2020 college football season not quite the sure thing many think

If you think the 2020 college football season is a given at this point, you should think again.

All signs had been pointing to the college football season becoming an actual reality, but with the recent outbreak of confirmed COVID-19 cases at a number of schools who began their voluntary workouts this month, the outlook may not be so good.

Clemson has reported 23 football players testing positive for COVID-19, according to ESPN.com, and Texas has reported at least 13 players testing positive, with 10 more players self-isolating after having contact with individuals who tested positive for the virus.

Kansas State has now suspended their practices for 14 days after more than a dozen athletes tested positive. “Following the most recent test results, we felt like temporarily pausing all football workouts and access to our facilities was the best decision for everyone,” Kansas State AD Gene Taylor said in a statement. “We continue to take this situation very seriously and want to do everything we can to get back to workouts soon.”

The Houston Cougars also temporarily paused workouts after having six players test positive.

Even the defending national champion LSU Tigers aren’t immune to coronavirus issues, with at least 30 players currently in quarantine after testing positive or having known contact — some at bars that have been linked to an outbreak of COVID-19 — with individuals who tested positive, according to WAFB. 

Alabama, Auburn, FSU, Mississippi, USF, Oklahoma, Iowa State…the list goes on. All reporting positive cases in players.

All of this points to bad news for the 2020 college football season, which was to be a needed mental break for fans who have become weary from the current news cycle.

The question now begs, is it worth it? Is it really worth risking the longterm health — and in some cases even the lives — of these young, student-athletes? While entertainments, news distractions, and getting back to a sense of normalcy are important, it’s hard to agree that those things would overshadow looking after young lives. Student-athletes need to speak up.

At UCLA, it would seem some players agree. 30 players have petitioned for additional protections from the school, per the LA Times.

From the Times report:

The document, reviewed by the Los Angeles Times late Thursday, asserts that players do not trust UCLA to act in their best interest, particularly in regard to their health, a realm where it says the school has “perpetually failed us,” citing “neglected and mismanaged injury cases.” The document does not provide examples.

The time to protect college football players is now.

The NCAA is allowing mandatory team workouts to start in July. The season is slated to begin on August 29. Given the number of cases we’ve seen explode in just a few weeks of voluntary workouts, it’s not looking good for that to happen.

And maybe, just maybe, it shouldn’t.

Fans and the media can argue until time stands still whether or not college athletes should be paid, but the simple fact is, right now they are not paid, and in many cases could jeopardize their scholarships if they refuse to play.

In no other walk of American life could a group of unpaid people be strong-armed into performing despite the risk of contracting a virus that has the potential to do permanent damage or even end their lives.

These kids need protection, and they don’t need to be asked to sign a coronavirus liability waiver, as Ohio State has requested of the players and parents, per ESPN.

It’s impossible for teams to have players “in a bubble” as Dr. Anthony Fauci has eluded to, so how in the world can a close-quartered, contact sport like football go on with this virus still running wild in our country?

Simple answer … it can’t.

Yes, the mortality rate from COVID-19 is low among people in the age range of college football players. But the fact that we even need to quote a mortality rate is an indicator that it’s too much of a risk. If the question were merely the chance of getting sick for a few days and getting some hydration and chicken soup to make it all better, sure — play on. But once you bring in the possibility of death, it’s a whole different ball game.

When the virus curve had seemingly been flattened it looked good for sports, including college football, to return. But the opening up of many states — an actual necessity in some cases — and the spiking virus numbers that accompany that suggest that the only way to engage in sports like football is when a vaccine is available.

It’s terrible. Nobody likes it. Nobody likes this virus and nobody likes the idea that we may not get to play college football this year.

But perhaps its better to not play college football this year than to begin next season with services and remembrances of young men whose lives were foolishly ended too soon.