“If the ACC decides not to play, then it’s because they didn’t feel it was safe for you,” Brown said. “And that’s good enough of a reason.”
With a number of sources sharing different information on how or if the season will be played, Brown said it is easy for players to get caught up in false reports. To avoid getting lost in translation, he wants to be sure his players are relying on news directly from the coaching staff.
“Every time we have a team meeting, we let them know what we’ve heard about the state of college football,” Brown said. “I know it can be a roller coaster when you read and hear what’s happening out there, so I told them as soon as we know something, we will let them know immediately.”
With the possibility of no college football this fall, players across the nation have united to voice their desires to return and form their equivalent of a players union. One of college football's leaders on the subject, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, helped create #WeWantToPlay on Twitter, which partnered with the #WeAreUnited movement to jointly release a statement that has been shared by players from other programs.
Although the commissioners and school administrators are expected to make the final call, Brown believes the players still carry some type of weight in this process.
“With the players saying ‘We want to play,' people might slow down because we’re learning so much about the virus every day," Brown said. "They might wait and evaluate every possible option because the players want to play so badly.”
Brown mentioned options he believes the NCAA and conferences should consider to satisfy all parties, including holding out for a spring kickoff similar to what the Pac-12 and Big Ten are reportedly trying. He believes the best way to accomplish this is through open communication among conferences and their officials.
“It seems that it would be better if we were all on the same page, but hopefully, we’re getting there,” he said.
Although many players have expressed interest in playing this fall, four UNC players have opted out of the upcoming season as of Sunday. This was the highest total for any team in the ACC. With the COVID-19 situation fluctuating by the day, Brown and his staff are taking precautions to make sure the players are not pushing their limits.
“We told the guys, don’t practice at all if you feel uncomfortable,” Brown said. “If there’s anything that you’re concerned about, tell us, and we’ll address it.”
Now a week into training camp, Brown continues to stress the importance of wearing masks and practicing social distancing when applicable, as well as remaining responsible with more students returning to campus. He tells the players that this process is not only essential for returning to competition, but also to protect those on the team who are viewed as “at-risk” by health professionals, like Beau Corrales, who has Type-1 diabetes.
“If you want to play, then you need to stay safe,” Brown said. “And secondly, if you want to be a good teammate, don’t bring the virus back to those that have tested negative and have taken care of themselves.”
UNC is currently scheduled to open its season on Sept. 12, when the Tar Heels take on Syracuse at Kenan Stadium. Despite dominoes falling and threatening that start date, Brown and his team are still working hard to be game-ready ahead of their matchup with the Orange.
“If they decide in two weeks that we aren’t going to play, practice to the best of your abilities," Brown said. "We told them, ‘Let’s use this to get better.'”
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