A month ago, many were optimistic about college football’s return. The numbers infected by the virus were going to lessen and schools were going to start cautious workouts. But as positive tests spike, workouts have ceased at some schools. According to a report by Yahoo, there’s a feeling of “overall discouragement” among the industry. In the original article, Tom D’Angelo of Panama City News Herald reported what this could mean for the return of sports.
It seems voluntary on-campus workouts earlier this month may have been a mistake. At Clemson, 23 players have tested positive and Texas reports 13 positives. Kansas State shut down workouts for two weeks after 14 players tested positive. Off the field, a gather at LSU has caused 30 players to be isolated for being positive or coming in contact with someone who was.
The numbers continue. After 6 positives, Houston stopped workouts, while Alabama has at least 8 positive players. It doesn’t stop there. Within football, volleyball, and soccer, Florida has had 11 athletes test positive since April. These are reported cases, who knows how many schools are keeping mum.
“We know that players are going to get sick, they’re going to get infected, whether it’s through the athletic program or just being on the campus or just being around,” said Dr. Rand McClain, the chief medical officer of LCR Health in Santa Monica, a regenerative and sports medicine clinic.
”I believe we are going to kick off. But I believe there are going to be a lot of fumbles.
Dr. Rand McClain
“We have to understand, this is not going to go away, it’s not going to be 100 percent eradicated and protected against if we’re going to play sports and we’re going to mingle.”
Cases in young adults are hard to recognize because they are mostly asymptomatic and have a low risk of becoming seriously ill. However, the chance of a young person infecting an older person is much higher. The older person would not be as lucky when it comes to falling seriously ill. This type of risk could affect a coach.
The season would look very different in these conditions. Making the playoffs would rely less on depth charts and more on the number of healthy players. Lab visits will become essential. Games will be decided by which teams have enough key positions cleared and safe to play.
“What if it barrels through the entire first-string line?” said McClain, a Miami Hurricanes fan who once lived in Coconut Grove. “Are teams going to put in their second string or are they going to fold for two weeks so two games get canceled.”
There’s another huge challenge. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious disease, told us last week football needed to emulate the NBA and MLS and return in a “bubble.” But all over the country, college athletes are required to attend classes then travel somewhere else to play.
Restrictions implemented across campuses will help contain the virus and may even reduce risk. The question is how many will adhere to the strict guidelines?
“We’re talking about a group of people that … is at a much higher risk just because of their nature,” McClain said. “The execution is going to be the issue not the theory. How many of these (athletes) are actually going to stay within the guidelines and not sneak to the corner bar and go visit their friends at 1 o’clock in the morning.”
First-year FAU coach Willie Taggart was asked on Monday if his players would have a curfew or anything else to help curtail the possibility of being infected while they are away from the coaches.
“No,” he said. “With this, it’s all about trust. We got to trust they make the right decisions away from here.”
Weight training will commence July 13 for most schools, with gradually increased conditioning and meetings to follow. There’s a lot of unknowns to come. Who will have suspended voluntary workouts by that date? What will the virus look like in September?
“I’m an eternal optimist,” Dr. McClain said. “If you ask my opinion should we keep going, I would say absolutely because I really don’t think that it’s going to matter that much with the exception (that) we’re definitely breaking the rules in contact sports. There’s obviously no social distancing there.
“I believe we are going to kick off. But I believe there are going to be a lot of fumbles.”
Orignally posted at Panama City News Herald.