We need to play college sports in September – if we can do it safely.
We may not see football in September – the outlook for an on-time start looks bleak. Pushing back the start of the season to Oct. 1 is looking like the best-case scenario, not just for Florida State but all of college athletics. This is the harsh reality.
If college football is pushed back, it leaves a void in September that can be filled by fall baseball and softball as well as cross country, swimming, golf and tennis. Taking temperatures, doing wellness checks and coronavirus testing could ensure a safe environment for student-athletes, coaches and support staff in those sports.
FSU baseball and softball players are participating in summer leagues. Golfers and runners are able to socially distance on the course. Swimmers can compete, staying in their own lane, in the pool. What is being done right now on fields, courts and trails (as well as in pools) could also be done in September.
We can also try to play volleyball and soccer, although both sports have more “contact” and present complications. Soccer will always have a play for the ball as well as headers, so sweat will be shared. It’s a similar situation with volleyball, where passing means sweat is also shared.
College athletics should be ramping up for a Sept. 1 re-start. Coaches and administrators can map out a plan for the return of games on campus, although likely without spectators. The ACC’s broadcast partners, from ABC to ESPN to the ACC Network, crave live sports. Fans across the league are also thirsting for the chance to watch games.
The ACC could brand certain nights of the week, offering fall baseball on a Friday or Saturday. Another option would be a Wide World of Sports-style night of programming where golf, swimming and cross country could be featured within a two-hour window. The ACC would be wise to avoid Sundays as well as Thursday nights, time slots that the NFL owns, but it still leaves a full Saturday as well as four weeknight windows.
Let’s admit the obvious. It’s not college football and it won’t bring in the revenue that sport would deliver. It won’t solve the budget nightmare every college athletics department is facing. These aren’t sports that bring in revenue to an athletics department but the goal should be to play sports where we can see athletes compete while socially distant.
Meanwhile, we prepare for the goal of seeing a return of football and basketball at some point in the 2020-21 athletics season. There may be a better chance for us to see basketball start a few weeks earlier in October, which has already been discussed as an option by some in college athletics.
September could be a month of games and programming specific to Olympic sports that go under the radar. The sports world would get to see talented golfers like FSU’s John Pak and Jamie Li as well as a well-rounded Seminoles soccer team with Kristen McFarland, Yujie Zhao, Jaelin Howell and Jenna Nighswonger.
Can these teams safely travel from Tallahassee to another ACC campus or Division I school? We won’t see teams fly. But FSU athletes can take a bus or vans to play schools in the Southeast, especially those within a 250-mile trip. Yes, Tallahassee is isolated but remember how many programs are in close range of FSU’s campus – from Auburn, Troy and South Alabama to Mercer to Jacksonville University and North Florida to Florida and Stetson.
This is a plan – one that isn’t ideal but we’re working in real world problem-solving mode right now – to get some of FSU’s athletes back on the field. And it will put a smile on our faces, to see the return of FSU athletics, to cheer from our couches. It will give us optimism that better days are here and hopefully even brighter days in the future.