on a player who has possession of a ball?

Answer: That’s a very good question. First, athletics can’t resume until classes are in session on campus. For football and soccer, social distancing will be for people who are on the sidelines. A running back tends to attract a crowd at the 40-yard line. The task force has outlined guidelines regarding on-the-field, locker room and equipment policies keeping all safe. Players may have to wear face masks under their helmets in practices and see how they adapt. Chalk it up to another piece of equipment. To some, a mask may affect an athlete’s breathing, especially under full-scale strenuous activity. I don’t have the perfect answer to this dilemma. But I do know this — as long as the public has to wear masks to grocery and hardware stores under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mandate, it’s going to be difficult to have any type of normalcy for athletes who compete in contact and intimate sports, e.g. football and wrestling in the winter.

Question: MLB is in total disarray with owners and players fighting about money. What are prospects for a meaningful season?

Answer: At first I thought we would have at least a half-season due to the coronavirus pandemic, but now we’ll be lucky to see teams play 72 games in 2020. Commissioner Rob Manfred said last week there will be a season, but we’ll see about that with many players bitter. If we do a season — no matter how abbreviated — it will seem like a truncated spring training with a defacto World Series champion.

Question: I’m excited about Syracuse University’s basketball recruits (Benny Williams, Kadary Richmond, Woody Newton, Dior Johnson and Frank Anselem). Will they boost the program?

Answer: It’s been hit or miss in recent years for SU recruits. Johnson has the most upside at point guard. All five excelled before college, but big-time Division I hoops is a new stage. A true indicator is how they perform and act during their freshman season. Joe Girard III, a frosh last year, struggled at times but has another three years to improve. Some recruits adapt easily with little problems (look at Duke), while others fail to develop any consistency.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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