Unanswered Questions for College FB; NBA Looks to Disney; TV Time; RIP Chris Dufresne; Last Word
Barring a severe second wave of COVID-19, it's now a given that there will be a 2020 college football season starting in about three months. There’s simply too much money at stake to cancel the season.
It appears that the players will report somewhere around July 1 for pre-season practice, although some schools may allow a return to campus in June for “voluntary” conditioning drills.
In justifying this early resumption of activities, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott argued that players would be “safer on campus than at home.” Of course they would be. Sweating, showering and eating with 100 other guys in a weight room, locker room, practice facility and food hall is far less risky than working out at home and eating with your family.
As for taking classes—after all, these are “student-athletes”—the format will vary from school to school, with many opting for “online only” instruction and others pursuing some sort of a hybrid with online and classroom. But the early objections to the “online only” scheme have faded. Some schools will bring players back to campus to play football, even if all students are attending classes remotely.
The powers that be—presidents, commissioners and athletic directors—are zooming daily to consider all the logistical issues. At this point, a few huge questions remain unanswered:
1. Will fans be allowed to attend? Will games be played in empty stadiums? Will phony crowd noise be piped in? Or will games start at 20-25% of seating capacity, gradually increasing if there are few or no new COVID cases?
2. How much testing is necessary? Should players be tested every day, two or three times a week, or only if they show symptoms? With each test costing between $65 and $100, schools could be spending $10,000 each time they test the whole team.
As USA Today’s Dan Wolken says, “With the NCAA opting not to establish any national standard for testing and university officials desperate for a predicate to open their campuses to students, the wiggle room on testing is as big as the Grand Canyon.”
3. What happens when a player or players get infected with the virus? How many other players should be quarantined? The whole team? Specific positions? Only those who test positive?
And what happens if several players are quarantined and the next two games must be canceled or postponed? Are canceled games considered “losses” for the infected team? Forfeits? How are those games reflected in conference standings and playoff consideration?
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby feels that positive COVID tests are inevitable. “We’re going to have a Tuesday afternoon when somebody tests positive in a locker room, and we’re going to have to quarantine. And the game on Saturday is going to be delayed, or it’s going to be postponed or canceled. And if somebody has to quarantine for two weeks, there’s two teams coming up on the schedule that don’t have anybody to play.
“I think this virus is going to be around with us for awhile. It’s going to be like the chicken pox or like HIV or like SARS. It isn’t going to just magically go away. We’re going to have to learn to coexist with it. That’s what every scientist is telling us.”
Lots of thorny issues. Three months to go, and the clock is ticking.
NBA at Disney: The NBA is apparently considering holding its playoffs at Disney World in Florida. Good idea. Twenty-two years ago, the women’s professional basketball league I co-founded, the ABL (American Basketball League) held its all-star game there.
Disney World has great basketball facilities. Great lodging options. Great food choices. Easy access. Disneyland type cleanliness. The NBA could do a lot worse.
Huge Loss: Monday night one of the great sportswriters of this or any other generation, Chris Dufresne, passed away. For 35 years, Dufresne wrote for the Los Angeles Times, before retiring and starting a subscription blog called TMG (The Media Guides) with a couple of other industry stalwarts.
His unique blend of humor, beautifully crafted prose, and insight was unmatched. For years Dufresne produced a college football top 25 filled with clever pieces of trivia and perspective about each team, which led to the nickname “Rankman”.
Chris was only 62, and he will be missed.
TV Time: On the heels of its excellent “Last Dance” documentary on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, produced by our old friend Mike Tollin and Warriors’ co-owner Peter Guber, ESPN is now airing another series on disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, one of the biggest frauds in sports history.
I’ve been wrong about a lot of people, but I told my wife on day one that Armstrong was a phony. Even today, he shows little or no remorse for the damage he caused, the lives he ruined, the lies he told, the people and sponsors he defrauded.
I’d rather pull weeds or clean out the garage than watch a show about Lance Armstrong.
Sad times in the USA: Just in the last few days we've passed the 100,000 death threshold from COVID, seen the governor of Kentucky hung in effigy for following safety protocols, watched a video of a black man (who died soon thereafter) face down on the ground with a white policeman's knee on his neck for over five minutes, watched another video of a white woman in Central Park dialing 911 to falsely accuse a black birdwatcher of threatening her, and read numerous disgusting tweets from the president falsely accusing one of his adversaries of murdering a staffer 19 years ago.