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Surgeon general: If you want college football this year, wear a mask

Jack Baer
·4-min read

As coronavirus cases continue to surge across the country, Surgeon General Jerome Adams had a piece of advice for college football fans while talking to reporters on Tuesday.

If you want college football this year, wear a mask. From Bloomberg’s Josh Wingrove:

"If you want the return of college football this year, wear a face covering. If you want a chance at prom next spring, wear a face covering... If you want to see North Carolina beat Duke in person this year, wear a face covering."

Sports obviously aren’t the only reason to wear a mask, as public health expert after public health expert has stressed the importance of face coverings to prevent further coronavirus cases and the subsequent deaths and economic harm they bring. And yet, the idea of losing college football might be what’s needed to put the situation in perspective for some.

Multiple politicians have made similar statements about needing the public to wear masks if they want a college football season. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has held off on mandating face coverings, urged Oklahomans to wear masks if they want to watch the Sooners and Cowboys play this year.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) made a similar refrain for Tennessee fans the same day:

“If you want college football to return this fall, like I do, listen to the words of the University of Tennessee’s Athletic Director, Phillip Fulmer who told fans how they can help make that happen: ‘If you really, really want sports, football, and all those things, then wear a mask and keep social distancing,’” Alexander said.

It’s not hard to see why college football needs a downturn in coronavirus cases more than other leagues. Rosters are larger compared to pro leagues, which increases the number of ways the virus can reach locker rooms. Seasons also can’t be played in a secluded area like the NBA is attempting to do. And while college-age athletes might face fewer health risks if they contract the virus, there is still a risk to both the players and the people around them.

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams holds a face mask during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on April 22, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
It's hard to envision college football being viable this year without a steep downturn in coronavirus cases, so surgeon general Jerome Adams is appealing to its fans. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

College football is facing a coronavirus reckoning

As several professional sports leagues creep back to action, which may not even be an advisable decision, the fate of the college football season continues to be unclear. NCAA president Mark Emmert has said he does not see college sports happening if a school doesn’t have its students on campus, which could lead to massive inconsistencies.

Even if every Power 5 school has its students on campus, some schools are seeing a dramatic amount of cases on their football teams. Clemson alone has 37 cases as of its latest update, while Texas Tech has 23. Other schools, like Arizona, have halted the return of athletes to campus.

And even if schools are able to get everyone back on the field for the fall, just one outbreak would wreak havoc with a team’s season, as well as every team on its schedule. Some coaches explained that to Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel:

“I have no idea how we play,” one Power Five coach told Yahoo Sports. “We are cleared to have 10 guys work out at a time with no one within 10 feet of each other and have to clean the whole weight room. And two weeks later, we can line up in a walk (through) 11 on 11?”

Added another Power Five coach: “If it’s contact tracing and lose a guy for 14 days, I don’t know how we’re going to have a football season.”

The third Power Five coach quantified the chances of a 12-game season being executed in the fall without significant cancellations and chaos as “close to zero” percent.

So, basically, the only way we see a college football season even close to normal is a dramatic fall in coronavirus cases. The widespread wearing of masks would go a long way to facilitating that.

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