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When COVID-19 landed in America, the individual sporting bodies had to make the obvious choice. Soccer, baseball, basketball, and hockey all hit the pause button and scrambled to figure out their next move. From there, the world saw the organization and preparation skills of each sport.
The NBA led the charge in how to handle COVID, creating a “bubble” in which players remained, constantly being tested for the novel coronavirus and not allowing outside people to enter. The NHL did something very similar. On the opposite ledger, the MLB and the NFL have handled their respective situations with the grace of Shrek. The MLB showed their hand with the MLBPA and owner’s negotiations; either side consistently unable to make any concessions until the commissioner stepped in and decided on the season.
Baseball has also done a very poor job of enforcing a rigid standard of making sure players are safe. However, they are fortunate to play a relatively “social distanced” sport — players rarely come into contact. The NFL, meanwhile, seem to be just hoping the virus goes away.
College football has been the biggest culprit in bad handling of a pandemic. To be fair to the NCAA, college football compares to an octopus; there may be a central body, but there are tentacles that can each do their own thing with equal power. Some conferences, such as the SEC, wield immense power over college football and can set the trend for others. Recently, the Big Ten and the PAC-12 decided they will not play football in the spring after weeks of going back and forth. The ACC, Big 12, and SEC have remained unfazed and will move on with their football plans.
The most frustrating part in this entire situation, besides the inconsistency among conferences, is the amount of time the NCAA has been given to make a sweeping decision. The sport of football sat in the best spot of all the major sports: they had months to prepare and were not in the middle of competitive play. Instead of being proactive and firm with decision making, the hard choices to be made kept being kicked down the road every week. How can college football possibly determine a national champion in the current state of play? The Big Ten and Pac-12 consistently get a team in the Final Four of the National Playoff (as a Michigan fan, it pains me to see Ohio State in there every year). By gutting 40 percent of the conferences out of college football, crowning a true champion is impossible.
The obvious answer that no one wants to accept is a total shut down of college football. Of all the major sports, football deals with the strongest possibility of rapid spread. Each team has approximately 100 players/coaches roaming the sideline at anytime, and the action itself has 22 players constantly smashing into each other. The NCAA would have to trust that each school handles their internal COVID testing properly. The boundaries between keeping your players safe and winning would blur, especially among schools that value trophies more than player safety.
The answer is obvious: every college has to shut football down. Playing in the spring is a possibility; the fall is not. I fully understand that a lot of players will not get to play their final seasons and build a resume for the NFL draft. Human safety trumps that in this situation. Sometimes in life, we have to do our part for the betterment of mankind. College football has made a complete mess of the pandemic, but there is still time to make it right.
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