On Saint Francis’ isolated campus on top of a mountain in Loretto, 33 basketball players pretty much have the place all to themselves for much of the day.
The 19 men’s players and 14 women’s players are the only students on campus. Everyone else is at home.
But these students don’t get to go home. They have to stay there, all by themselves, so that the school can field two basketball teams this winter.
The adults on campus — the basketball coaches, administration and university staff such as dining and maintenance — they all get to go home and see their families every day.
Not the basketball players.
Saint Francis isn’t alone. This is the case at many Division I college basketball schools around the country.
It’s perhaps as tough at Saint Francis as anywhere else, though, because the campus is so isolated.
Those 33 basketball players truly are living in a different world.
Red Flash men’s coach Rob Krimmel nailed it during a passionate three-minute rant Monday about the sacrifices college basketball players are having to make just so the sport can go on during the coronavirus pandemic.
For some context, Krimmel had been asked earlier about how his life has been affected by all this, in light of Penn State football coach James Franklin having to be away from his family for months.
“I saw the story on Coach Franklin, and I couldn’t imagine what … My family’s 20 minutes from me. And for him to have his family hours away, going through a situation right now where, I know that my family, when you leave the office, that’s my strength.
“The one thing, though, in all of this — and I told the staff this — at no point does your family need to take a backseat to all of this. For example, yesterday, my youngest had a basketball game. So I took him to that, I sat in the stands and, did the whole social distancing thing, was masked up. … And tonight after practice, I’m gonna go to my oldest’s basketball game. I’m gonna do the things that put me in a position to be as safe as possible so I don’t jeopardize the other 19 players and coaches. But my No. 1 role and responsibility is to be a father and a husband.”
Anyone who knows Krimmel knows all of that to be the case.
His words, however, make it hit home even harder just how awful all of this is on the college student-athletes.
They don’t get to go home and be with their families or have any kind of normal lives.
Sadly and ridiculously, they exist right now, in this awful year of 2020, for one reason: To keep the wheels turning on the massive money-making machine of college athletics.
Krimmel offered up some tremendous perspective when that subject came up Monday. You can watch it all in the video above, and here’s the text of it:
“When you look at what’s going on right now — I’m just speaking strictly basketball, and by no means am I saying what’s going on in another part of life is any less important or more important — I’m just talking about what these guys have to do in order to have a season, and the sacrifices that they’re making.
“I just told you, I’m going to my son’s basketball game tonight. I’m going to go watch him play. But you have a kid from Ohio and Virginia and Maryland, and what they do after practice? We practice it one o’clock today. And from 1 to 3, they’re great. We’re gonna watch film afterwards, we’ll have food delivered in in prepackaged stuff. And then after that, they have to go sit in there dorm. I know that our guys are around each other and they’re spending time you know with each other, but they’re basically going to go hang out in a dorm room. And not go places for fear of getting the coronavirus.
“So that outlet that I have is my family, right. The outlet that these kids have is minimal. Because I know that they’re feeling the pressure with the masks, and they don’t want to be the ones that test positive that prevents us from going to Mount St. Mary’s or Virginia.
“We were tested this morning,” he later added, “and now we’re all sitting on pins and needles, hoping and praying we get negative results. … For the next three four hours, we’re all wondering, are we playing tomorrow? So now we got to go down and we got guys that are wondering if we’re gonna play, but we got to get them focused in for two hours of practice.”
Then Krimmel, who was on a roll, made sure to hammer home the point of why all this is happening.
“I feel for these kids right now because college basketball right now there’s so much pressure on college basketball and college basketball programs and kids and everybody,” he said. “Everybody knows why. It’s because of March Madness. It’s because of the money. And that’s the thing, what these kids are doing and then the sacrifices they’re making, it’s about money.
“And I just hope that when people make decisions that they understand you got some kids right now that they’re doing great things. And I know that they’re thankful to play. They are extremely grateful to be able to come up. I’m speaking for all 19 of our kids. But golly, this isn’t easy for them either. And I’m sure that they’re they’re struggling just as much as I am just as much as coach Coach Franklin is, because of different reasons.”