The Big Ten is sending the wrong signal to the nation. The coronavirus pandemic has not turned the corner. It is not on its way out. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says life will not return to “normal” until “well into 2021, maybe even towards the end of 2021.”
More than 8,500 cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, have been reported at Big Ten universities, according to a New York Times database of infections at colleges. Some Big Ten schools have suspended or ended most in-person classes.
And what do these colleges want? Football.
How does this make any sense?
The governors of California and Oregon are easing restrictions on college football, setting the stage for its return. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is cheering them on.
Don’t fall for it, U.S.C., Cal-Berkeley, U.C.L.A. Don’t do it Oregon and Oregon State.
We can give a nod to the daily testing and strict protocols that the Big Ten is depending upon for its return. They are the closest thing colleges can offer to the rigorous screening done in the highly controlled N.B.A. bubble in Florida that has allowed that league to carry out its season.
But these are college kids, not pros. They are not living in anything like a controlled environment. If they get infected, as have the majority of football players at Louisiana State University, its coach and athletic director said, then what?
It will be next to impossible to keep an 18-year-old football player who has contracted the virus — but feels just fine — from seeing his girlfriend, going to campus parties, or returning home for grandma’s birthday.
College players, many of them teenagers still learning how to make smart decisions, don’t get paid for risking themselves or their loved ones. They do not have health and safety protections afforded to professional players through their labor unions.