PONTIFICATING FROM THE SUNSHINE STATE – MAY 19
By Leo Haggerty

SPORTS VERSUS SAFETY

First of all, and I will start EVERY article with this paragraph, sports pales in comparison with what is occurring with the Coronavirus. Hopefully, the columns that I, and the rest of our correspondents, provide you is a momentary escape from the trials and tribulations that Americans, and the rest of the world’s population, are experiencing. The COVID-19 is not a video game that you can press reset and get a new life. This is real and dangerous so, above all, be prudent and stay safe.

Today, let’s deal with the 800-pound gorilla in the room when it comes to resuming or starting sports during the pandemic.  That happens to be how do you resume or begin sporting activities while keeping the participants, along with the fans,  safe.

There are two basic suppositions that I have to put forward and they are pretty much contradictory.  First, it has become painfully obvious that, for the foreseeable future, all sporting events will have to be conducted without fans.

Until a vaccine, or at least a treatment for COVID-19 has been established, venues will be conspicuously devoid of fans.  Sadly, it’s the safe, and really the only, alternative if sporting events want to take place at this time.

Second, and here’s the other side of the coin, colleges cannot afford to play athletic events, especially football, in empty stadiums.  The NCAA needs “The Big House” at the University of Michigan, and all other sites, to be packed.

Why, you ask, will professional sports be able to survive playing in a veritable vacuum while college sports needs a paying audience?  Here’s the answer.

It’s no secret that football drives the economic bus for college athletic departments and fan attendance provides the gas.  No gas and the bus comes to a grinding halt.  You follow me here?

Please understand that pro sports will not make the money they are accustomed playing in an empty site.  They will have enough revenue to survive on their television deals but that’s it.

Colleges and universities aren’t so lucky.  The TV revenue would cover football but not rest of the intercollegiate programs especially the non-revenue sports.

That could force athletic directors, along with presidents, to make some extremely hard choices.  Do they “bite to bullet” and absorb the enormous economic loss that it will take to operate their entire programs or do they jettison some to survive.

Trust me when I tell you this, no AD or president wants to be put in that predicament.  It’s a no-win scenario.

So, how do colleges get fans safely into football stadiums throughout the United States?  If you looking for an answer in the next few sentences, you are sadly mistaken.

I have no pearls of wisdom here.  There’s no right answer.

I think what will transpire is that college football will open up a little later than normal but fans will be allowed to attend.  The caveat is that you attend at your own risk.

That’s definitely not the alternative you wanted to hear.  Simply put, it’s the best worst opinion for the NCAA and its member institutions.

Let’s just pray that fans take every precaution when it comes to cheering on their favorite team.  Wear a mask.  Stay away if you’re sick.

Be smart.  That way, you can survive to cheer another day.