College football fans will be pivotal this season

Two college football teams will spend the next two weeks in quarantine. That means no workouts for either the Michigan State or Rutgers football teams. Yes, multiple positive coronavirus tests within each program are the cause. And it’s not yet clear how those 14 days in quarantine will effect either team with preparations for the (possible) 2020 season soon to heat up.

Remember, if the season starts on time, the first games would be played in roughly 35 days.

Plenty of college football conferences already have thrown in the towel and admitted that playing the sport this fall is not wise. Of course, none of them competes at the most elite level. Absent the pressure to rake in billions of dollars, these conferences don’t need to be hypocritical; there’s no reason to talk up the critical importance of keeping their players healthy while also claiming a need to play.

Right now, it’s the FBS schools (Division I, for those of you who care little for the alphabet soup of college sports) banging the drum about playing this season. So far, two of the Power 5 conferences have made scheduling concessions by announcing conference-only games this season, if there is a this season.

It’s likely the other major conferences soon will announce the same.

The reality is these conferences are eager to keep playing simply for the money, and, yes, a potential $4-billion loss to college sports across the board would be disastrous. The fallout would be immense, including the elimination of many so-called minor sports.

However, the FBS athletic directors and coaches can spin their plans anyway they want, but neither you nor I should buy the nonsense they’re selling. If all that money weren’t involved, the games would already have been cancelled.

Those of us who are sports fans might soon find ourselves in an ethical trap: If the college football season does happen, do we watch knowing by doing so we’d be endorsing hypocrisy? Or, do we stand firm and say we won’t watch because we know the players are being put in a dangerous situation every time they take the field? (Of course, those with a malfunctioning or nonexistent ethical compass are laughing at this point; they’re ready to watch, coronavirus be damned!)

If you believe — and, yes, you can put me in this camp — that college sports are imperfect and in need of major reform, but ultimately do far more good than harm, then you can’t watch this fall. You must resist the urge to follow the sport knowing there are legitimate fears some of the players might die.

The critics will tell you that in percentage terms, the chances of players dying are almost 0. True. But “almost 0” is “not 0,” and that means coronavirus could kill a few players. (No, the “but they could die in a car accident” argument doesn’t wash; accidents don’t equate to pandemics.)

The critics also will tell you that these players could catch coronavirus anywhere and at any time, so any effort to blame playing football on their illnesses are ludicrous. Nonsense. College football and social distancing are incompatible; there’s no way in practice and in games for players to maintain the recommended six feet of distance between each person.

The critics also will tell you that the National Football League is going to play, so the colleges should do. This is another argument that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The professional players are paid; they’ve made the decision to play and be compensated for putting their bodies on the line (although there is an opt-out option and one player already has chosen it.) College athletes play for no money although they aspire to be professional football players. These players entertain us while bringing in billions of dollars to their schools.

Let’s leave it at that.

It would be great if President Trump were proven right and coronavirus would just “disappear.” But he’s wrong, and it won’t. So until a proven vaccine is in place, college leaders — from the top of the pyramid on down — must make the ethical decision to keep their student-athletes on the sidelines.

If they choose not to, then we, the fans, must make the choice to not watch this season.

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