While many people are still thinking of summer activities and hoping for some normalcy as businesses begin to reopen, some of us are already looking forward to fall. As in the college football season. As someone who lives in the heart of SEC country, I’ve witnessed the culture that surrounds college football. Tailgating starts early in the morning on game day, even if games don’t start until 7:00 PM. Fans prepare all week for the upcoming game whether watching at home or heading to the stands to see their favorite team in person. But this year, college football may look a little different. At this point, the powers that be aren’t even sure if the NCAA football season will happen at all. If we look at some of the challenges facing football based on the Covid-19 pandemic, is it possible that we’ll see any football this fall?
Huge crowds are now a huge concern
The main issue surrounding the return of college football this coming season is what to do about crowds. As of May 2020, many states are just starting to reopen businesses with rules in place to limit crowds and promote social distancing as people try to get back to a normal routine. So how can these rules be modified for use inside a football stadium that seats hundreds of thousands of screaming fans? The logistics of trying to social distance in such a crowded space seems impossible, and just strange when you consider it. Think about watching your favorite team play their rival while sitting in a partially filled stadium with 6 feet in between each group of people.
Current status of the 2020 NCAA football season
As of mid-May, the football season is still scheduled to begin on August 29th, 2020. Those in charge are relying on information from state governors and federal officials based on virus data across the country before making a decision on the season for fall 2020. They are considering several scenarios. According to ESPN, one alternative is to play the entire fall football season in spring 2021. This is unimaginable to players and fans, but it’s one way to ensure that the season can be completed. They have also considered canceling the entire season. Cancelation is really a last resort option if no other reasonable accommodations can be made. Other options include delaying the start of the season or having a shortened season where teams play only conference games.
What needs to happen for teams to get back on the field?
Reopening college campuses is the first step towards getting the football season started. Universities should start making decisions in June on campus reopening timelines. But will it be enough time to prepare for the football season? Coaches need a minimum of 2 months to prepare their teams. Another challenge that many football programs are facing is financial issues related to the virus. Some coaches have seen significant pay cuts and programs are struggling with recruitment issues because of the spring shut down.
College football fans anxiously await official news on the fall 2020 season. As the status of the season remains uncertain, teams can’t move forward with training. Decisions have to be made based on the safety of the players and fans. But people are getting antsy to return to a sense of normalcy after months of disruption. The next few weeks should see some decisions made on how the NCAA football season for 2020 will play out. It’s time for everyone to work together to find a solution so players and fans can look forward to a successful season, no matter how or when it happens.