NOVAK: College football season is on the brink

John Lennon and Paul McCartney may have said it best in their song “A Day in the Life:” “I read the news today, oh boy.”

The opening line of that song raced through my head Monday morning as reports started to come out that the Big Ten Conference Board of Presidents had voted 12-2 to cancel the 2020 football season due to the COVID-19 outbreak. No official statement was expected until sometime Tuesday, but that did not make the news any less painful.

I guess I cannot say I am surprised by the news because when the Mid-American Conference voted to cancel fall sports in the middle of this pandemic, it was just the first domino falling. I knew in my heart more of them would fall, and it would happen pretty quickly.

The song goes on to say, “And though the news was rather sad, well, I just had to laugh.” I had to laugh to keep from crying. As you all know from last week’s column, I love high school sports. It is not just my job as a local sportswriter, but because I understand the passion and dedication those young athletes put into their sport.

I also love college football. The pageantry of a Saturday afternoon game on a college campus with the bands playing, the fans gathering to tailgate is hard to top. But there are still things that are bigger than the game, like the health and well-being of the student-athletes playing the game. Until someone can guarantee the complete safety of those players, I have a problem with the games being played.

I honestly believe that there are sports that can still be played during this pandemic. Football is not one of them. There is no way to create any type of social distancing and no way to keep the players from sweating, spitting and even bleeding on each other during the contests. If there were a safe way to do that, I would be all-in on having a college football season.

I also do not mind professional athletes in all sports playing the games. They understand the risks involved and are getting paid to compete. That is their job. Like the rest of us who have continued to do our jobs or went back to work during the pandemic, we need to put food on the table.

But these are college kids. They should be getting some sort of play as the universities make millions of dollars off their backs, but that is a different column. They have their entire lives in front of them. They should not be expected to put those lives on the line just to entertain us.

Now, we wait. We wait to see if the reports are true. We wait to see how many other Power 5 conferences follow the lead of the Big Ten. We also wait to see what the Michigan High School Athletic Association has to say. Its decision is said to be due no later than nine days from now.

No matter the outcome. We will move on. I already read that the National Football League may move three games weekly if college football cancels its season to Saturdays. That would give us something, at least until they would potentially have to shut down due to outbreaks of the coronavirus.

The clock is ticking.

 

Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at scott.novak@leaderpub.com.

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