Football is not a given this season at the collegiate or professional level

New Castle News

March 31, 2020

For the first time since the NCAA canceled its spring sports season, I genuinely question how likely a 12-game college football regular season will be in the fall.

The season is scheduled to begin Thursday, Aug. 29 — five months from now — but coronavirus cases in the United States continue to swell.

As of Sunday, there were more than 137,000 cases in 50 states and four jurisdictions, and the death toll had grown to more than 2,400. The United States had surged pass China and Italy in coronavirus cases.

Twenty-two states have issued stay-at-home orders. While Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf hasn’t done the same for the commonwealth as a whole, he has done so for specific localities as confirmed cases eclipsed 3,000 Sunday. The country is under a proverbial lockdown.

To be honest, even thinking about college football at this time feels insensitive.

It’s apparent we haven’t seen the worst.

On Thursday, ESPN College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit suggested he feels the same.

“I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football. I’ll be so surprised if that happens,” Herbstreit said during a radio interview that was transcribed by TMZ. “Just because, from what I understand, people that I listen to, you’re 12 to 18 months from a (coronavirus) vaccine. I don’t know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball. I just don’t know how you can do it with the optics of it.”

College football programs across this nation would have been deep in spring practices by now. Coaches and players would be using the period to install new offenses, defenses and schemes, and newcomers would be familiarizing themselves with their programs. It’s also a pivotal time for strength and conditioning regimens, the cornerstone of stamina and injury-prevention during the grueling season.

Right now, players are confined to their homes. Some have shared videos of themselves using homemade weight-lifting equipment such as backpacks filled with heavy items, while others have used their backyards as platforms for calisthenics. While those attempts are lauded, they aren’t fair substitutions for the world-class instruction and equipment players have access to at their respective universities.

Penn State media members this week spoke with football coach James Franklin via video chat, and he said some of his players have turned to homemade methods to remain in shape. Franklin also said he and his staff have also remained sensitive to the realities of the current situation.

For Franklin, the gravity of it all hits close to home. His youngest daughter has sickle cell anemia, a red blood cell disorder.

“This is much bigger than sports,” Franklin said. “This is something the entire world is dealing with, and sports obviously take a back seat to that. It seems kind of strange to be talking about sports when we’re dealing with such a more difficult challenge.”

Earlier this week, the International Olympic Committee announced it would postpone the summer Tokyo Olympics to 2021. The Games were scheduled to begin in July, just a month before the college football season.

According to the NCAA, more than 39 million fans attended college football games during the 2019 season. We still have some time before the season is scheduled to begin, but as the virus continues to spread at alarming rates, I’m not as confident as I was this time last week about covering a 2020 college football season.

The country is facing an unprecedented health crisis, and the safety of players, coaches and fans should be fully assured before we even think about returning to the gridiron.

We all must work to flatten the curve.

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