Some people can take the middle-of-the-road approach to the COVID-19 virus. Some can’t. College presidents are in that second group.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences have said they won’t play football this fall. The Big Ten postponed its games until spring, while the Pac-12 has postponed all competition until Jan. 1. These decisions follow the decision of the lower-tier Mid-American Conference to postpone football until spring. The Division II Mountain East Conference likewise won’t play this fall. It says it plans to resume football this coming spring. The Big 12 says it plans to play. As of this writing, the football world waits for the decisions of the Southeast Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference. If those two decide to postpone their seasons, others will likely follow.
Football fans don’t like it. Some don’t want to accept it.
Postponing or canceling football will be hard on the travel industry, at least at first. Hotels, restaurants, bars and other businesses that usually do well with football-related events will need to reassess their business plans for the remainder of the year.
This is not necessarily a totally bad development for the economy. Money that would have been spent on football-related travel and parties will be spent, saved or invested somewhere. The thing is that no one knows yet where that money will go.
Meanwhile, hopes for football remain alive at some schools. As related by The Herald-Dispatch sports writer Grant Traylor, Conference USA has decided on a pared-back schedule, but it has not decided to follow the lead of the Big Ten and the Pac-12. It’s waiting to see what happens at other conferences before deciding to take that step.
While that waiting game plays out, Marshall University’s football team will continue its preparation for the 2020 season opener despite not knowing when or where its first game will be — presuming there is one.
“We’ve got to worry about what we can control,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “Right now, as far as we’re concerned, we’re still playing. As long as we’re still playing, we’ll come out and practice and work to get better and see where it goes.”
Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick spoke with Conference USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod last week and said the intent of the conference is to move forward with a fall 2020 schedule at this point.
Here’s the thing: If the coronavirus is not a big deal — if most of the steps taken so far are a reaction to panic or experts who have overblown the dangers the virus presents — then play ball. If coronavirus is a indeed serious health threat that justifies closing taverns, restricting restaurant seating or not allowing traditional funeral services, then shut football down.
In football and other close-contact situations, there is no middle ground between the two extremes. It’s either-or. Health care workers and people in many other occupations are vital to the functioning of the economy and life. Football and other contact sports aren’t.
It’s hard to imagine a fall without football, but Americans are a resilient people. We can overcome this.