Bock’s Score: College Football Needs To Get With The Pandemic

In the midst of a global coronavirus pandemic with over 100,000 Americans dead, the proprietors of the Ivy League decided that this might not be the best time to have a football season and called it off. The athletes from Harvard, Yale and the other Ivies will have more library time this fall.

That was 50,000 deaths ago. And except for the Patriot League, the Atlantic 10 conference and Colonial Athletic Association, other leagues are still on board to block, tackle and otherwise defy the virus in the name of College Football.

That is a very bad idea.

Football is a collision sport and there is contact on every play. The virus is not a benchwarmer. It will be anxious to join the action.

Aware of the inherent dangers, some conferences have taken baby steps to stay safe. The Big Ten and Pac-12 decided that their teams would play only conference games. The Pac-12 announcement came after commissioner Larry Scott came down with the virus.

Big Ten partners Ohio State, Maryland, Indiana and Michigan State halted workouts. So did North Carolina of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Rutgers went a step further, quarantining the entire football team when there were 10 positive tests for the virus.

With the virus so widespread, it is fair to ask why the major conferences have adopted a wait and see attitude. But time is running out and decisions must be made soon.

The problem is the All-American dollar. College football is a major moneymaker with schools generating an estimated $10 billion in revenue for the NCAA. Football pumps millions of dollars into athletic budgets and funds most athletic programs. It is tough to turn away from that kind of income but it is hard to imagine administrators willing to face down a pandemic.

Remember they backed off in the spring, canceling the NCAA basketball tournament, another major moneymaker. But it was obvious then that this is a dangerous virus and it remains so today.

Classes on many campuses have already retreated to on-line studies in an effort to keep students safe and the virus in check. You can’t play football remotely though, and that is a dilemma.

Can you justify remote classes and still expect athletes to be playing their games for the benefit of broadcasting dollars?

No 100,000 fans jammed in Michigan’s Big House? No Note Dame faithful cheering on the dancing leprechaun in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus in South Bend? What kind of football autumn will this be in America?

The answer is simple — a safe one. The Ivy League presidents made sure of that first and now college football’s heavyweights have an obligation to follow their lead.


About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock is a contributor with NY Sports Day. He has covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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