COVID-19: The Cancellation of Fall Football is Coming Soon - It's Inevitable
It’s Sunday and quiet. So far.
But it seems like we’re very near to the end of dreaming about a fall college football season. Probably by the end of the week. Maybe sooner. Maybe later today.
At some point, soon, it will be canceled, postponed until the spring.
Back in March, when COVID-19 became part of our daily vernacular, autumn seemed so far away. We lamented the loss of the NCAA basketball tournament and wondered how long baseball would be shut down.
But most of us didn’t think college football would be lost. It’s too big, too popular, too financially critical to college athletics. And it was too far off on the horizon. College administrators — and science — would find a way.
Now we’re five months into the pandemic and no one has found an answer. Fall camps are supposed to begin in the Pac-12 Conference a week from Monday. There is ZERO CHANCE that will happen at most conference schools, certainly not at Cal, where public health officials from Berkeley and Alameda County have the final call on matters related to the pandemic.
If anything, the coronavirus has a stronger grip on us than ever. Numbers continue to climb, people continue to get sick. There are than 920,000 confirmed cases in the six states comprising the Pac-12.
The rest of the country is coming to the same conclusion, the result of nationwide numbers that now exceed five million cases and 165,000 deaths.
The Mid-American Conference on Saturday morning became the first FBS league to cancel its fall season, and it seems incomprehensible others won’t soon follow.
The Big Ten, close geographic neighbor to the MAC, released a statement shortly after the MAC announcement, saying they are putting the brakes on progress toward full-contact practice. The Detroit Free Press reported that Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren now favors a spring football season.
In the Pac-12, officials are talking with an unhappy players group about a smorgasbord of topics, including COVID-19 safety but also racial injustice and athlete compensation. Players are reasonably suggesting that now, more than ever, they should be paid for the health risks they are taking.
It's far from clear what the level of unity is among players in the #WeAreUnited group. They are threatening to boycott practice and games if their demands are not met, but will there even be anything to boycott in a day or two?
More likely, it seems the Pac-12 and its athletes will have extra time to sort out what the sport will look like going forward.
“I think by the end of the week the fall sports will be postponed in all conferences,” a “prominent industry source” told Sports Illustrated.
"It's not fair what we're doing to our coaches and student-athletes,” a Power Five conference athletic director told CBS Sports. "The sooner we can come to a finality, the better.”
So the season will be canceled?
Inevitable may be the appropriate word to describe the likely outcome of the ongoing efforts of college administrators to fix this. They have put hours of sweat into finding a solution to both keep athletes safe and keep their budgets from cratering.
Cal’s COVID-19 testing numbers have been encouraging. The Bears’ positivity rate was less than one percent for the 300 athletes tested over the most recent three-week period.
But even if they were given the go-ahead to conduct full practice, how would that work? Football is not a sport that allows social distancing. It’s a game of blocking and tackling — a game of violent collisions.
The biggest obstacle — at least until we have a vaccine — is the unknown. The virus seems to surprise doctors and scientists daily with its unpredictable behaviors. This SI story looks at one under-examined potential side effect: cardiac inflammation.
No one knows what’s next.
That certainly was the driving factor in the MAC decision.
“There are simply too many unknowns to put our student athletes in these situations,” commissioner John Steinbrecher said. “This is simply a miserable decision. I am heartbroken we are in this place.”
Everyone is heartbroken. But we are all in the same place. And the decision to shut down college football is the right thing to do and is coming soon.
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo
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