What are the main concerns behind having a college football season?

Ryan Kostecka

Nearly everybody wants a college football season.

Coaches throughout the nation have said so multiple times, fans are largely in agreement and the players, well the players want to play.

But even then, that might not be enough to have a season due to the high-spread of the novel coronavirus throughout the nation, according to Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott. 

“Unless we see a change in the trajectory of the spread of the virus and its impact pretty quickly, I think the situation’s a lot more perilous than it was a few weeks ago,” Scott said. "We need to keep learning and understanding what's happening, until the latest point where we have to make a decision, one way or another, and we're trying to take baby steps. What we thought the narrative was a month ago is now very different. ... No one can predict right now what the fall is going to look like, in my opinion."

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SEC commissioner Greg Sankey is in agreement with Scott, believing that its much more than just playing football games as there are so many other concerns that go with playing the game.

“When I’ve said we’re looking at contingencies, that’s always been one of those elements of 18-20 possibilities. You have to think about, ‘What will you know in January that will be different?’," Sankey said. "It’s been difficult to predict. We have to be careful in our decision making. Even amidst the concerning data now, we want to make sure we take care of our young people first and then we’ll see what happens through July to make decisions.”

But as of right now, there are two MAJOR issues regarding college football season and if it's possible to play: in-season testing and game interruptions.

Because there has been a massive rise in positive cases throughout the nation, people are getting tested at a much faster rate. This has now impacted not only the availability of tests but the return speed on the test results — and a universal testing protocol is nonexistent and there's no way of knowing if that'll happen anytime soon. Also, there is a possibility that the latest spikes in positive cases could become more grave in the fall, which would lead to a cancellation of games a total mess of the current season.

As of now, the Pac-12 and Big 12 have already announced that they will play a conference-only season. As for how many games that is, it remains to be seen — but it's widely expected that other conferences will follow suit rather than later.

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In a Sports Illustrated story by Ross Dellenger, he writes...

The NCAA Football Oversight Committee, a critical law-making body, is examining protocols for in-season game interruptions as a result of viral outbreaks, and the group is even considering extending the regular season. Meanwhile, conference commissioners, in conjunction with NCAA executives in Indianapolis, are drafting minimum testing standards and protocols, officials told SI. It is an attempt to create a uniform rule for all 130 FBS programs, something administrators feel is necessary for non-conference competitions—if there are any of those.

These issues greatly impact a college sports industry that may need thousands more tests than their professional counterparts—just for football alone. At the NCAA’s highest level, the FBS fields 130 teams of at least 10,000 football players and another 3,000 staff members. The minimum in-season testing protocol, no matter the conference, is expected to include at least one test per week for each person. Some schools and conferences may require two tests per week, and then there are the athletes testing positive who will need additional testing. Figuring conservatively for 15 weeks, a college football season will require a minimum of 200,000 tests and a maximum that could exceed 500,000.

“There are challenges around testing,” Sankey said Monday on the Paul Finebaum Show. “The ability to have reliable, available and timely testing is at the top of the list. In order to facilitate what may come—the opportunity to play—that reality around testing is going to be very, very important. If I can’t have a vaccine, that testing ability is going to be critical to us moving forward.”

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But a uniform testing standard may be on its way. Doug Aukerman, Oregon State’s team doctor who sits on the Pac-12 coronavirus advisory committee, says a policy is in the drafting stage. Bowlsby says he believes FBS will have a “minimum standard” but each conference will have its own policies. “I think we’ll end up with something that is comparable among schools and among conferences, but I don’t know that it has to be identical,” he says.

With more questions than answers, and more concerns that peace of mind, absolutely nobody knows what will happen over the next seven weeks. But rest assured, answers will start coming in quick.

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