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Is COVID-19 a threat to football season?

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Let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

It might seem like it’s been forever, but it’s only been two weeks since the SEC Tournament ended prematurely. That it feels like there’s no end in sight to the desert without sports is a testament to the fact that COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and nobody knows when this is going to end.

The NCAA’s spring calendar has already been called off. MLB Opening Day was scheduled to be tomorrow, and now that might happen in the middle of May at the earliest. The NBA and NHL are on an indefinite hiatus, and again, nobody really knows how long “indefinite” will be. And yesterday, the IOC announced that the 2020 Summer Olympics are postponed until next year.

In other words — this is going to be with us for a while. And now we have to talk about whether COVID-19 is a threat to football season.

College football season isn’t scheduled to kick off until the weekend of September 5. That seems like it’s a ways off, but it’s only five months; and more importantly, the preparation for the season will start well before that. Fall camp starts in early August, and offseason weight training starts even before that.

In other words, college football players aren’t going to show up cold on September 5 and start playing football. There are approximately two months of preparation involved in getting ready for the first game of the season, and that’s in a world where spring football is a thing — which this year, at least, it has not been (Vanderbilt got in about four of its fifteen spring practices before the university was shut down for the semester.) So the longer this goes on without the epidemic being controlled to some degree, the more of a threat this will be to football season in the fall.

And if football season is threatened, so, too, are college sports as a whole. It’s a little bit over the top, to be sure, but the way that big time college athletics are funded, without football there basically isn’t anything.