With talk of the potential cancelation of the 2020 college football season swirling, Scott Satterfield talked with members of the press via teleconference Monday afternoon, and delivered some of the most passionate soundbites we’ve heard over his 20 months as the head coach of the Cardinal football program.
You can see the full video of Satterfield’s presser here, or check out the transcript below:
Q: It looks as if the Big Ten may have canceled its football season. With so much going on, how do you navigate this with your guys?
SATTERFIELD: It probably goes without saying this has probably been the most challenging, well, I could say year, I’ve ever been a part of and I think for most everybody out there it has been, particularly our young people. The reason we’re doing what we do in athletics is for these guys, these 18 to 22-year-olds, and it’s been extremely difficult for them, just emotionally. I think just the mental anguish these guys have gone through these last few months is the hardest thing we’re doing.
Obviously, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and virus concerns, but for us the mental anguish has been the hardest thing for us to maneuver. Our medical people around here have done an outstanding job, from the top to the bottom, with our protocols and the things we’re doing for our guys. And our guys feel safe here, they’ve stated that, they’ve put that out there. But at the same time the mental part of it still plays with their head.
So what happened this weekend, the MAC cancelled on Saturday, we get off the field practicing and guys are seeing that. All of a sudden now, we had a great practice and all of a sudden now it’s a downer — you’re coming down off that because a league has said they’re cancelling and rumors of another league, the Big Ten. So we’re having to maneuver and deal with those things. We’ve had a lot of conversations around here with these guys.
We are very transparent, very up front and very honest in this program. I treat these guys just as I do my own kids and I want them to know the things I know because we are all in this together. We don’t just say that, it’s not a hashtag, we literally are in this together and the unknown has been the things that has really played with all of us mentally and that’s the hardest thing. So we try to support each other, try to stay in the moment like we always do, control the things we can control, which is all the protocols we put into place. So that’s kind of where we are with it, but it’s very challenging right now.
Q: Did you think about maybe holding off today and not practicing until something became clear?
SATTERFIELD: We talk about a lot of things. Yesterday was a day off for us, so we had a conversation about should we even go out today and we felt we should move forward with it. We had a conversation with our team this morning. We actually had a light day today, went out and really had some fun today. We were out in the elements today so it wasn’t a very taxing day at all. We were out there an hour 45-50 minutes.
Those things come into play. What we have on our schedule right now is Sept. 12. We’re a long way out, so we have flexibility and room within our practice schedule to where we don’t have to go out there and grind every single day. We’ve got a bunch of days built in for those guys to get off their feet and relax. But we all know that the elephant in the room is, are we playing, are we going to have a season. And I think that’s the thing that’s weighing on everybody’s mind right now.
What we understand is the ACC is moving forward and we’re relying on our medical group at the ACC, and what they’re are projecting to us is that we’re moving forward with everything. So that’s where we are today. We know how things change and how fluid it is, but that’s where we are. We’d love to get something definitive for our mental state, but our guys want to play, they’ve voiced that a lot. They put that out there on social media and they told that to us as coaches.
Q: How confident are you that the season will actually happen?
SATTERFIELD: I have no idea. I haven’t known the last five months whether we’re going to play or not. We choose to live in a positive mindset, and that is, we’re going to play. That’s why we’re doing all the things we’re doing, that’s why we’ve had no cases in our program because the guys are doing things right. They’re coming over here and they have purpose in their lives right now. They know to come over here and they’re practicing, they’re meeting, they’re lifting, they’re running, they’re doing all those things. They don’t want to jeopardize all that, so when they leave here they’re doing the right things and that’s all we can do. It gives them purpose.
In my opinion, if they end up opting out of this fall, what are our guys going to do? What’s going to be their purpose at that point? These guys have been playing football most of their lives and we’re in the fall and in the fall we play football, that’s what we do. So what are we going to do at that point? We have all these protocols, we’re testing, we’re doing all these things to prevent any spread of this virus. But they’re 18-22-year-olds. Do we think they’re just going to sit in their room 24 hours a day? It’s not going to happen, that’s the reality of it.
(Football) gives them purpose, it gives them structure and it enables them to stay safe. Yes, football is a contact sport, but if the teams we’re playing are doing the same things we’re doing, then we feel like it’s going to be a safe environment for them to go out there and play. Also, on that side, it takes that mental anguish we’ve been going through, it gets pushed aside and now we do have focus, we do have purpose and we’re able to somewhat go through a normal ball and try to get some ball in.
Q: In your opinion, would it be best to make a final determination on the season after regular students come back to campus and you see how the virus reacts to that setting?
SATTERFIELD: I thought that’s what we were doing. Everybody kind of pushed the season back a little bit and we’re starting practices and students are going to start coming on campuses in the next weeks and some have already started that this past weekend. I’m sure across the country students are starting that same transition of moving on campus. I thought that’s what we were doing.
Some of the leadership in some of these leagues, to me, are lacking in the fact that when we set a plan and said this is what we’re moving forward with, let’s stick to it, until we don’t need to stick to it anymore. That’s the frustrating part. We’re playing with these 18-22-year-olds’ minds by some of these leagues doing these things, this yo-yo, saying we’re going to do one thing one day and two days later tell them we’re going to do this right here. That’s not leadership. We had months to plan out how we’re going to come back, how we’re going to do this, and we’ve been doing it.
Our kids have been doing it here, at a very high standard, and that’s why we’ve been successful in our program. That’s why the mental part is weighing on us way more than anything else that’s going on in the world. We need leadership to stand up, say here’s our plan, here’s what we’re doing, and let’s move forward with it. And when that happens, then these guys can mentally be in a great place. I’ve been saying this for 3 or 4 months, the mental side of this has been worse than the virus — for the ones we are dealing with. In our group. I’m not saying that for elderly or any other group. I’m talking about our group. And that’s been frustrating for us, because we’ve done everything that everybody has asked us to do.
All the medical advice we’ve been adamant about ... and our kids are doing it because they want to play, and they’re sticking to it and it’s paid off and it’s worked out. And all of a sudden, we get negative talk coming in here this weekend, and again, it’s hurtful, actually. It really is. We had players crying this morning in our meetings. They’re crying, because they want to play. ‘Coach, we’ve done everything we’re supposed to do. What’s this talk about these leagues? What’s that going to do to us?’ And other people don’t have to see that. We’re dealing with this on a daily basis, and we have to tell this senior that, I don’t know, right now we’re moving forward.
Q: There’s an idea that maybe you guys could potentially play in the spring and then play another season next fall if there’s no football in the fall. At this point, knowing what you know, does that make any sense in your mind?
SATTERFIELD: I really haven’t thought about that. I’m really trying to focus on this fall plan and doing everything we can right now to play ball. There’s a lot of things that would have to happen if we’re going to move into that model, there’s so many tentacles off of that. I really don’t want to go down that road unless we have to go down that road. As we are right now, we’re focused on doing the things we need to do to play this fall. That’s where we’re focused. If you lose your focus and start thinking about other things, then we’re going to screw this thing up right now. I think it would be extremely difficult for that to happen, a lot of logistics would have to happen, so we’ll have to cross that bridge if and when we have to.
Q: The mental challenge, how much more difficult is it because you have some high expectations?
SATTERFIELD: That’s part of it but I don’t think it’s the whole reason. I think these guys just enjoy playing football. They enjoy the camaraderie with each other. As I mentioned earlier these guys have been playing football a long time in their lives, and when fall comes around, that’s what you do. It’s just a routine. For football players, it’s gotten them to this point in their lives. We all have adversity and we all fight through things. When you started playing football, at whatever age that was, there was risk. We all knew there was risk when we started putting the helmets on and playing football. Every year there’s risk, whether it be heat stroke or having an injury that could debilitate me for the rest of my life. We knew that when we signed up for football. We all live in a world where there’s risk every day. Take the virus out of it, there’s risk every day for all of us. So, we all weigh that risk. And that’s where we all are. So now there’s something else, and the virus.
To speak to your point about the spring, we don’t know what’s going to happen in the spring. We don’t know what’s going to happen next year. Two years from now, with this. Is the vaccine going to work when we get a vaccine, or is it not? You talk about the flu, people are still dying from the flu and they have every year. So it seems like we’re going to have to maneuver no matter what, and they keep pushing that down the road and to me, that’s just not the way we need to be going.
Q: Have you had conversations with your administration in the past 24 hours and if so have you gotten any guidance on the situation and where it stands?
SATTERFIELD: I have. I talk to them all the time. And we have a great relationship. Again, we’re all tied to this thing together and we have constant communication. And as I said earlier, the latest I’ve heard this morning is that the ACC is moving forward, no matter what any other conference does, Big Ten, Pac-12, we’re moving forward. And it’s because of the advice we’re getting from our Medical Advisory Board. They’re saying that we’re OK to keep pushing forward. Our presidents are OK to push forward. And that’s what we’re going to do until we hear otherwise.
Q: What do you think happened in the last three days to change the direction of the season happening? Do you have any indication of what happened?
SATTERFIELD: Well, I don’t. Again, I’ll go back to what I mentioned earlier, and it’s lack of leadership. And, you know, how do you put a plan together for months? We all were in our house for three months. Plenty of time to put a plan together. And when you put a plan together, then you work your plan. So, you plan your work, and you work your plan. That’s what we do as football coaches, that’s what we do as leaders. Well, you have lack of leaders, then you plan it out and then you say, ‘Oh well, we can’t do that we got to just shut the whole thing now.’ That’s a lack of leadership, in my opinion.
So you plan to work, and then you make slight adjustments when you need to make adjustments. And you make those adjustments and then you keep moving forward.
The very easiest thing to do is to say, we’re shutting down. That’s the easiest thing to do. ‘Hey guys, we’re shutting this thing down. We’re not doing it, we can’t do it, it’s too hard.’ That’s the very easiest thing to do. If I’m a football player and I came out and, ‘It’s hard and coach is he’s yelling at me, I got to lift weights, I got to do all these things, I’m just going to quit. I can’t do it’. Or am I just going to continue to fight, am I going to continue to learn? I’m going adjust when I to need to adjust and then I’m going to get to the to the other side.
Again, and I’ll say this, we don’t know how long we’re going to have to live with this virus. I would anticipate for probably the rest of our lives. We’re going to have to deal with it, we’re going to have to maneuver. We got to do some protocols and some different things that we did in the past. And that’s what we’re doing. And we’re moving forward with it. And so, you know, when we told our players, ‘Man listen, if you don’t feel comfortable. If you have an underlying health deal, and our staff, if there’s something that you have you don’t feel comfortable. Don’t come here, we’ll still pay for your scholarship, we’ll still take care of you. But, if you don’t feel good about being here, don’t be here - go home.’
And so our guys want to be here. Our guys want to want to coach. Our guys want to play. And so we’re maneuvering through it because of all the great protocols that we put in place
Q: What are your thoughts on the ‘We Want To Play’ movement and do you support players if they want to unionize?
SATTERFIELD: Well, you know, we all know the power that the players have. Their voice has really, in the last, I want to say four or five years and we all know this year it has really come out strong with a lot of things that they want to try to get out there on the table, and a lot of them are great things. If they do want to play, I think now’s the time to put it out there, when you know these presidents and leadership groups are making decisions about them in their future. And, so, again, I’ve always supported our guys. If they feel strongly about something they need express their views. And, one of the things we met yesterday with our leadership group and ‘coach we want to play, what do we need to do and well, you know, try to get the word out there.’ I didn’t even realize that nationally that was kind of gaining momentum anyway. And then they kind of just jumped on that and kind of joined in that movement of we want to play and so I encourage it.
And so, hopefully, we can continue to do what we’ve been doing in a very smart manner, being as safe as we possibly can be, taking care of our guys. Guys that don’t want to play, opt out. The guys that do, and will continue on this path, and hopefully we’ll get to a point were we actually can play some ball.
We see what the NFL is doing. I hope they are able to continue on and do the things that they can do, and start playing games. But, we’ll see how we are. But, I think for us, we’re going to continue to move forward. Hopefully start playing ball and if something else happens they come back and say we can’t, then we’ll adjust and obviously do what we need to do at that point.