PONTIFICATING FROM THE SUNSHINE STATE – JUNE 6
By Leo Haggerty

NOW WHAT

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.

There are multiple reports circulating that at least five football players at the University of Alabama have tested positive for Covid-19.  The university has not commented on the allegations citing privacy laws that do not allow the sharing of specific information as it applies to the health of their student-athletes with outside agencies.  You have to like that idea, right?

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the above statement is factual.  What exactly are the ramifications to the Crimson Tide, who are one of the most revered and storied football programs in NCAA history, where multiple players have contracted the coronavirus?  I see two plausible solutions with both being the lesser of two evils.

The first possible scenario is that those players, and probably all others that were in close contact with the infected individuals, will be quarantined for 14 days to see if they have been infected with Covid-19.  After that time frame, those players that do not test positive will be allowed to return to full team participation.

So, if that policy is followed, what happens if, after the fourth game let’s say, multiple players test positive for the first time?  Does the University of Alabama have to forfeit its next two games until their team can safely compete?  Plus, what about the opposition?  Will they have to quarantine for two weeks as well?

Obviously, the NCAA and its member institutions want no parts of any of those possible outcomes.  What then, pray tell, is Plan B?

Here’s the alternative and it’s not a good one either.  The NCAA would have to convince its members to treat Covid-19 just like the flu.

If a player tests positive, he’s out until the symptoms no longer are exhibited.  No one else is isolated and the game goes on.

This would be a massive “roll of the dice” by college football and let’s be painfully obvious here.  Every college wants to be open and have stadiums packed with rabid football fans.  It’s a right of passage on Saturday’s in the fall on university campuses across the nation.

What the NCAA hierarchy, as well as college administrators, don’t want to do is face a bevy of reporters with open microphones and cameras rolling if, god forbid, a player or coach or school administrator is hospitalized with this disease.  That’s bad enough and the thought of it being worse is an Armageddon event of epic proportion that a member institution, as well as the NCAA, may not recover from in the near future.

As you can see, those are not good solutions to this problem and, frankly, I don’t have a better one.  There is going to be some major inherent risk in just playing college football and coaching college football along with attending college football games.

If all parties involved in college football are prudent and practice safety, and that may mean everyone inside the stadiums are wearing masks on and off the gridiron, the risk of contracting Covid-19 would be extremely reduced.  Maybe even eliminated if all parties involved follow a stringent set of guidelines.

Let’s just pray that happens.  Perish the though if it doesn’t because that won’t be a very pretty outcome.

Memo to the NCAA.  The clock is ticking when it comes to making a decision on how to start the 2020 collegiate football season.

Time is running short and a decision has to be made soon.  Here’s hoping it’s the right one.