September 10, 2020
Look, I love college football (particularly when rooting for a team in maize and blue with awesome winged helmets). But nobody should be thinking about playing college football — let alone having tens of thousands of people in attendance — during a global pandemic. And most conferences recognize that. Even two mega-conferences — the Pac 10 and the Big 10 — have cancelled football in the interest of the health of their students and the public, despite the recognition that the constituent schools will lose many millions of dollars in the process.
The football-mad (and football-revenue-dependent) Southeast Conference, on the other hand, is going full steam ahead.
This is a seriously terrible idea.
As this recent article at the website fivethirtyeight.com observes, within days of campus reopening, the University of Alabama reported enough positive cases to field five football teams. The University of South Carolina later reported one of the highest number of college cases on record. Auburn, Tennessee and Vanderbilt all canceled practices. Ole Miss, which did not cancel practice, experienced an outbreak within the athletic community. LSU quarantined at least one-quarter of its roster.
According to The New York Times tracker, three of the four college campuses with the most cases in the country as of Sept. 2 were in the SEC — the University of Alabama, the University of South Carolina and Auburn University. The conference is home to seven of the 28 campuses that reported at least 500 total cases, by the Times’ count.
Fun fact: More than sixty percent of the football players in the SEC are Black. Guess which racial minority is disproportionately impacted by COVID-19?
Meanwhile, players and staff at Colorado State, a Mountain West Conference member, report that they had been told not to report symptoms of the virus, while the coach at Liberty praised a lack of positive tests on his team before revealing that students hadn’t been tested for two weeks.