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College football season could unravel before it starts


While pessimism about the reality of playing a full college football season continues to increase this fall, no obstacle looms larger than the arrival of students on campus.

significant spread of COVID-19 will increase sharply. “data-reactid =” 26 “> The biggest variable feared by medical experts, coaches and sports directors is the arrival of tens of thousands of students from all over the country to many campuses playing FBS football. On most campuses, the students make ends meet the same point when the football schedule starts, and the risk of significant spread of COVID-19 will increase sharply.

What I’m really concerned about is that campus by campus, across the country, students come back to campus and spread out [the virus] as a wildfire in their living situation, said Paul Pottinger, an infectious disease expert at the University of Washington and a member of the Pac-12s COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee. Unless we’re over there, unless we can break that cycle, it’s hard to imagine campuses even opening up to the trap for any purpose, let alone athletics.

That makes college coaches and managers wonder how exactly they should be playing for an entire season, as there have been major outbreaks in football programs that have halted training across the country before contact practices even started.

Coaches and athletic directors remain concerned about a stop-and-start scenario with canceled matches, a chaotic schedule, and eventually a season ending sometime in mid-fall. Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley made it clear that his strong preference is to play football in the fall as long as it is safe for the players. But he acknowledged in a telephone interview with Yahoo Sports on Tuesday that he is concerned about how to protect his players from the virus once schools return more than 20,000 students.

It’s in every coach’s mind, Riley said. It’s probably as easy as it is now, while most of the other students aren’t here. There are legitimate concerns when the students show up. What will that look like? It is now the great unknown.

The scary thing for us, or the thing that worries you, is that the students show up and a week or two later you’re trying to start the season. It is in our minds. The more people around, the greater the risk and the things to worry about.

The CFB 2020 logo is displayed on the field leading up to the college football playoff title game between Clemson and LSU. (Todd Kirkland / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Talking about moving football into spring has taken off in the past week, but Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby summed up the tenor when he told Yahoo Sports that it likely [the] last resort.

Ivy League is considering playing in the spring, Division-II Morehouse cancels fall sports, and D-III schools like Williams and Bowdoin cancel fall sports. “Data-reactid =” 53 “> Dominoes are starting to fall across the country, indicating the long chances of a season beginning and ending Arizona officials announced Monday evening that the school has been interrupted to bring athletes back to campus , as that state is one of many seeing positive test numbers increase (Arizona plays week 0 and is scheduled to start formal training on July 6 while schools with conventional schedules have their first formal activities scheduled for July 13.) Other Noteworthy Things are a report by TMG Sports that the Ivy League is considering playing in the spring, Division-II Morehouse cancels fall sports, and D-III schools such as Williams and Bowdoin cancel fall sports.

For Riley, he said the option to play in the spring is getting more real, while his preference continues to play in the fall. Riley and OU officials are cautious about returning players to campus, as the Sooners report for voluntary training on July 1. (Big 12 teams were eligible to return on June 15.) Riley points to the potential of medical advances such as treatments and vaccines as a primary reason for waiting.

It’s doable, Riley told Yahoo Sports about football in the spring. This can happen. We have been part of putting together models of what that might look like. This season is going to be different, we’d better accept that. If we decide that spring is the best option, then we shouldn’t be afraid of it. It is very doable.

Riley recognized some of the adjustments that should be made in the spring. That includes elite players skipping the season for the draft, a shorter schedule, and possibly a later start in the fall. If we reduce the number of games and give enough free time, I think it would be doable, he said. Really.

The main problem with a huge adjustment to the schedule remains that no one is in charge of college football. A major concern among coaches is that there is no universal date for deciding when to proceed with the season. College leaders seem content to continue with the camp, have students return to campus and see if the 13,000 players somehow avoid the virus. (Or avoid getting in touch with someone who has the virus, because contact tracking inhibits enough, with Riley saying that one positive test can knock out 15 to 20 people, meaning they’re quarantined for practices and games.)

That leadership guidance is not forthcoming, as the NCAA has little say in college football and the commissioners all have agendas that fit the needs of their leagues. There is some concern about that, Riley said of the emptiness of the leadership. Does our leadership structure fit in a situation like today?

Riley added: This is the perfect example where you would like to have a real head like an NFL type commissioner. Someone has to make a decision for everyone at some point. The model and the way it is set up, with different schools and competition commissioners and the NCAA, there are many chefs in the kitchen. There are many smart people and they will all disagree.

An athletic director summed up the void as follows: There is no one in a leadership position who takes up the very difficult challenge of developing the spring football plan. Given that we are entering July, it now seems inevitable that we are heading towards a trap with many canceled matches and maybe even a national hiatus a few weeks after the season.

Everyone agrees that the return to practice is complicated. The return to play is exponentially more based on the influx of things that inevitably return to campus with students. What I’m really much more concerned about is everything that happens off the field, Pottinger said. I’m worried about the dormitory, I’m worried about the dining room, I’m worried about the bedroom, I’m worried about the library, I’m worried about everything else. That’s where we see young people being burned.

And that leaves coaches and administrators at the tricky crossroads of knowing that even if their athletes take all necessary precautions to avoid the virus, there is no guarantee that the thousands of students around them will.

We will all have our antenna up when students return to our campuses, said Alabama’s athletic director Greg Byrne. And just as we have done over the past four months, we will continue to adapt to our best ability. Our plan now is to move forward with fall. But also listened to our health experts to guide us.

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