The return of college football next fall looks more and more doubtful.
NCAA President Mark Emmert recently said that football won't be played if students don't return to campus. Football "student athletes" wouldn't have even rudimentary classes to attend.
But he seemed to leave loopholes for big-time powers coming back. Would players be able to return to practice by taking online classes?
The Cal State University system announced this week that its campuses will remain closed, and classes will be given online only, with a few exceptions such as biology labs. The system said that sports will be halted without students on campus.
Three Cal State schools: Fresno State, San Jose State and San Diego State, play Division I football in the Mountain West Conference, which has said that resuming play depends upon students returning to school. Fresno State said agricultural classes in the field might be sufficient for football to kick off.
The big question is whether the SEC, ACC, Big 10, Pac-12 and Big 12 find some way to play games, even without students in classrooms. If so, football powerhouses would have even less justification for claiming their main purpose is education, rather than big-time sports. The University of California System, with Pac-12 heavyweights Cal-Berkeley and UCLA, will announce reopening plans this week..
Even if the big schools play, they are unlikely to do so before fans packing stadiums. Bands and cheerleaders probably won't be there either.
The college season might be halted abruptly if even one player tests positive for Covid-19. With cramped locker-rooms, the virus could spread through an entire team.
Football writers reported that the season might be delayed until spring 2021. So much for track, softball and baseball. Would football begin after March Madness and the Final Four, if they come back? Imagine the Rose Bowl on Independence Day.
Some pointed out that moving football to spring would disrupt players' NFL prospects. My god, the NFL draft might even be endangered.
Even before the coronavirus, football powers were fighting declining interest among students, especially when playing weaker opponents. Kids prefer drinking in the Frat House and watching on TV as Big State U hangs 60 on some hapless school no one had ever heard of before.
As the college football season appears increasingly doubtful, the NFL seems hellbent on playing, even before empty seats. The NBA is moving toward resuming play, with Florida and Arizona announcing they would host games.
If Major League baseball, the NBA, college football and the NHL remain sidelined, the already dominant NFL could be the nation's only game. But will players agree to return and risk infection?
Meanwhile, the PGA is rushing to return to action, without fans. Now players who miss the fairway won't have to worry about hitting spectators or moving back the crowd to hit a shot around a tree.
As South Korean baseball grows popular among deprived fans, MLB keeps pushing nutty schemes to resume play. But players fear MLB is using its reopening plans to impose a salary cap like other leagues have. For now, shouts of "play ball" remain dubious.
If sports are lost this fall, gamblers will resort to placing bets on when the leaves turn color.