Will COVID-19 hijack college football?

Bragg Memorial Stadium, home of the FAMU Rattlers. Photo by Mack Green

With the 2020 college football season quickly approaching, the Rattlers at Florida A&M University Rattlers have made their way back to Bragg Memorial Stadium for workouts. The National Collegiate Athletic Association allowed schools to begin voluntary practices starting June 1.

Due to the coronavirus, college sports have been discontinued for since late March, as this pandemic has brought disruptions to the sports world.

Morehouse College, an historically Black college in Atlanta, was one of the first collegesto cancel its football season for this fall due to the pandemic.   KJ Philips, a senior  linebacker at  Morehouse, said, “I am very distraught and dejected about the cancellation of my upcoming season. As an HBCU student and future graduate, it is very unfortunate that other schools that have more monetary gains, funds and a more profound alumni base than Morehouse might still be able to have their season, despite the circumstances around COVID-19.”

Following Morehouse’s decision to suspend all fall sports this year, the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference announced that it will not sponsor football in 2020. The SIAC has 14 colleges or universities that compete in athletics, and Savannah State University is one of them. There is considerable concern around the cost associated with testing and maintaining a safe environment for student athletes.

Milton Woodard IV, a junior safety at SSU, said, “Earlier last week we heard news that our conference is cancelling football for the fall semester.  I feel that this is the correct decision regarding everything going on concerning COVID-19 and player safety.  Many of my teammates did not agree with the decision. However, I believe player safety is important.  Unlike the National Football League, where resources are available to control every aspect of life, my college team does not have the adequate resources to control everything. Therefore, I believe this is the correct decision at the time. Although I would love to play football this upcoming season,  I am all for it being canceled out of consideration for the welfare of the players.  Moving forward, I will continue to train and I will be ready to perform at the highest level whenever I am allowed to play football again.”

The Ivy League Council of Presidents said Wednesday that all fall sports, including football, will not be played this fall. The announcement makes the Ivy League the first Division I conference to drop out of the upcoming college football season.

Ryan Glover, senior quarterback at the University of Pennsylvania said, “When I first got the notification concerning the cancellation of my season on my phone it did hurt because I was looking forward to my senior season as I worked so hard to be at the position I am now. We are planning on having a reduced season in the spring. Other than that, I am looking forward to the plans God has for my future.”

Brian Howard, the sports information director at FAMU, believes FAMU will have a football season. It is important to be flexible, Howard added. Southern University canceled its Sept. 12 game against FAMU in Baton Rouge, but FAMU has since arranged to play Jackson State on that date.

“A lot of changes have been happening day-to-day.  This plan might change as we move into August, but I know the plan has been in place to have a full season.  If a player does test positive, they will be taken to a different location and quarantined for 15 days,” Howard said in an email.

Before FAMU student athletes can work out, they must complete a COVID-19 test with a negative result.  Face coverings must be worn by these athletes at all times, unless they are working out, and physical distancing is required.  These workouts will consist of small groups of eight student athletes, and will be in 30-35 minute increments in which the players will have scheduled times for entry into facilities for treatment and training.