The prospect of a 2020 college football season was remarkably unclear throughout the summer. With nobody willing to make an official decision too early and without enough evidence to make a sound decision, conferences around the country waited until the end of July and beginning of August to start voicing their decisions.
There were fierce debates about the overall safety and practicality of having a football season, seeing as these student-athletes could not isolate in a bubble similar to that of the NBA, NHL, and MLB because of attending classes, inadequate funding for such a project, and the sheer volume of college football programs in relation to a much smaller pool of professional teams, which made it much easier to coordinate an “isolation” season.
The topic of college football during a pandemic was also extremely dependent on the social climate of each region. Schools in states with minimal health and safety restrictions were confident in playing a normal season, while schools in other states with more intense protocols and safety measures were more unsure of what was to come.
After much debate and deliberation amongst coaches, schools, conference boards, and health officials, decisions were made across the country. Some conferences decided to cancel their season -- it has stayed this way since those decisions were made. Other conferences initially cancelled their seasons, but reinstated them after external pressures and the recognition of possibly achieving a successful and safe return to college football. And, of course, some conferences announced they planned to play a restructured version of the season and have stuck to that plan as well.
Clearly, none of the decisions made were easy and required immense planning and communication to get things done. However, within each conference there have been drastic differences in how teams have handled the virus.
Boston College has done a good job of handling the pandemic while playing football week in and week out while other programs, such as the University of Florida, have struggled to handle the situation in the same way this season and it has led to cancelled games, shutting down of facilities, and uncertainty about the continuation of the season.
Let’s explore how Boston College compares to some other programs around the country.
Boston College has been one of the most successful football programs in the entire country in handling COVID-19 and the considerable time, effort, and dedication it has required from the team, staff, and athletic department since June is more than commendable.
The program, following local, state, and federal health and safety guidelines, returned to campus on June 22. The players and staff have had to adhere to a strict regimen and protocol, similar to the student body on campus, and they have done this perfectly.
There have been zero reported cases among the Boston College football team and staff since they returned to campus, and they have been able to play every single game on their schedule so far and most importantly, have not jeopardized the health and safety of the student body here on campus. This is an amazing feat that truly deserves praise and recognition, from top to bottom.
University of Florida
The Gators were gearing up for a huge game against LSU on Oct. 17, when a few days before the game it was reported that a handful of players tested positive within the program. As the University of Florida hosted a press conference to address this issue, it was announced that the team was up to 21 positive cases and had to postpone the game against LSU. Four more members of the coaching staff and a few other players tested positive the next day, bringing the total close to 30 total positive cases in under one week for the football program. This forced them to postpone their game scheduled for the next week, as they would not be able to field the minimum number of players needed according to NCAA rules and regulations.
The state of Florida has been one of the most controversial states in terms of its COVID response over the course of the entire pandemic, and the football team at one of its state schools was no exception. Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, had fully lifted all capacity and safety protocols for business in the state of Florida in late September.
The University of Florida also allowed a limited capacity in their football stadium, so it was a matter of time before the virus was going to spread around the athletic department at the school with the constant exposure. The head coach of the Gators, Dan Mullen, had said in a press conference that he wanted the stadium to be at full capacity this season, which indicates the type of culture that this program was operating within.
University of Wisconsin
The Badgers are members of the Big Ten conference, who initially cancelled their season but announced in late September that they would be reversing that decision and planned for their season to begin in October.
In their opening game on October 23, QB Graham Mertz had a great game with five total touchdowns as the Badgers easily took care of Illinois, 45-7. Over that same weekend, Mertz had a positive COVID-19 antigen test. He then had a further PCR test administered and it returned positive, which signaled that he had the virus during the game. According to special Big Ten protocols for this season, Mertz is now suspended all football activities for 21 days and must undergo a cardiac screening before returning to the field.
Subsequently, the Badgers have recorded 16 positive cases as of October 29, and have forced them to cancel their next two games.
Arguably the biggest name of college football, the Clemson QB tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday evening. This means he missed the game against Boston College on Saturday and will most likely miss Clemson's next matchup against Notre Dame, which is a significant absence for the number one ranked Tigers.
Earlier in the summer, Trevor Lawrence took to Twitter, saying that he had talked to President Trump about their desire to play college football this season, and how college football allows these players to escape the hardships and inhibitors back at home which gives them an opportunity to showcase their talents in the hope of continuing their football careers.
Additionally, Lawrence argued that he felt it was more likely to catch COVID living life than playing football by saying, “People are just as much, if not more [at] risk, if we don’t play.” The impact of his absence from this Clemson offense will be immense, and it will be interesting to see how things play out for the team during this time.
Over the course of a few weeks, some programs had to suspend football activities because of a number of cases throughout the program, and other schools have had to cancel their games or delay the start to their season because of a number of positive cases in the program. This has been an incredible challenge, and it is completely reasonable to assume that most, if not all, programs anticipated that they would eventually have a handful of positive cases in the team.
Boston College, on the other hand, has gone almost five months without a single positive case. This is an outstanding feat, and quite honestly hard to fully grasp the immense effort and adherence to all safety protocols that the entire program has followed since returning to campus at the end of June.
The success of a football season during the pandemic is reflective of the culture of a program. It starts with implementing the adequate safety protocols, and it is followed by the head coach and staff setting an example for their players by following these rules themselves, and emphasizing the importance of maintaining these protocols at the facility and back in their respective dorms and apartments. For 104 student-athletes, 34 coaches and staff members, and countless athletic trainers and stadium staff to go five consecutive months without a single positive case is nothing short of spectacular, and they deserve the full praise and recognition that this incredible feat deserves.
Comparing Boston College to other programs who have had various hiccups in their season, while simultaneously jeopardizing the health and safety of their players and stuff, makes me proud to be a classmate and peer of these football players for their commitment to safety for themselves, their season, and the entire Boston College community.
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