'I Know We're Going to Play When We're Supposed to Play'

Penn State has handled its COVID-19 protocols well so far. Will that be enough?
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Penn State's football team is practicing again, cocooning the best it can in State College, waiting for someone to tell it to stop.

"I know we're going to play when we're supposed to play," linebacker Ellis Brooks said recently.

Trouble is, the Lions don't know when that is, and no official governing body (or government agency) is willing to tell them yet. Sports Illustrated's Pat Forde wrote Monday that this likely is a decisive week for college football, as conferences create schedules, testing protocols and alternate scenarios into a headwind.

While one Penn State student-athlete has tested positive for COVID-19, Rutgers and Michigan State have paused their preseason workouts because of positive tests. Should the Big Ten be able to play a full or partial season, those two teams will be behind in their training schedule, as camps are supposed to open Aug. 7.

Major League Baseball's Miami Marlins added to the concern Monday after multiple players and coaches tested positive for COVID-19. That caused two MLB games to be canceled Monday night.

This spring, Penn State coach James Franklin said that his program would follow what happens in the major sports leagues to help guide their decisions. The NBA and NHL appear to have had success. In fact, the NHL announced Monday that it conducted 4,256 tests last week with no positive results.

"Obviously you're going to look at what Major League Baseball does, you're going to look at what the NFL does, you're going to learn from some of these other organizations," Franklin said. "Obviously we're not them, but there's lessons that can be learned from that."

This won't be an easy process, and college football faces further complications because its athletes are students as well. The NFL doesn't have to worry about its players integrating with thousands of others in the same bubble and interacting with people outside that bubble.

And to manage a season, college football's Power 5 conferences will have to be firm with their testing protocols and flexible with their schedules.

A college football season, or even preseason, won't go smoothly, as MLB has proven and as the NFL likely will prove as well. But just as governing bodies need stern voices willing to halt games because of the virus, they also need measured voices explaining why it's important to continue trying to play.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote an open letter to fans Monday on the eve of training camps opening. "Adaptability and flexibility will be needed for the forseeable future," Goodell wrote.

The commissioner concluded the letter by writing, "Now let's play football."

In college football, conference commissioners should do the same soon.

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