Jeff Long and the Kansas Athletic Department have created a long list of bad decisions and PR blunders in Long's short time in Lawrence. What may take place Saturday would not only be the latest, but quite possibly the most irresponsible and unforgivable.
Yesterday, Long announced that Les Miles, who was notified of a positive COVID-19 test just one week ago today, hopes to be on the sidelines in two days, coaching against West Virginia.
"Coach Miles is doing well. His symptoms have been minor. He’s upbeat, he’s strong, he’s ready to get back and we believe he has a chance to come back to be part of the game this weekend," Long said. On October 8th, the day of Miles' positive test, Long said he already anticipated Miles would be coaching the game.
Current CDC guidelines recommend that individuals remain isolated for ten days after a positive test when symptoms are minor, as Miles' are reported to be. The exact timeline is somewhat unclear, but since KU's testing days are Sunday, Tuesday and Friday, it seems likely that Miles' positive test date was Tuesday, October 6. If that's the case, his final day of isolation would in fact be tomorrow, which would make it "safe" for him to coach Saturday.
However, the game is a noon kickoff, so Miles will certainly be travelling, and interacting with numerous people prior to Saturday as part of pregame preparation. It's great that Miles, 66, was fortunate enough to have only a mild case. However, is it worth the risk to have a man still recovering around players and staff right as the isolation window is expiring, and possibly slightly before? What type of message does the KU Athletic Department send by pushing the envelope on the timeline in order to get Miles on the sideline for this game?
The message is one we've consistently seen around college football since this bizarre season began: the pandemic simply isn't a concern to them. At the very least, it's far less of a concern than maintaining the appearance that all is well and that the season is running smoothly and safely.
Every week so far this fall, games have been postponed due to COVID outbreaks. Just this week, Florida announced a widespread outbreak and Nick Saban tested positive at Alabama. Baylor had 28 active cases as of Monday. The players, as always, aren't even getting paid for the risk they're taking by pushing through the season. Yes, Miles' isolation period may technically be over just in time for him to coach, but why are we pushing the boundaries on this? Why are we erring on the side of "nothing to see here, everything is fine" instead of caution?
We've seen it throughout the sports world this year, perhaps most egregiously college football. This was a chance for Miles, Long, and the University of Kansas to show they're acting in an abundance of caution.
Instead, they've made it abundantly clear that they're part of the problem.