As I write this, the fall sports schedules for High Schools and Colleges has been turned into a confusing mess. Some conferences are playing, some are limited, some are not playing at all till spring, others saying the spring games won’t happen and yada, yada, yada.
The Corona Virus has done a number on everything this year, and sports have been particularly affected. High school track and field, cross-country, baseball, softball and others have seen their senior seasons ruined in both college and High School. It isn’t right, but it is the reality.
I will be the first to admit that I am not, nor do I claim to be an expert on medical decisions. I am however sure that a virus that has only affected only .04% of the population is hardly something to get excited or scared of, but that is a discussion for another time. With that being said, I would like to give my opinion on the PAC-12, BIG TEN, and other conferences cancelling their seasons. I am not sure they have really thought this through, especially if the ACC and the SEC play their in-conference schedules.
Football, (sorry baseball), has become America’s sport of choice. From the professionals to High School, it is the most popular by far. In terms of viewership, sports betting and fan loyalty, nothing else is close. Now, when America is going to be limited in their choices of entertainment, is the time to solidify this spot and bring new fans to the sport. The fact that people will not be able to go to stadiums and see their teams in person, makes this the perfect opportunity to be on television as THE sport to watch.
So far, NASCAR, and the NBA, have had dismal viewership. Some say it is their political stances that have hurt them. I cannot say one way or another, but I do know that if I had the chance as a College President, or a Professional team owner, I would be smelling blood in the water!
You have the chance to absolutely be the watermark for decades to come. Why wouldn’t you grab that opportunity? Your sport is played outside, in the open air. You have the ability to monitor the health of your athletes, football fields are not crowded with only 22 athletes at a time on the field who have already been monitored for the virus, and with a small rule exception this year you could social distance athletes on the sidelines (the field is 120 yards long!)
You could even allow only 25 to 30 percent capacity in your stadiums and still be compliant. (35,000 people in Ohio Stadium would look lost!) There is also the low rate of infection in younger people to consider. Most people under 25 are not in a high risk group.
According to data from the CDC statistics for males only (Centers for Disease Control), from February 1st to August 12th in the 15-24 age group, out of 12,624 of all deaths from Influenza, pneumonia, and Covid19, only 154 were attributed to Covid 19 (01219%). In the 25-34 age group, out of 33,014 total deaths, only 2028 were Covid 19 (.061428%). The risk is infinitesimal. Most athletes do not have many underlying conditions either, which the above statistics do not show.
The game of Football, at the College level, and at the High School level too, seems to be missing a golden opportunity. Now, when people are sheltering in, they could solidify their stance as America’s game for sure, and allow student athletes who have worked so hard to play the game they love AND to do it safely with minimal risk.
These athletes can still be protected and compliant with rules on corona-virus. Why hurt athletes that have poured their souls into the sport of their choice? The students and coaches want to play. Shouldn’t It be their choice? If they are willing to accept the risks and consequences, then that should count the most. It is their lives, and for some possibly their future lively hoods. That’s the way I see it, from the sidelines.
Contributing columnist Mike Stegall a 27 year former OHSAA high school football official and current Darke County Commissioner