Prospect of fall sports gets ‘curiouser and curiouser’


Prospect of fall sports gets ‘curiouser and curiouser’

If you’re a betting person, keep your money in your pocket regarding whether or not there will be a fall football season.

In fact, don’t bet on whether other collegiate sports will play before January arrives — and hold off on wagering about the likelihood of winter competition. Tread lightly, too, when considering the future of spring sports.

In case you haven’t been reading the newspapers, the outbreak of COVID-19 has re-ignited. Many states, especially in the lower half of America, have walked back their liberal guidelines and are reinstating protocols that require new closures, mask requirements, social distancing and other public health procedures that are designed to limit the spread of the virus.

In each state’s case, it hardly seems that allowing football players to bear hug and tackle while breathing and throwing sweat on each other is allowed by even the most liberal protocols.

On Friday, the Colonial Athletic Association, which includes James Madison, William & Mary and Richmond, suspended its 2020 fall season.

The CAA became the fourth Football Championship Subdivision conference to postpone fall sports due to the pandemic. The Ivy League, the Patriot League and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference preceded the Colonial — in fact, canceled all fall sports, not just football.

Since the Power 5 conferences aren’t quite ready to pack it in, the Pac-12 and Big Ten fell back on league-only football games. Independent schools like Brigham Young and Notre Dame could have their schedules wiped out if other Power 5 conferences follow suit.

As reported nationwide, it seems that FCS schools, Division II, Division III and NAIA campuses are more likely to err on the side of caution and cancel their contact sports. For those schools, no sports means saving money (in addition to keeping everyone safe).

Meanwhile, the SEC, Big 12 and ACC are waiting another week or so before unveiling their 2020 fall plans.

“I believe it’s too early to be making those decisions,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby told The Dallas Morning News this week.

Some think yesterday is too late to have made a decision to halt all operations. Just ask Texas, Clemson and the University of Houston.

Now comes the seemingly innocuous announcement that the Big Sky Conference Football Kickoff has been moved up to next Thursday and Friday (July 23-24).

Already being conducted in a virtual manner, the online gathering features preseason media and coaches’ polls, all-league voting and interviews with all 13 member head men and selected players.

Participating from UC Davis are running back Ulonzo Gilliam and coach Dan Hawkins.

While the NCAA has said recently “that a definitive announcement” regarding fall sports is due by the end of the month, is the Big Sky’s decision to move the Football Kickoff indicative of its fear that its governing body will scotch the 2020 campaign?

If the Big Sky were to announce no football (or sports, in general) a day before or during the original date for the Football Kickoff, the focus would hardly be on all those All-Big Sky student-athletes. Discussion about the pundits picking so-and-so to win the league would be moot.

I’m just saying …

The NCAA, on its website, makes a blanket statement: “The NCAA continues to closely monitor COVID-19 and is taking proactive measures to mitigate the impact of the virus. When it comes to decision-making, our commitment is this: protect the health and safety of college athletes.”

It continues to upgrade its list of contact protocols, cautioning that individual schools should adhere to protocols set forth by local and state public health officials.

“Any recommendation on a pathway toward a safe return to sport will depend on the national trajectory of COVID-19 spread,” Brian Hainline, NCAA chief medical officer, said on the NCAA website. “The idea of sport resocialization is predicated on a scenario of reduced or flattened infection rates.”

Well, we all know where that “scenario” has headed.

The bottom line: We still don’t how things will shake out. It would’ve been nice if, almost six months ago, our president had provided coordinated leadership in attacking COVID-19 head-on.

Now, as we spiral down the rabbit hole, people in Connecticut have no idea what folks in Arizona are doing. Do the healthy schools risk it and fly to Oregon to play Portland State? And, does eliminating non-conference games do anything more than just buy time?

How many more shoes will we hear drop in the next two weeks?

— Reach sports editor Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or call 530-320-4456.



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