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More Coronavirus Questions As Kickoff Approaches

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Beyond how all of that can be accounted for, how will the system respond when needed?

Everyone is hoping for the best as it pertains to college football, but it's the worst that must be discussed and planned for if the sport is to return. With practice sessions now happening and games at least potentially on the horizon, specific protocols need to be in place in case positive cases arise and spread. Beyond the absolute necessities of regular testing, timely results, constant communication and the implementation of expert-led guidelines, response plans will be just as important.

With regards to coronavirus, preparing for college football to start likely won't be as difficult as how to maintain order once the season is underway.

The questions are complex and many, especially given that college football takes place on college campuses. It goes without saying that the sheer numbers on each roster, including the coaching and support staff members involved, are immense. That traveling party is as big as it gets in sports. Even if only league games are played, the moving parts that will be moving across multiple states will be many. Football, more than most other sports, obviously comes with participants directly engaging with each other.

Beyond how all of that can be accounted for, how will the system respond when needed? 

Can football teams be structured so that weekly activities maintain some semblance of functional order, meaning social distancing and the usage of masks? Can schedules be fragmented, even as kickoff approaches, so that mass team gatherings can be limited? How much can technology continue to mitigate the need for face-to-face meetings? What is the best way to limit exposure when traveling? What is the best way to limit exposure in classrooms and around campus?

The questions once a positive test is identified become even more difficult.

First and foremost, how quickly can the individual(s) be quarantined, evaluated and medically cared for? Can their past interactions be contact-traced? How thoroughly is a facility correspondingly cleaned? If, say, an offensive lineman tests positive, must that entire position group suddenly be isolated and for how long? Would positive tests prevent travel from occurring or games from being played? Would a team be able to handle multiple positives within the team or on a coaching staff? At what point does a program shut down?

Such questions are scary and difficult to answer. So are many more. 

Sports, of course, are in a difficult position in the current climate. The entire world is. With regards to sports, the details surrounding college football are especially trying. Remembering that these are amateur student-athletes with campus responsibilities, there are different dynamics at play than what professional players may encounter. The game of football is much more physically direct than almost any other form of competition. This is a trying time with unique circumstances.       

So many of us love college football. It's part of the upbringing of many. It's part of the culture of even more. The overall economic impact of the sport is almost-immeasurable, playing leading roles in, beyond just football and the university, the restaurant, hospitality, merchandising and travel industries. Then there are players themselves, many of whom have gotten to where they are after a lifetime's worth of work. The number of Saturdays in the fall are limited and those opportunities are overwhelmingly important and meaningful.   

There are no easy answers. And more and more critical questions continue to arise. With a college football season slowly, in some form, beginning to take shape, the focus can't just be on that start.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports