There’s going to be lots and lots of college football played this season because those young male athletes (and the female ones who play other sports) aren’t likely to contract coronavirus! And even if they do, their symptoms will be minimal, so we can enjoy all the football we want!
Well…that’s been an optimistic, if not delusional, scenario for the past three months; it was under scrutiny well before colleges and universities opened their facilities for their student-athletes a few days ago.
The scrutiny is about to ratchet up, especially recognizing that the coronavirus numbers are increasing in several states (and in the south, where college football is akin to religion, the number of cases is way up).
In what will be the first of many similar reports, the University of Houston announced late Friday that all student-athlete workouts on campus are suspended. That’s because six of those student-athletes are now fighting coronavirus.
Harris County, Texas, where Houston is located, is currently at a “code orange” or Level 2 of a new color-coded “COVID-19 public health threat level system.”
The system consists of four levels: Level 1 is a code red and considered a severe threat; Level 2 is a code orange and significant threat; Level 3 is a code yellow and moderate threat, and Level 4 is a code green and minimal threat.
Let’s analyze that ESPN information carefully. The county remains under a Level 2 “significant” warning for coronavirus. So, why would University of Houston officials deem it wise to allow workouts, no matter how many precautions might be in place? The risk/reward scale is heavily weighted to the risk side.
Please understand, I love sports. I was a sports journalist for well over a decade. I’m a proponent of what they can do for men and women, especially those young adults who would find it impossible to pay for an education. Yes, I’d like to see a robust fall sports schedule across the collegiate landscape.
However, I continue to question whether the motivation for allowing workouts is based on anything other than ensuring as much money as possible is brought into the institution’s athletic department because of football.
I get it: If there’s no football season, the financial implications will be terrible. I know that the number of sports being offered by every college will be reduced because of an absence of football-related income. And I accept that without a football season, it’s possible that some collegiate sports programs will have to shut down everything.
But requiring football players to workout, practice and play when common sense tells us they’re at a high risk of catching coronavirus, which they can then pass on to others across their campus, is an ethical minefield.
The prognosis that young athletes won’t suffer the worst should they contract coronavirus had better be right.