Maybe it will still happen. Maybe the NCAA will announce at some point that it is cancelling all Division I fall championships. Tuesday, after a day-long board of governors meeting, the NCAA announced ... nothing.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the NCAA could still do the right thing, but only after exhausting every other possibility.
Tuesday, the NCAA’s board of governors faced down the Power 5 conferences, and blinked.
The NCAA could have announced it is holding off on fall championships. But the Power 5 has been carefully laying down bread crumbs suggesting it could hold its own fall championships.
Why would it do that? To preserve football, no other reason.
Some Division I leagues have shut down for the fall. But the ones that print the money, the Power 5, still are moving forward. So if the NCAA had suspended fall Division I championships in sports such as field hockey and cross-country, there would have been enormous pressure on the Power 5 to shut down football.
As there should be.
Not trying to make you chortle when I say it’s time for commissioners of the Power 5 conferences to show leadership, the real kind, the stuff that takes courage.
Yes, the financial implications of not playing football are catastrophic. But you think the alternatives are peachy? What we now know about the ability of college football and COVID-19 to coexist is enough to say, it ain’t working. We know that Rutgers can’t keep its football team on the field and out of quarantine. But that’s not the real reason the Power 5 has to shut it down.
Brady Feeney’s mom told us why it isn’t worth it.
Feeney is a freshman offensive lineman at Indiana University, listed at 6-foot-4, 325 pounds, from St. Louis.
He has COVID-19.
The reason we know this is that Feeney’s mom posted on Facebook, explaining what was going on with her son. This one Facebook post put a scary face on all the sterile statistics being assembled about positive tests in FBS football.
Mom was just being a mom, worried about her son. She wasn’t looking for publicity or blaming Indiana University’s football program. She was just warning other moms, basically. She had her son’s permission to do it.
“My son was negative when he got tested at the beginning of volunteer workouts,’' Debbie Rucker posted. “Within three weeks, he and multiple others tested positive.”
Rucker noted that IU did everything right in response, shutting down workouts, retesting everybody. But the virus, she said, hit her son hardest of any of them.
“Here was a kid in perfect health, great physical condition and due to the virus ended up going to the ER because of breathing issues,’' Rucker wrote.
One visit to an emergency room shuts down all of big-time college football? No, it does not.
“Now we are dealing with possible heart issues!’' Rucker said, in the true warning. “He is still experiencing additional symptoms and his blood work is indicating additional problems.”
If Mom doesn’t post on Facebook, her son is just part of the statistical accounting of this disease. We don’t know what other genetic factors come into play for him. But we now know that heart issues can crop up, even if you’re a star pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.
We also know the CDC has warned from the start that having a body mass index of 30 or higher “increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.”
Well, Brady Feeney’s BMI is 39.6. He could have weighed 75 pounds less and still been at greater risk. Offensive linemen, almost by definition, are at greater risk.
The Big Ten has taken all this seriously from the start, making no bones about the fact there might be no football this fall. The decision to hold off, to hope to play in the spring if vaccines are available, can’t be made by coaches. University presidents are in charge of this one. IU’s president is in charge of monitoring Brady Feeney. The president of Rutgers is in charge of making sure the Rutgers moms don’t have to unnecessarily worry about their offensive linemen.
Yes, worrying about older staffers is part of this, too. But in the end, they are employees, making their own no-win decisions. The NCAA doesn’t get to have its cake and eat it too on how it treats its “student-athletes.” And, no, it doesn’t matter if your team has zero positive tests. This virus has proven it’s not about the best-case scenarios.
It’s a huge positive that quarantining is working right now in the NBA and the NHL. We’ll see how it works out for the NFL. Luckily, Eagles coach Doug Pederson, now tested positive, might not be at as much risk as his own offensive linemen.
If a true quarantine were possible in college football, that would be great. It isn’t, can’t be, won’t be.
(So this guy is saying there shouldn’t be Penn State football this fall? Uh, yeah.)