Opinion: College football's wait-and-see crowd are waiting to see what you — yes, you — do to stop spread of coronavirus
The Southeastern Conference isn’t ready to make a decision about football.
Here’s guessing the Big 12 won’t be either.
When the athletic directors from all the SEC schools gathered Monday, they faced several questions about football. Keep the schedule as is? Cancel nonconference games? Play a conference-only schedule? Move everything back?
They opted to delay a decision until late July.
The athletic directors from the Big 12, set to talk Tuesday in a previously scheduled meeting, have signaled a similar wait-and-see approach.
But here’s the thing: these college-football decision makers won’t wait forever.
“It is clear that current circumstances related to COVID-19 must improve,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement, “and we will continue to closely monitor developments around the virus on a daily basis.
“We believe that late July will provide the best clarity for making the important decisions ahead of us.”
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The end of the month is only 17 days away.
That’s when the wait ends and the action comes. That’s when the leaders of the SEC and the Big 12 and really the rest of college football will look at the numbers and decide what to do — and they have made it clear what they need to see is a decrease in the overall number of coronavirus cases.
We’re not just talking about the numbers within college football. We’re talking about the overall numbers in our country. We’re talking about the numbers in Florida and Texas and Alabama and Louisiana and, yes, Oklahoma.
We’re talking about everyone.
This is a team effort. The biggest one our country has undertaken since the World Wars were raging. And just like the days of ration books and victory gardens and meatless menus, each of us has to do our part.
I know lots of you talk about your favorite college football team like you’re part of the squad.
“We are gonna be great this season,” you crow.
“We stink against the run,” you lament.
“We won!” you cheer.
Unless you’re playing or coaching on Saturdays, you actually aren’t part of the “we.” But now, you are. You will have a role in what happens to your team. You will determine if they get to play this fall.
Whatever you do, for better or worse, you will have a hand in what happens to your team.
So, you have two choices.
You can do what the doctors and the scientists and the health professionals have told us needs to be done to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Wear a mask. Socially distance. Wash your hands. Stay at home if you feel sick.
Or you can do otherwise.
Either way, you will determine whether we have college football.
I know that some of you will argue masks aren’t effective, and it’s true face coverings aren’t a hundred percent effective. But neither are seat belts. You could get T-boned by an 18-wheeler and it’s unlikely your seat belt will save you. But you know what? I’m going to wear my seat belt anyway because I’m safer wearing it than not.
Same with a mask.
I also know some of you will say that some medical professionals have said we shouldn’t wear masks, and again, it’s true there have been such comments made during the pandemic. But a vast majority of those comments were made early on. We didn’t know then what we know now about the spread of the disease — it is largely passed through respiratory droplets. Little bits of spit that shoot out of our mouth when we talk. Tiny chunks of snot that come out of our nose when we breathe.
Even cloth face coverings can help slow all that down.
So, yes, the recommendations have changed, but they have changed as the science has changed.
Admiral Brett Giroir, a doctor and the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said something during an NPR interview Tuesday that drove this home this idea.
“Science doesn’t run on rails,” he said.
In essence, what we know about the coronavirus can change. It has changed. But what we know now is more advanced than what we knew in March and April. And what we know now is that masks slow the spread.
Well, I’ll let another doctor, Centers for Disease Control director Robert Redfield, tell you.
“It’s our major defense to prevent ourselves from getting this infection,” he said Monday during a press conference in North Carolina. “If all of us would put on a face covering now for the next four weeks to six weeks, I think we could drive this epidemic to the ground.”
Four to six weeks? Drive it into the ground? Just by wearing face masks?
Pretty sure that would mean we’d save thousands of lives and get to see some college football this fall. And mind you, there was no mention of stay-at-home orders or mandatory closures. Just wearing masks.
Sounds like a win-win to me.
Now, I know some of you will say masks are a risk to your health, but the medical community has made clear people with respiratory illnesses such as asthma and COPD can safely wear surgical or fabric masks. They don’t restrict your breathing enough to cause problems; if surgical masks did that, don’t you think surgeons would’ve stopped using them long ago?
The last place you want to feel light headed is while doing open-heart surgery.
And I know some of you will say masks are a violation of your freedom, but we do all sorts of things because they improve public safety. We don’t barrel through stop signs. We don’t smoke in restaurants. We don’t spray our lawns with hazardous chemicals. Such things keep us safer, but as much as anything, it keeps our fellow humans safer.
That whole love-your-neighbor-as-yourself thing.
So it goes with masks.
Wear them or don’t. The choice is yours. But in a couple weeks, a choice will be made by college football leaders, and the ones you make now will determine the one they make then.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.