College Football Fights COVID

The coronavirus does not discriminate. It is an equal opportunity illness, just as likely to strike down the high profile college football coach as it is to nail some anonymous third-string tackle.

And this is why, in the middle of October, college football was reeling from the pandemic. Some 30 games had been postponed or canceled and teams and coaches were tiptoeing through the Covid-19 minefield, preaching a one-day-at-a-time approach to the schedule.

Perhaps the biggest shock came when Alabama’s Nick Saban tested positive and was forced to pass up his No. 2 team’s showdown against No. 3 Georgia. This is the highest paid coach in the business, who has led the Crimson Tide to five national championships. Covid-19 was not impressed.

Saban’s absence shook the Southeast Conference, which has produced 10 of the last 15 national champions. Days before Saban became ill, the conference was forced to postpone defending champion LSU’s visit to No. 10 Florida because 21 Gators tested positive for the virus.

Florida was coming off a loss at Texas and coach Dan Mullen was anxious to get home, saying he hoped 90,000 fans would show up to inspire his team for the LSU game, the virus notwithstanding. Pack them in, shoulder to shoulder with no concern for social distancing. Then, what was left of the Gators squad took the day off while their quarantined teammates recovered and Mullen apologized for shooting his mouth off.

Sometimes, though, college football presses on. The Big Ten Conference took a bold move in August, suspending the football season in the wake of the virus. The Pac-12 was so impressed that it did the same thing shortly afterwards.

Then other conferences decided to play their games and the Big Ten, missing the broadcast income others were receiving, made a U-turn and decided it would play after all. The Pac-12 thought that was a swell idea and said it, too, would play starting in November.  The Mid-American and Mountain West conferences followed suit, meaning that the Football Bowl Subdivision will have all 10 of its conferences in action this fall.

Yahoo!! Fire up the cookouts.

Now before you think avarice had something to do with that decision, Michael Schill, president of the University of Oregon, assures you that was simply not the case. “This has nothing to do with money,’’ he announced.

That said, the faucet on the income fountain has been opened up for his conference and the others. How long it flows depends in large measure on that tricky coronavirus and where it settles next.

Photo:  John Bunch/Icon Sportswire



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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