Even Beyond COVID-19 Concerns, Summer Football Would Be Irresponsible
Editor's note: This column solely expresses the opinion of publisher Zach Goodall, and does not necessarily replicate the views of the individual contributors to this site or Sports Illustrated.
According to a report from Sports Business Journal, an alternative being considered while concerns grow of a possible cancellation of the 2020 college football season amidst the novel coronavirus pandemic would be to move the season up, playing during the summer.
It doesn't need to be discussed in-depth as to how premature that line of thinking is strictly in regards to the virus. This is based completely in theory that the virus would die off, or at least drastically slow down, in the summer due to the heat.
What could any other possible explanation be? Otherwise, how could the those behind this idea explain putting 22 players on a field making constant contact with others, and hundreds of players and personnel on the sidelines every week while the virus has yet to even hit its peak in the United States?
Look at the lead image for this story. An airborne virus such as COVID-19 would spread at the line of scrimmage at the beginning of every down, and obviously throughout every play. And that isn't to mention the tens of thousands that would fill the seats, should stadiums open their doors.
The virus itself makes this idea, simply put, irresponsible.
There is simply no proof that the virus will die in the summer heat, and therefore a college football season would only continue to put people at risk of contracting the virus, even if the curve appears to be flattening by that point in time.
And yet, that's not even the entire point of this editorial. There are far more concerns than the coronavirus in regards to this suggestion.
Before we dive in, let's take a look at what SBJ considered as factors in any decision to make that idea a reality, according to their sources.
-Would campuses be open and able to properly staff games?
-Would media partners be receptive to such a radical idea? Given the pent-up demand for live events by then, perhaps so?
-Would fans turn out for football in the summer, especially with temperatures in the 90s? Would they even be permitted inside the stadium?
-Could athletic departments recoup some of the revenue they’ve lost by staging a summer season?
-How would a season work? It would almost have to be conference games only. Teams could start with a June mini-camp, July training camp and eight or nine games in August and September with no postseason.
We can break down each of these points, one by one. When you think about the reality of each point, you are likely to realize how irresponsible this idea is.
Would campuses be open and able to properly staff games?
Of course, this is one of the most crucial components of a summer college football season.
But let me ask: Why would universities decide to unnecessarily staff events when schools across the nation have already confirmed classes will be conducted online for the summer semester? For reference, the University of Florida has already moved Summer A and C classes online and paused faculty and staff hiring.
Campuses opening for football, but not classes, simply doesn't seem realistic, If a school prioritizes the safety of students by holding only online classes, it would be extremely hypocritical to run football operations on campus during the same time period.
Would media partners be receptive to such a radical idea?
Sure. If there was a college football season this summer, the media would cover it. AllGators would, of course, provide consistent and trustworthy coverage of the Florida Gators as the season goes on.
But you'd better believe coverage wouldn't be coming from the stadium as long as the virus persists. Not just from this site, but many would provide coverage from home with each game on television. Unless schools took all necessary precautions to maintain social distancing within the press box, why would any logical person put themselves at risk?
This isn't a White House briefing, where journalists serve the country by reporting the facts regarding the coronavirus and receive updates from the office of the President and the coronavirus task force.
This is a game.
Would fans turn out in the summer, especially with temperatures in the 90s? Would they even be permitted inside the stadium?
It's safe to assume most schools wouldn't allow fans in the stadium as long as the virus continues to spread and exist as it does within the United States - which would take a huge toll on revenue typically created from ticket sales.
Yet, if they did, what would happen when fans show up to games, plenty of which intoxicated while sitting in 90+ degree temperatures and heat indexes consistently in the 100+ range, leading them to pass out?
What happens when those irresponsible fans get to the emergency room from a hypothetical heat stroke, and can't be treated as beds are filled from coronavirus patients? What if those irresponsible fans take up a bed that would have been used to treat a high-risk coronavirus patient, and in return, that patient doesn't make it?
And this doesn't even take players into account. According to the American Council of Science and Health, 30 college football players died of a heat stroke between 2000-2018. Notably, Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin faced incredible scrutiny and was removed from his post following the heat stroke-related death of 19-year old offensive lineman Jordan McNair in 2018.
McNair's death, among others, came in practice conditions. McNair obviously was not properly cared for by the Maryland coaching staff, but in general, you'd be hard-pressed in this day and age to find a coach that doesn't keep the best interests of its players in mind in the heat of summer practices.
Games would be a completely different discussion. Given the competitive nature and quick pace of the game, a spike in heatstroke cases would appear inevitable.
Could athletic departments recoup some of the revenue they’ve lost by staging a summer season?
Sure thing. In fact, television ratings may never be higher than they would be for a summer season while fans stay home - whether it be by suggestion or should games be played in an empty stadium.
Is that what's really important here? Are those profits worth more than the lives of the athletes that create those profits for the NCAA? And considering the upcoming point, how much room for revenue would there be in a season cut short?
How would a season work?
SBJ noted that a summer season would not be the same length of the traditional season, given a time crunch.
Rather, teams would run mini and training camps similar to the traditional NFL offseason in June and July, in lieu of spring camp and in order to condition for the season. From there, an eight or nine-game season would take place from August through September when summer ends.
There would be no postseason, meaning no conference championships and no College Football Playoff.
So what is the point?
Simply put, even by taking the obvious reasoning out of the equation, moving the 2020 college football season up into the summer out of fear of its cancellation would be irresponsible, dangerous, and relatively pointless as there are no end goals for teams without a postseason.
Let's not push this radical idea any further. If you want college football this year, stay inside, flatten the curve, and hope for kickoff on August 29th.