The 2020 NCAA college football season is scheduled to begin in only eight weeks, and there has yet to be a uniform testing procedure put in place by the NCAA.
The season kicks off in just a couple of months, and there are no standardized COVID-19 testing procedures for universities or teams. It will be hard for an organization like the NCAA to enforce a national policy because of liability concerns.
Not only does the NCAA have to worry about federal and state regulations, but also university budgets for something as costly as testing. The Power Five commissioners are avidly trying to fabricate a testing protocol.
After establishing a protocol, the commissioners will then be able to bring their plans to the Group of Five for an agreement. This could be extremely complicated, as there are 130 FBS schools in different locations, with diverse populations, and different budgets.
Forty-one states have a minimum of one FBS college football program. That means these states will most definitely want to express their opinion.
Although college football voluntary workouts have been going on for a few weeks now, testing across universities has been inconsistent. This has accounted for many universities and their athletes to have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks.
It is important to note these reports do not reflect possible cases at other universities who do not test their athletes.
Arizona’s associate athletics director, Randy Cohen, has expressed his concerns regarding the upcoming season. He doubts whether “we” can accomplish playing football during a pandemic.
What do the experts have to say?
An athletic director from a Power Five school who wished to stay anonymous reported there was only one ICU bed in town. Although these are intense circumstances, many other states face similar problems considering the spike in cases nationwide.
UAB’s professor of medicine and infectious diseases, Dr. Michael Saag, has spoken confidently about the coronavirus being a long-term problem. He claims it is likely that as far as a year from now, the search for a solution could still be in the works.
Saag wants to shed light on the coronavirus away from being politically driven to being about caring for public health and getting people out of their “political space.”
Dr. Saag feels very passionate about the topic considering he spent 14 days battling COVID-19 earlier this year. He has also spent over 30 years studying HIV, making him extremely well-versed and knowledgeable on the subject of viruses.
Although Saag, as much as any other football fan, wants it to return as scheduled, he does not think it can be done safely until Americans step up to the plate. He claims people are at war against an invisible enemy, and to fight the war effectively, it is necessary to command the situation.
He has compared the situation to universities and their athletes waging a battle against the coronavirus, something new and unknown. Many schools remain shut down amid quarantine regulations, but others are allowing their athletes to train at their facilities.
With no national standard, schools nationwide are testing at different rates in varying frequencies with no testing protocols, only upon arrival to campus. Throughout the pandemic, the NCAA has released several guidelines and recommendations of their own, although it has been hard to make any enforceable.
Dr. Saag believes mass testing is feasible, as he is currently in the process of aiding in coronavirus testing for all 265,000 students at the University of Alabama.
Almost a month ago, he would have projected that the infection rate of returning students would be around 1-2%. After analyzing recent COVID-19 reports from universities nationwide, Saag believes that number could be at 3-7% at this point.
If this proves to be accurate, not only are college athletes at risk, but so are all college students, faculty, and staff.