College football has plowed ahead of its professional brethren, with players returning to campuses — and many of them quickly catching COVID-19.
So the decision-makers at that level are a bit ahead of the NFL, and have recently been forced to consider some drastic alternatives.
Via Heather Dinich of ESPN.com, Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said that playing in the spring “would be a last resort.”
“One of the biggest challenges [of a spring season] — and it’s probably the biggest one in my mind — is the proximity to next season, and frankly a second lost spring ball,” Barbour said. “Overcomeable, if perhaps we’re willing to have a shortened season — again in the category of ‘something is better than nothing,’ that may not be a problem at all.”
Barbour presides over a 107,000-seat stadium, and has said that if fans were allowed in at all, it would likely come from the season ticket holders only (which is less than half the capacity).
But that question can only be answered if there are games at all, and Barbour admitted the conversations have taken a more ominous tone lately.
“There’s no doubt there’s been a little bit of pessimism here in the last couple of weeks that we really hadn’t had for probably about four to six weeks,” Barbour said. “I think that’s part of the ebb and flow of the virus here. Obviously my hope is that, maybe, as people start looking at the masking and social distancing again and all of the precautions and recommitting to the seriousness of this, we’ll see it flatten out.
“What we’re doing is we’re planning. Obviously, given the uncertainty, we’re having to work on a lot of different plans, a lot of different scenarios. And when the time comes, if it’s healthy and safe to do it, we’ll obviously do it. And if it’s not, we won’t.”
Putting the onus on society at large — things like asking people to wear a mask — underscores that getting back to normal will take a collective effort, along with scientific progress.