Why should states like Iowa or Michigan be subject to the same coronavirus restrictions as New York? That policy question has sparked political debate and protest, and is also a key question to determine what an upcoming college football season might look like, USA Today's Dan Wolken writes.
Under normal circumstances, college football players would begin arriving back on campus in late May and early June for summer classes and workouts. But with many states banning nonessential gatherings of more than 10 people, there is disagreement among major college football programs about how to proceed.
Unlike major professional sports leagues, major college football is governed more by conferences than by a single governing body like the NCAA — and what's viable for the mostly midwestern Big Ten right now might not work as well in the West Coast-based PAC-12.
Wolken reports that the Southeastern Conference wants to have a normal fall season, regardless of what other conferences can or cannot do. The PAC-12 would prefer the major conferences come to a uniform decision. The Big 12 anticipates a scenario in which the season starts on time but is potentially suspended in the late fall or early winter due to a second wave of the virus. At least one Big Ten school, the University of Iowa, is aiming for June 1 to start practicing.
The decision made by publicly funded universities could vary widely depending on which governor is in charge. Some governors are pushing reopening more aggressively, while others seem intent on keeping lockdowns in place until there is a coronavirus vaccine or until the virus disappears.
"I don't think you're going to like it and I don't think people are going to be happy about it, but in reality, I don't see how you'll be able to hold up 10 or 12 schools in one conference (because of) two states that are opening up a month later," Penn State head football coach James Franklin said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday. "And that's the same thing by conference. I don't think you can penalize one conference from opening because another conference is opening way ahead."
There are serious concerns involved with bringing college football back too soon. A locker room environment that keeps 100 or more players and coaches in close proximity with one another would be a high risk environment for rapid spreading of the virus. Additionally, it's unclear whether programs could have enough available tests to ensure that infected players aren't participating and infecting others.
While the players themselves would largely be in a demographic in which there is a low risk of serious illness or death from the coronavirus, there are some coaches and staff members who might be at higher risk and therefore may have to find ways to keep social distance while performing their duties.