“We want to play,” Illini unite amid uncertain future

Sports

(WCIA) — College football is on the brink of coming to an end, several reports have indicated Big Ten will be canceling fall sports. Amid growing uncertainty, several Illinois football players and athletes around the country have united under the widespread #WeWantToPlay movement.

The player-led social media movement encompassed all Power Five conferences. Not only are they advocating for a football season this fall, but athletes want to see universal health and safety protocols among all conferences in the NCAA.

“Our players give feedback always,” says Illinois head coach Lovie Smith. “Think about college guys, they have opinions about everything, and I encourage it, and I listen to it.”

“Everyone can voice their opinions,” says senior offensive lineman Doug Kramer. “Every team meeting that we have, we finish that off with if anybody’s got any concerns you can ask questions right now, if you don’t feel comfortable with talking in front of the group, you can contact Coach Smith.”

As of July 30th, Illini Athletics reported 23 positive cases of COVID-19 among all student-athletes and coaches that returned to campus. Even though the Illini feel safe getting on the field this season, the decisions are being driven by the presidents of Big Ten universities. Smith indicated that coaches in the league aren’t involved with the decisions, but he’s made it clear to Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman, and what he wants to see happen this year.

“I want to play, they want to play,” says Smith. “Eventually we’re going to have football, so we’re going to embrace that time whenever it comes. Right now, no one has told us we’re not playing right now, so we’re looking forward to that opening game, and if things change, and they say it’s the spring, we’ll look forward to the spring.”

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