With resurgent COVID-19 cases across the country, there continues to be apprehension about the upcoming college football season and its effects. The worst-case scenario, of course, is that playing the season too soon will result in unnecessary illnesses and deaths as the U.S. battles an elongated first wave in the pandemic. As such, many possibilities for the upcoming season have been discussed, including delaying it until spring 2021.
However, that move carries its own problems, primarily with disrupting schedules and its proximity to the following season. Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour called such a move a "last resort" for fitting the season safely into the calendar.
"One of the biggest challenges [of a spring season] -- and it's probably the biggest one in my mind -- is the proximity to next season, and frankly a second lost spring ball," Barbour told ESPN. "Overcomeable, if perhaps we're willing to have a shortened season -- again in the category of 'something is better than nothing,' that may not be a problem at all."
Balbour continued: "There's no doubt there's been a little bit of pessimism here in the last couple of weeks that we really hadn't had for probably about four to six weeks ... I think that's part of the ebb and flow of the virus here. Obviously my hope is that, maybe, as people start looking at the masking and social distancing again and all of the precautions and recommitting to the seriousness of this, we'll see it flatten out."
Perhaps the most concerning aspect is that college athletics decision-makers within the NCAA are only now putting their collective heads together to come up with a nationwide policy for coronavirus guidelines. Herd immunity has hardly been proven as an effective combatant while leaving plenty of questions.
Sen. Jacky Rosen notes the number of positive COVID-19 tests: "The NCAA should step in to provide a nationwide framework." Ohio State president/NCAA chairman Michael Drake says he supports uniform approach from NCAA in dealing with sports now and that discussion is happening.— Jon Solomon (@JonSolomonAspen) July 1, 2020
Still, the NCAA's six-week preseason calendar is on schedule and outside of some lower-level cancellations Week 0 is officially less than two full months away. However, there are signs that a fall 2020 season is anything but certain. Multiple schools have halted preseason voluntary workouts as a result of outbreaks of the virus. The Ivy League is expected to make an announcement next week about its fall season and schools like Morehouse College have already canceled its season.
It still feels unlikely that there would be no college football at all; a previous survey of FBS ADs indicated only that there is uncertainty of what that season will look like. But with a greater push on wearing masks, physical distancing and hand washing, it's clear there's still a ways to go before college football can safely be played.