Like most people reading this, I was thrilled to learn Tuesday night that the Big 12 plans on moving forward with a fall football season in 2020. So long as there are games, I will park my ass on the couch to watch the Oklahoma Sooners and anyone else playing on Saturdays.
The news felt especially welcome because the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has left us with so few entertainment options. Can’t go see a movie. Can’t go to a concert. Can’t go to parties.
But that’s where the cognitive dissonance sets in. Here’s the problem: The reason we shouldn’t be doing all of those things right now is the same reason we’re not really ready for a football season.
Momentum seemed to shift in favor of the ACC, Big 12 and SEC carrying on with the season when high-profile players such as Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence pushed a social media campaign to play. After all, the thinking goes that if the players are willing to risk their own health to play this fall, who are we to stop them?
Unfortunately, that kind of thinking represents a profoundly American approach to dealing with COVID-19. It is failing miserably.
Today marks 16 weekdays in a row with the US > 1,000 covid deaths.— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) August 11, 2020
The USA ranks #9 in the world for deaths/million people, the only industrialized nation on the list
8. Bosnia pic.twitter.com/9hsygMP9I6
What the players want shouldn’t be the only variable in the equation. As its name would imply, the coronavirus is a virus. It behaves accordingly – spreading from one host to others, who can then spread it to others. It poses a threat to both those infected and those around them. Even worse, outbreaks can swamp medical systems, affecting our collective ability to treat coronavirus patients and other illnesses.
Once students arrive on campus, it will become exceedingly difficult to maintain whatever success college programs have had so far when it comes to mitigating the spread of the virus among their players. The ability to keep the players in a “bubble” of sorts becomes next to impossible. When games start being played, that raises the chances of spreading the virus between teams. That, in turn, could lead to spreading the virus to relatives, friends and members of the community – people who aren’t young, world-class athletes.
Dr. Carlos Del Rio, one of the NCAA's chief medical advisors, on whether he would go forward with fall sports: "We have a serious problem. I feel like the Titanic: we have hit the iceberg and we’re trying to make decisions of when the band should play."— Laine Higgins (@lainehiggins17) August 13, 2020
Against that backdrop, nothing sounds smart about players living on a college campus so they can work out together and play football. Moreover, the risks extend beyond them into their surrounding communities.
There have been 2,811 deaths reported over the last 2 days nationally per @COVID19Tracking. That's the worst 2 day stretch since May 14/15.— Jeff Asher (@Crimealytics) August 12, 2020
Given how COVID-19 continues to envelop the country, charging ahead with a season feels reckless to me. It’s also not surprising when you consider both how the country has responded to the pandemic and the amount of money on the table. Ultimately, I have my doubts teams will be playing deep into the schedule anyway.
Other thoughts on the current state of affairs for the Sooners and college football as a whole:
*Speaking of schedules, the Big 12 league office gave OU the shaft with the revised version released on Wednesday.
Notably, the Sooners have to travel to Ames to play Iowa State the week before the Red River Shootout. Meanwhile, Texas gets a home date with TCU as a lead-in to the grudge match in the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 10.
Oklahoma State also caught a bad break with Bedlam being moved back a month. Opponents want the Sooners earlier this year, not later.
*It’s worth mentioning that coaches have a clear conflict of interest when it comes to the matter of playing this year.
*So much for Nebraska going rogue, which was never truly in the cards in the first place. At least the school administrators and politicians got a chance to score some no-risk political points.
*Moving forward, it would certainly help college sports if we could build monitoring strategies around rapid testing for COVID-19.