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Staff file photo by C.B. Schmelter / UTC football coach Rusty Wright has an abundance of questions if commissioners of college conferences elect to have a spring 2021 season due to current coronavirus concerns.

Should conference commissioners start opting for a spring 2021 college football season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, whoever has the task of explaining such a plan to second-year University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach Rusty Wright might need to budget some time.

Forget hours. We're talking days or even weeks.

"You would be opening up a bunch of different questions I would have," Wright said. "Will there be eight games or 11 games or six games? I don't think the time frame would allow you to play a full season. Are we still going to be going through this with the coronavirus? Are we still going to be testing our players every week?

"You're not going to have spring practice at that point, so do you give them a few days off and then go straight into summer workouts to get ready for the next season?"

Wright's queries concerning spring football stretch to infinity and beyond and then some, and he reels them off without pausing.

"When are we going to have signing day?" he continued. "If you happen to get a transfer in January, can he play right away?"

Spring football is widely viewed as a "last resort" by college administrators and coaches, but three conferences at UTC's Football Championship Subdivision level — the Ivy League, Patriot League and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference — already have announced the cancellations of all their fall sports. The MEAC revealed its decision Thursday afternoon.

The Southeastern Conference earlier this week brought all 14 of its athletic directors to the league office in Birmingham, Alabama, to discuss various options for the journey ahead. The Big Ten and Pac-12 announced earlier this month that they would play only conference games this fall, but the SEC, Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 12 are waiting a bit longer before revealing their plans.

Sports Illustrated reported that SEC officials left this week's gathering "vehemently" against a spring football season, but there have been those across the country who expressed support for the concept.

"I think we need to be prepared to do it, and I think it should be viewed as a viable option," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick told ESPN. "We're going to learn so much from the NBA and NHL and Major League Baseball in the next few weeks. If, for example, those efforts go poorly, it's probably going to be a really critical data point for us, and we'll argue for a delay.

"If that occurs, I think you've got to be open to the spring."

The biggest drawback to a spring football season would be the likelihood of top junior players electing to sit out and focus on their looming NFL careers. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields would be the most recognizable names to face such a decision, and the SEC would be impacted significantly as well with junior talents such as Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle and cornerback Patrick Surtain II, LSU receiver Ja'Marr Chase and Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.

Yet, as Wright can attest, there are concerns throughout the college football ranks.

"We can throw all this stuff out right now," Wright said, "but somebody has to truly think about it when it comes to actually doing it."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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