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Washington Post: Tony Franklin Says Middle Tennessee Was Lax On COVID Protocols

Tony Franklin quit his job as MTSU offensive coordinator after a long career. He wrote a goodbye letter on MEDIUM after quitting that hinted that the business of coaching football was in a bad place, and that he could not take the hypocrisy anymore.

Today, in the Washington Post there is a longer piece from Kent Babb

Some indicators of a general lack of concern about the virus.

[MTSU head coach Rick] Stockstill, though, wanted players and coaches back on campus. Franklin didn’t like it. He says he was diagnosed in his 20s with a rare form of cancer and was terrified of getting sick. He stood during a staff meeting and said defying CDC guidelines was a bad idea. He says Stockstill ignored him, and for a while, Franklin left it at that.

Later, some specific allegations of violations of the protocols.

 Franklin says Stockstill frequently handed out papers and held conversations without a face covering and sometimes got inches from players’ uncovered faces to yell instructions during practice. Lower-level staffers and players, in a sport that still too often values shows of toughness and machismo, seemed to follow the head coach’s lead, Franklin says.

Later a confrontation:

One day in July, Franklin confronted Stockstill for again not wearing a mask. The conversation became heated, Franklin says, and Stockstill threatened to fire his offensive coordinator.

“One of those things, unfortunate things, that happened,” Stockstill says. “But it was not because I wasn’t wearing a mask.”

There was an internal investigation by the university, in which Rick Stockstill was found to be largely compliant with the protocols. But the real kicker is this one:

In an interview The Post conducted independently, though, a Blue Raiders player shared Franklin’s view that, by and large, the coaching staff refused to take the virus seriously. He called this season one of the most anxious periods of his life.

Read more at the Post.

None of this is surprising given the on-field, and on-camera disregard of the rules about COVID. Coaches are a single-minded bunch, saying things out-of-turn about say, the Pentagon, when it comes to them managing their domain. That Rick Stockstill is alleged to have not taken the protocols seriously as his team worked on football is unsurprising. He says he did not violate the rules, and I do not imagine there will be much outcry when a good portion of the public is very public with their skepticism even if he did.

Middle played their season, earned some revenue, and put players lives and health at increased risk 1 for a 3-6 season.

  1. Note I write increased here. There is already risk, and the players presumably know and understand and accept it. The increased risk that comes with COVID is unknown and disputed.

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