While yet another blockbuster decision from the NCAA became official on Monday when the NCAA Division I council voted to allow schools to provide spring-sport student-athletes an additional season of competition and an extension of their period of eligibility, another history-making vote on the future of the 2020 fall sports season–including “King Football”–could be next on the docket.
All we can do now is wait, hope and pray this virus can be controlled, lives can be saved and we can all safely return to a normal routine. But make no mistake about it, there’s a real chance the 2020 football season won’t ever start or be played as originally scheduled.
I have a feeling it is an all or nothing type deal. Either we reach a point where this is controlled and we can enjoy the sport we all know and love (while continuing to take precautions in washing our hands and sanitation) OR there’s simply no football this fall. Fans are a large part of what makes football and gameday so great. Nothing like the roar of the crowd to send chills down your spine or have you wishing for ear plugs. I just can’t imagine the NCAA or NFL playing games in front of empty stadiums.
Quick question: If a top-10 team is upset on the road and there’s no crowd to rush the field, did it even happen?
ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit made headlines last week when he said he would be surprised if we’re able to have this fall’s college and pro football seasons as scheduled. “I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football. I’ll be so surprised if that happens,” Herbstreit said.
“Just because from what I understand, people that I listen to, you’re 12 to 18 months from a [coronavirus] vaccine. I don’t know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball. I just don’t know how you can do it with the optics of it.”
But let’s just say we get to mid June and we’re given the green light to do as we please. Everything begins to reopen, college campuses across the nation begin welcoming back faculty/staff, students and sports are given the nod to move forward. Great news, right?
In the words of Lee Corso: NOT SO FAST, MY FRIEND! I’ve worked in sports long enough to know we can’t let these guys miss out on spring training/workouts/weights, most of the usual summer conditioning then show up in June or July and be physically prepared for a full season as scheduled. It honestly would not be fair to anyone from head coaches Nick Saban and Bill Belichick to the water boys, trainers and team managers at the middle school level.
There’s so many moving parts to this situation and it becomes even trickier from an NCAA standpoint in deciding how to move forward with granting more eligibility to student athletes who would miss the (potentially cancelled) fall 2020 season. It would be another headache for athletic departments and coaches across the country tasked with balancing scholarships, rosters and recruitment among other hurdles.
It seems that the 2020 NFL draft will go on as planned albeit with a much different structure that we’ve ever seen. But what if that is eventually postponed or–dare I say–cancelled? While I feel a cancellation is extremely unlikely, I don’t think any of us thought we would be where we are today, either. Hard to really count anything out right now if we are being honest with ourselves.
People took to social media and beyond to say Herbstreit was overreacting or just trying to “get some clicks” but the fact of the matter is we are in unprecedented times with thousands of virus-related deaths reported each day. The numbers aren’t slowing down and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently stated the United States could see upwards of 100,000 deaths due to COVID-19. At publication of this article, the U.S. death toll had surpassed 3,000.
Logistics of being physically ready for competition aside, how can we really allow 80-100K people to enter stadiums across the country every Saturday possibly just weeks after we deem the virus is “under control”? It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out how quickly it could spread once more on a typical gameday in Columbus, Gainesville, University Park, Knoxville or Ann Arbor. Then consider those fans who travel from out of town and return home infected (whether they know it or not). It only takes one and you’d be naive to believe at this rate we’ll have 100 percent healthy crowds at these games.
Dr. Fauci has already gone on the record predicting the virus could return this fall, but with the assurance the United States would be better prepared for a second outbreak. Can you imagine the chaos of a round two in late September with millions of people that could have been exposed in stadiums, tailgating areas, restaurants and bars while watching football? I love everything about football and game day but I want nothing to do with such risk and I’m willing to bet the powers that be on the NCAA Division I Council share the same sentiment.
I’ll say it once more, all we can do is hope and pray for a miracle. Our nation desperately needs one right now. Stay healthy and stay safe out there, friends. God bless!