With the Summer Olympics postponed, could football be next?

Given the cascading coronavirus cancellations, it’s not a stretch to think that football could follow.
Will college football, which draws huge crowds (especially in this state), be impacted by the current pandemic? Week 0 of the college season is slated for Aug. 29.
Will college football, which draws huge crowds (especially in this state), be impacted by the current pandemic? Week 0 of the college season is slated for Aug. 29. [ Times ]
Published March 24, 2020

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Now that this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo have been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s fair to start wondering about the next major event on the sports calendar.

What about football season?

Related: Tokyo Olympics officially postponed until 2021

There are some obvious differences between the Summer Olympics and NFL/college football. The Olympics’ opening ceremony was set for July 24; college football’s Week 0 isn’t until Aug. 29, and the NFL’s regular season isn’t scheduled to start until Sept. 10. Considering how much has changed in the past two weeks, a lot could happen between July 24 and Aug. 29.

The Olympics bring competitors and fans from all over the world into close proximity, which could ignite a quick international spread of the virus. Football teams and spectators are much less geographically diverse, so the risks aren’t quite the same.

The type of training necessary for a quadrennial event is different than a football season; a longer training camp/fall camp would probably give college and pro players enough prep time for the season.

But still. As postponements and cancelations continue to flow, it’s fair to start wondering about football in the fall.

Although there are much, much more important things going on than 11 guys running around with an oblong piece of leather, football matters. It matters financially, providing enough money to big-time college athletic departments to fund most of their budgets. It matters culturally, especially here in the Southeast. And it matters emotionally, too, as society looks to return to normalcy. Whenever that is.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said last week that he hopes football is part of the celebration surrounding our return to normal experiences in the fall. “But, we’ll have to see,” Sankey said.

Related: What the SEC knows and doesn’t know amid coronavirus pandemic

No decisions have been made about football, from high schools through the NFL. But how would the season work, if social distancing continues? You can’t have a huddle of 11 players if public health officials are discouraging gatherings of 10.

It was hard enough to fathom the idea of March Madness without fans. What about a game at The Swamp or Doak with no crowd? Forget football; will college campuses be back to business as usual by August?

This isn’t meant to be a doom-and-gloom projection. This is a sports story, not a medical story. We’ll leave public health policy to the experts.

But the cascading cancelations and postponements have taken us into late July, knocking off one of the biggest sporting events in the world. It’s not a stretch to think football could fall next.

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