Time to Face the Facts, Put Health Above Wealth

By now, we were supposed to have “flattened the curve.”

By now, we were supposed to have seen a big decrease in new COVID cases and deaths.

By now, we were supposed to have resumed indoor dining, reopened churches, gyms and retail stores, and allowed large gatherings of families and friends.

By now, we were supposed to be playing major league baseball and NBA playoffs.

Instead, we’re seeing record cases in more than half of our states, with the largest spikes in places where a preponderance of upcoming sports activities are scheduled—Florida, Texas, California and Arizona. More athletes are testing positive every day.

There is no effective COVID treatment at present, and nobody other than President Trump believes there will be a vaccine ready until early or mid-2021.

Yet MLB will start a 60-game season in less than three weeks and the NBA will resume at the end of this month. The NFL is committed to starting on time, and college football is committed to some kind of a 2020 season.

It’s hopeless to try to stop the pros. Players are paid employees, represented by unions. They negotiate with their leagues and team owners. Billions of dollars are at stake, and the games must go on.

Well, they must start. We’ll see whether they will finish.

But college sports are another matter. The players are supposed to be “student-athletes.” They must attend class and demonstrate progress toward a degree. They get scholarships, plus a few other crumbs. No salaries or bonuses. No union. They don’t negotiate with their athletic directors or conference commissioners.

Because of the coronavirus, most, if not all, classes will be held remotely this fall. USC just announced that it would “no longer welcome students onto campus for in-person classes for the fall semester, reversing an earlier decision.”

So no students will be on the Trojan campus…other than football players and other fall sports participants.

There’s something very wrong with that.

It’s time to face the facts and say what needs to be said. The 2020 college football season—and all fall sports—should be canceled or postponed indefinitely.

I think it's a real mistake to even start the football season. There’s no way it'll finish with all scheduled games being played. The post-season—in the midst of flu season—is more than iffy, and how will playoff participants be determined if not everyone plays the same schedule?

As one Power Five Commissioner said (anonymously) last week, “it now seems unavoidable that we are headed to a fall with a lot of cancelled games and perhaps even a national stoppage a few weeks into the season.”

Even that noted medical expert, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, says “the situation is perilous.”

Of the five scenarios being considered—playing a full season as scheduled, playing only conference games, delaying the start of the season, playing with some teams participating and others not participating, or moving the season to the spring—only the fifth makes the slightest sense, as it’s quite possible there will be a vaccine by then.

Limiting the schedule or eliminating non-conference games is really just a band-aid approach. Delaying a few weeks or a month will not change things materially.

The spring scenario is not without issues, too, in that you’d be asking 18-22 year olds to play a season from March to May and then jump back into it three months later. Football is a collision sport. With two seasons held virtually back-to-back, there is no question that injuries would escalate.

So let’s call the whole thing off. Cancel the 2020 season. It’s the only honest and humane thing to do. The only solution that puts health ahead of wealth, puts the students’ welfare ahead of TV rights, coaching salaries, and the facilities’ arms race.

It might give everyone an opportunity to reset. To say, “this has gone too far.” To reduce ridiculously inflated coaching salaries and recruiting budgets. To at least put the brakes on building luxury locker rooms, player lounges and practice facilities.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but it’s the right thing to do.

Final Word: Mike Trout, the best player in baseball, may sit out the season. Trout’s wife is pregnant and the couple is expecting their first child next month. Trout has reported to camp while he ponders his decision, but is playing it safe by wearing a mask at nearly all times, including running the bases.

To all the macho dudes out there who think it isn’t manly to wear a mask, consider this comment from Trout’s mom: “If Mike Trout can wear a mask while running the bases, you can wear a mask going out in public.”

Amen.

Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//gacavalli49@gmail.com

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