Morning, friends! Positivity first: I spent the weekend watching the PGA Championship, NASCAR races, baseball games, and the NBA and NHL playoff races. That's a bounty of sports unimaginable a few months back.
It was glorious. I could almost forget we were still in the middle of All This, as long as I didn’t look too hard at the stands … or at Twitter.
Because while all those sports were going on, almost entirely without incident, a much bigger, darker story lurked just offshore. College football — for my money, the top-to-bottom most fascinating sport in America — lurched ever closer to what appears inevitable: a shutdown for the fall 2020 season.
The pebbles had been falling for some time, smaller FCS schools postponing or outright cancelling their seasons. Then came Saturday, when the Mid-American Conference announced that its 12 member schools were taking their ball and socially distancing from their season. In the Jenga tower that is this year’s college football season, the MAC was one of those pieces that makes everything start to teeter.
So even as optimism about other sports rode high — with the exception of the St. Louis Cardinals, no player or team across baseball, basketball, golf, NASCAR or hockey tested positive over the weekend — the news turned ever darker for college football.
Our Pete Thamel reported that Big Ten college presidents met Sunday night, with cancellation, or at least postponement, of the football season as the prevailing sentiment. The difficulties of managing infection vectors; the long-term health risks to players; the liability exposure for universities; the possibility of infection for older coaches, staff and fans — it all adds up to a grim conclusion, one that was an obvious possibility as far back as April.
Controlling 130 massive football operations filled with 18-to-22-year-old college students isn’t like controlling a bubble full of millionaires. College football was always the unlikeliest sport to survive in a pandemic, and now, it sure seems like our worst fears on that score are close to being realized.
Within the next few days, the Big Ten could pull the plug on the season. Other conferences could soon follow. And man, that would hurt. So, so much.
If you’re looking for hope — or at least a little less brutal reality — check out Dan Wetzel’s column on how a Big Ten cancellation doesn’t automatically mean every conference needs to follow them into oblivion. For better or worse, both the NCAA and this country have pursued a decentralized — to put it politely — coronavirus management strategy, and that could actually work in college football’s favor.
Other sports have proven it’s possible to play games in a pandemic, and the NFL has yet to set the pace for football. If a conference is willing to wait, and invest the money in mitigation and prevention, it could cobble together some form of a season yet.
We’re barreling into one of the most momentous weeks in college football history. Chances are it won’t end well. We can always hope, but hope hasn’t fared well so far.
Enjoy those other sports, friends, because what we’ve already got might be all we get.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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