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Opinion: After a jarring 24 hours in college sports, football season is in big trouble

  • July 10, 2020

The decisions are coming quickly now. They are jarring and they are ominous, and they tell the same story, over and over again: the 2020 college football season is in big trouble.

In the 24 hours since the Ivy League canceled all fall sports, Ohio State shut down the voluntary workouts of all its teams for a week due to multiple positive COVID-19 tests among its athletes; the ACC eliminated games in all fall sports until at least Sept. 1; and the Big Ten announced that its schools will play all their fall sports within the conference, eliminating every non-conference game.

Another 24 hours like that and we’ll be well on our way to having no sports at all on college campuses this fall.

As the dominoes have begun crashing into each other, the wise and cautious Ivy League now has company. The big football guys are worried too, people like Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith.

Smith told reporters Thursday that he is “very concerned” about playing sports in the fall. “I used to be cautiously optimistic, but I’m not even there now,” he said. “When you look at the behavior of our country, in May, we were on a downward trajectory. Now if we are not the worst in the world, we are one of the worst in the world.”

How many Buckeye fans shuddered at those words even as they ran errands all day in Ohio without wearing a mask? How many Alabama fans went through their day without social distancing even once? How many Texas fans did the same?

“People need to follow the protocols and give our kids the chance to compete,” Smith said.

Ohio Stadium before a game in 2019.

It appears increasingly likely warnings like that are too late. Some scoff at the notion that the Ivy League is the bellwether for the nation when it comes to college sports, but as we saw in March as the nation began to shut down, the conference knew exactly what it was doing before the rest of us did. 

The money is vastly different from the Ivy League to a Power 5 conference, of course. The goals and objectives are too. But there is an undeniable common denominator among all these universities: the health and safety of the young student-athletes who are in a school’s care in the midst of a pandemic.

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