Photo courtesy of USC athletics

On a conference call with local media, Washington Nationals closer Sean Doolittle put it best when he said, “sports are the reward of a functional society.”

For many college football fans, the reward for the “flattening of the curve” is the return of college football when the season kicks off, however the return may look. 

Lost in thinking of the reward and the fruits that come with it is the actual problem — the one the United States has not solved. As a nation, the United States has not figured out a solution. The U.S. has not figured out how to flatten the curve. 

The Facts

Across the country, states are beginning to see another rise in cases. With the rise in cases has come the possibility of an overrun medical system — one where there aren’t enough supplies or beds for those in need. 

This fear was found out in New York City, the site of the nation’s first epicenter. And now, another epicenter has begun to form in states like Arizona and Florida. Those states host a combined nine FBS teams.

On July 2, Florida broke the single-day record with 10,109 confirmed cases. The day after, the state confirmed 9,448 cases. At the time of writing, Florida had over 214,000 confirmed cases with more than 3,840 deaths. 

In the college football world, the numbers are equally staggering and shocking. 

Upon their return to campus, LSU saw more than 30 of 115 players test positive. At Clemson, 37 players have tested positive since returning to campus.

Although some teams have seen no positive tests upon their arrival – including schools like Miami and Michigan State, who are scheduled to meet up in East Lansing during the season – the number of teams that have received some number of positive tests is higher than it should be.

This isn’t fear mongering; this is simply the facts.

What can be done to help the return

The grim reality is that there is no cure to the disease. A vaccination is a long way from happening. No known medication, right now, is available to help eliminate the virus. If someone contracts COVID-19, everyone is simply in wait-and-see-if-it-gets-worse mode. 

As a country, the United States will likely not find a cure or a vaccination by the time college football comes around, either. The first FBS games are slated to take place on Aug. 29.

Recently, renowned infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, who has been at the head of the White House’s task force for COVID-19, said that a vaccination would come eventually. It would just take some time, likely until the end of the year as a minimum.

Without a vaccination in sight, the solution to wanting a potential college football season remains simple: follow the guidelines set in place. 

Maintaining a social distance of at least six feet, along with wearing a mask or facial covering of some kind, is widely believed by experts to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Yet, some people refuse to socially distance or wear a mask. 

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Those people are not only putting themselves at risk but also those around them. Just because someone doesn’t “feel sick” does not mean they aren’t sick. Many carriers don’t have symptoms. They will never feel different. Wearing a mask helps make sure they don’t potentially spread it to someone who might be at-risk for the disease.

The at-risk community is a major community both within football programs and outside of them. No one knows if a college football player is immunocompromised or has another underlying medical condition. The same goes for coaches and even the families of these coaches and players. Some veteran coaches fall in the age brackets that tend to be more at risk.

College football’s return to campuses across the country would be a welcomed site for many, but until we can figure out what to do about the pandemic sweeping across the globe, the return is meaningless. 

It isn’t about finding a cure, but about being comfortable. It’s about getting the cases to a manageable level and it’s about making sure everyone, including the players and coaches who may be asked to return to campus in the fall for football, are safe and in a good mindset. 

Football may not have fans in the fall. The stadiums that would once held sold-out crowds of over 100,000 fans may be a dream and not a reality. 

However, if you want to help facilitate its return, with or without fans, do what’s asked from you. Wear a mask, maintain a social distance and avoid large gatherings when possible. This isn’t just about you. It’s about everyone.