College COVID calamity?


Infographic by Jane Bachus.

Well, here we are rapidly approaching the winter, personally my favorite time of year, especially in normal circumstances, but also the worst time to be in the midst of a pandemic.

As if dealing with this virus wasn’t enough, the NCAA is trying to push both its football and basketball seasons right through it, and that has brought forth chaos.

Now, in the fall, it seemed like maybe these guys had a really good grip on the protocols and the new regulations, and when very few teams did test positive, everybody was aware and took even more precaution to make sure their teams don’t get infected, but even with all of the experiences and the precautions, the outbreaks still couldn’t be avoided.

I’ll start with how college football is handling this season. The NFL didn’t have a preseason, so you could say the NCAA did a pretty good job of getting themselves in the spotlight and giving football fans some games to watch. That’s pretty much where all of my compliments end.

Playing any sport during a pandemic is risky enough as it is, but playing football of all sports is insanely complex with the amount of members on teams, the tight schedules and, of course, determining who has done enough to make it to the College Football Playoff.

There are a whopping 130 teams in Division 1-A college football alone. That’s not even counting the colleges in Division 1-AA, Division 2 or Division 3. It is virtually impossible to go through a season without having COVID-19 issues when you have to look over 130 teams across the United States.

The only real question is how bad it could get. Well, to put it simply, the NCAA is starting to limp as we get closer to conference championships, the always-highly-anticipated bowl season and the CFP.

Speaking of the postseason, 11 out of the postseason’s 45 bowl games have been cancelled, and there has been talk all season long about how the committee is going to evaluate the contenders and select the four best teams in the nation in a season where the biggest non-conference games were scratched and not all 10 of the FBS conferences started their seasons at the same time.

Take Ohio State and Texas A&M for example. The Buckeyes are ranked fourth while the Aggies are ranked fifth, but because the Buckeyes have only played five games to A&M’s eight, some people question if Ohio State is really worthy of the playoff spot over the Aggies.

Texas A&M has beaten Florida, one of the best teams in the nation, and lost to Alabama, THE best team, while Ohio State is undefeated, but they’ve only played one team with a winning record.

This is one of the many CFP topics that are burning hot going into championship week. More cancellations are definitely possible, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to watch the CFP national championship game on my birthday just like everybody planned.

As for college basketball, the season literally started not too long ago on Nov. 25, and the cancellations and postponements are starting to pile up. You thought trying to keep 130 football teams healthy enough to play once a week was difficult? How about making sure that 698 different Division-1 basketball teams (350 mens, 348 womens) are healthy enough to play every single day?

It’s so bad, there hasn’t been one day where all of the games on the Division-1 schedule were successfully played and completed, and I’m talking both men’s and women’s basketball. As of right now, that streak could be snapped if the women can play a 36-game slate this Friday. If not that, then the men could do it as the only games scheduled on Dec. 25 are four Big 10 conference games.

There have been two major men’s games that were postponed, and both of those involved the second-ranked Baylor Bears, who couldn’t play against #1 Gonzaga and #13 Texas this month. The games have only been postponed, so rescheduling the game is definitely on the table, but the nation’s top teams can’t afford to struggle to fight off the virus if they want to keep the season rolling.

Since the NCAA is so committed to bringing March Madness back and crowning an undisputed national champion, they better be able to at least keep the majority of the top-25 teams healthy just for their own sake. We all know revenue is a glaring issue for the NCAA right now, so getting the best games on TV is their best way to getting some of that money back. In order to do that, they must properly monitor the pandemic and consistently listen to the feedback of players and coaches throughout the season.

With cases spiking once again throughout the country, Duke men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski led the charge for questioning whether or not the NCAA should continue the season, and for that, he drew some criticism from other coaches, most notably when Alabama men’s basketball coach Nate Oats said that he only brought up reassessment of the season because he lost two home games to Michigan State and Illinois over the past two weeks.

Look, on the men’s side, there are 350 teams attempting to have a chance to compete in the 68-team tournament for the title of “national champions”. There are a lot of teams that are having COVID-19 problems, but there are also a lot of teams that AREN’T having COVID-19 problems at the point. To pause the season for everybody and disregard all of the teams that are working hard to prevent the contraction of the coronavirus is absurd.

However, I am not a fan of disrespecting Mike Krzyzewski of all coaches. Coach K is the winningest coach in college basketball history with 1,157 wins, plus five national championships. I think some people are criticising him too hard for just trying to make sure the people in power are making the right decisions to keep their players as safe as possible.

Overall, it seems that the risk of playing college football and basketball during a pandemic is somewhat paying off. Even with some of the bowl games getting cancelled, it seems that we’ll still get to see all of the New Year’s Six bowls. As for March Madness, there’s no way I can guarantee that that’ll happen this season, but if they can get through the winter, that should be a confidence booster going into the spring.

For the fans, the hype around these big games and the best players are exciting, and it makes us extremely grateful that the sport can be played. You just have to hope everybody involved with the NCAA handles their business and finishes what they started. If they can’t do that, well, at least it’s still my favorite time of year, but for everyone else, it could be a miserable hibernation.