To play or not to play?
That’s a big question when it comes to college football.
As of the middle of August, 76 FBS teams were going to play in the fall of 2020, COVID-19 be damned.
Some only had eight games scheduled, but were hoping for more. Some players opted out of playing citing concerns about their health.
Players whose teams decided to push the season to the spring were petitioning to be able to play in the fall.
The College Football Playoffs are still scheduled with the semifinals set for the Rose and Sugar Bowls.
“We don’t know right now what the season will bring,” said Gary Barta, Athletics Director at the University of Iowa, who is beginning his first year as committee chair, “but as a committee, we are ready to use the protocol and the expertise of the 13 people who have been charged with selecting the teams.
“The committee’s task is to rank the teams based on what happens on the field," he continued. "If the board and management committee say we are having a CFP, we will be ready.”
In FCS, Division II, and Division III, the NCAA controls those playoffs and they've already been canceled.
Some teams at those levels are going to try to play. They can play five games and not cost a player a season of eligibility.
Is there a right answer?
Power Five conferences that shutdown (Big Ten and PAC-12) said they did so out of an abundance of caution.
ESPN reported that at least five, Big Ten athletes (not necessarily football players) suffered from myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart and is usually caused by infections like COVID-19.
Schools that are continuing to play, say that they are making it as safe as possible with testing which is fine when the players are in the football program bubble but when they step out to do the student part of student-athlete is where the trouble lies.
Two universities, North Carolina and Notre Dame stopped face-to-face classes in the earlier days of the semester when more than 100 students tested positive at each institution. Several pictures and videos went viral showing college students not practicing safe social distancing protocols.
Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne tweeted a photo of dozens of unmasked people lined up waiting to get into a bar.
“Who wants college sports this fall?? Obviously not these people!!” the tweet said in part.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban understands the impact things like that can have.
“I think democracy is great,” he said during his first press conference of the season when asked about the situation, “and I think people that have all these freedoms, I think that’s all great, but I think there’s one thing that is probably a common denominator that really makes all that work and that’s that people have great moral integrity in the choices and decisions that they make.
"I’m not criticizing anybody here, but a lot of people have asked that we wear masks when we’re in public, when we're in crowds when we're in large groups of people that we keep socially distanced.
"I don't think they're doing that just for the heck of it. I think there's a reason for it, we're trying to control the spread of this disease. I think our ability to do that's going to go a long way in saying whether we can play football or not but bigger than that, it's for your own personal safety. Every one of these students [needs] to take the proper care of themselves and respect the protocols that people are recommending for your safety. I think that’s the smart thing to do.”
Coach is right, listening to the experts is the smart thing to do. The other smart thing to do is postpone the season as a whole. College football is different than professional sports, there are too many variables to control.
College football in the spring, ultimately, might not be feasible and “spring football Saturday” just does have the same magic ring to it than “fall football Saturday” does.
I know the players want to play but 18 to 22-year-olds think they’re indestructible but for safety's sake, the adults in the room should say, “see you in the spring.” *
Email Rock Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org