We’re two months away. Maybe.
Six real, actual college football games are scheduled for Saturday, August 29th, and SBD’s betting information is starting to show what to expect from the teams that will actually be playing them. Close your eyes and turn off the news and it’s almost as if everything might be back to normal. Coaches are preparing for it. Fans are praying for it.
The NCAA’s Division I Council approved a six-week practice plan that starts in July and encompasses mandatory meetings and the traditional preseason camps and everything. Campus workouts in the Age of COVID remain voluntary. Yet despite the precautions, there seems to be a new “Players Test Positive” story every day, and most of them have cited the recent news out of Alabama.
Five Bama players tested positive for COVID-19 in early June, just a few days before tests for three Auburn players came back positive. All three were asymptomatic. They rode out the next two weeks in a separate dorm.
“We’re going to keep them in the same groups for an extended period of time,” Malzahn told reporters. “But Coach Russell knows our guys very well. I think after a short period of time, he’ll be able to really identify the guys that are in a little bit better shape than the others, kind of put those guys in groups whenever regulations allow us to.”
Like other coaching staffs across the country, Gus and the Gang have been enforcing face masks, social distancing, all that stuff. Want to study film? War Eagle, Zoom down the field…
Of course, plenty of other programs have had the pandemic hit close to home, to varying degrees. Houston. Florida. When Kansas State players returned to campus in early June, administrators were ecstatic. 90 tests, zero cases.
A week ago, 14 Wildcats tested positive. Kansas State shut down workouts until mid-July.
How many cases develop across the county, and to what extent, will ultimately determine whether 2020 goes off without a hitch, or even — knock on wood — goes off at all. Most D-1 programs seem to have stringent safety protocols in place, including routine testing and contact tracing. But numbers-wise — and perception-wise — late August could look a lot different from late June (which ain’t looking all that great itself at the moment). Meanwhile, national columnists are already posting stories headlined “Did college football return too soon?”
Most of the uncertainty stems from the fact that no one has articulated or even defined the collective pain threshold. Will some teams tap out if, in their estimation, the number of positive cases is too high, while others press on if they log few or no positive cases? If there’s no clear consensus, should the NCAA err on the side of caution and simply cancel the season rather than face relentless public scrutiny for putting dollars before player health?
And will programs even unite on abiding (or not) by the NCAA’s yea or nay?
At this rate, we may not know until kickoff.