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College Football Season Teeters on the Brink

  • July 11, 2020

Most are jury-rigging plans to educate online, some entirely. Budgets are in tatters. Students are in limbo. Faculty are torn by the bad options of teaching in person during a pandemic and educating through computer screens. Support workers and others linked to campuses wait, but each day seems to make the view murkier.

Colleges, and the towns that support and rely on them, are microcosms of the nation’s anxiety and uncertainty. They face a grudge match between health and economics. The safest option is to keep campuses closed. That might mean economic devastation to colleges and their communities. Is there middle ground?

Now throw athletics into the caldron. Unlike most professional sports leagues, several of which are already struggling to cocoon themselves in tightly monitored, self-described bubbles without getting people sick, there is no way to separate college sports from college environments or society at large.

Even small outbreaks could spread like wildfires into a forest.

So far, more than 3.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and 133,000 have died. On Wednesday, the day that the Ivy League canceled fall sports, nearly 60,000 new cases were reported in the United States, a new high.

Some of those were college athletes. Through Wednesday, at least 426 had tested positive for the coronavirus among roughly 50 Division I programs, but the number of cases is likely much higher. About half of American universities either did not respond to requests for testing results from The New York Times, or declined to provide numbers, under the auspices of protecting the privacy of student-athletes.

Ohio State, in suspending its off-season workout programs this week, did not reveal how many students tested positive. It only said that the shutdown impacted seven sports, including football.

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