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Opinion: College football won’t (and probably shouldn’t) happen this year, y’all

It might be best to cut the cord now.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 21 NC State at Georgia Tech Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The main news of the day is the NC State Athletics Dept announced today that the football teams’s season opener at Louisville will be played Wednesday, Sep. 2. This game was previously scheduled for for Thursday, September 3, 2020.

This date is being changed because the Kentucky Derby was originally planned for the end of April, that was moved due to COVID-19 and currently scheduled for the weekend starting Sep. 3.

As of now, we’re all still assuming football is happening as scheduled. In my opinion, this seems more and more unlikely. These schedule adjustments feel like going through the motions until a more formal decision comes later once some mature adults join the room.

Listen, I miss sports as much as the next person. Not having the NCAA tournament was especially brutal. The regular season had been one of the zaniest in memory, the tournament was shaping up to be even zanier since there wasn’t one heavy favorite. We won’t know if the Wolfpack would have made the tournament, and UNC is going to say their tournament streak hasn’t officially ended yet which really sucks.

The NCAA’s hand was forced into canceling the tournament after the NBA proactively canceled their season, which forced all the sports at the time to close doors. Is it now the NCAA’s turn to be proactive?

As each new story is released, I am increasingly of the opinion that college football ought to be shelved for this season. The updates keep coming in. Over the weekend, at least 30 of LSU’s 115 players have been quarantined “because they tested positive for COVID-19 or were found to have had contact with those who tested positive.”

The players themselves are beginning to speak up. At UCLA, 30 players have asked for “third-party health official” to be present for their voluntary workouts. This is a rebuke of Chip Kelly, where these players do not feel the coach has their best interest in mind during these workouts.

Even the golden school that can do no wrong had 28 positive COVID cases, 23 of which are tied to the Clemson football team (21 players).

As a preventative measure, the 2020 Southern Heritage Classic was canceled due to complications due to the coronavirus. The game between Tennessee State and Jackson State was scheduled for Sept. 12.

At Texas, 13 football players tested positive for coronavirus. Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley has said a player or two either exposed or tested positive. And on and on.

College athletes don’t have the luxury of being conscientious objectors as some NBA players are choosing their personal safety over returning to play. They’re obligated to appear or are at risk of losing their scholarships.

What happens once the season starts and even one player on one team gets sick? To remain objective, let’s pick another conference, say the Big 10. Not that I would ever wish this disease on anyone, but let’s pick a team at random, let’s say Maryland. If someone on the team got sick, the entire team would have to be quarantined.

It’s not like the other teams would agree to play them in a full contact sport if they pinky promised that the one guy wasn’t going to play. Once the season has started, this would cause an immediate domino effect on the schedule. Teams they’d played previously would need to either quarantine or be tested. If the team had to hold back from playing, their upcoming opponents wouldn’t have anyone to play. I mean, they’d probably be happy to not have to go to that state where they are weirdly too proud of their odd looking flag. This may even cause Under Armour stock to plummet, perish the thought.

Many college presidents have said that athletics shouldn’t resume until students are safely back on campus full time, and many many schools around the country have already decided to continue virtual classes for the fall semester. How can conferences have a manageable schedule if half the member schools are approaching combating the virus differently?

All of this is happening under the shadow of states around the country flying open, while cases in those states begin to spike almost immediately. Now, should businesses be able to find a way to safely reopen and resume commerce in order to avoid a potential economic recession? Yes, of course a safe middle ground needs to be found, and you can’t keep people trapped in their houses/out of work forever. But those issues are not the same as requiring amateur student-athletes to return to the playing field, seemingly putting them in harm’s way for the sake of existing TV contracts. That might be a negative way of looking at it, but it’s hard to see otherwise if the season is allowed to happen as currently scheduled.

All of this could change tomorrow, as new pessimism is growing across the country.

The amount of oversight required to continually monitor and test players around the country and across all conferences and divisions seems highly unlikely at best, and likely not feasible. According to five infectious-disease experts interviewed by the Washington Post: “[the experts] agreed that frequent testing of all players, regardless of whether they show symptoms, is the linchpin of any effective outbreak prevention policy. Ideally, all athletes should be tested before returning to campus, those experts said, and once full-contact practice begins — scheduled for early August — all players should be tested weekly.”

This would require all the schools to quickly come to agreements on monitoring and testing. The infrastructure within the NBA as an organization can bring that season back while housing the players at Disney World. The splintered nature of college sports does not fit within this model. This says nothing of the cost, which estimates that weekly testing could cost schools upwards of $500,000 PER WEEK. This is why many schools are choosing not to proactively test until they get a positive case, or find out a player was in contact with someone infected.

The one consensus everyone has agreed upon, is they are all “still investigating protocols.” While they were doing that, they called players back for voluntary workouts in the middle of a pandemic and wouldn’t you know it, players immediately got sick. We really WANT sports back, but we don’t have to needlessly endanger the lives of young people for purposes of entertainment.

This virus has affected the world, and it’s somewhat shocking to me personally that these outbreaks at football workouts aren’t a bigger story nationally. All of this could change tomorrow, as new pessimism is growing across the country. The NCAA has shown their usual lack of leadership and forethought to work on a consensus, or to make a preemptive decision in the best interest of the student-athletes they care so much about. They’ve made more of a stink about standing in their way of making money on their likenesses than they have about keeping them healthy. Each school is on an island to manage themselves, and each school has their own limits on access to resources and medical assistance. If a particular school is holding online-only classes, should football players really be deemed mission-essential enough to be required to report in person?

On top of all that, the teams aren’t even practicing yet, and they’re already having positive cases. Formal practices start in mid July, then fall camp a few weeks later. God forbid some players die as a result as a rush to return to action, can we say that it was worth the risk?

Maybe we should brace for the inevitable and just make the call before it’s too late.