Two months later, there’s a lot we still don’t know about return of sports

Two months ago, Florida State football had wrapped up its third spring practice. The men’s basketball team was fresh off a regular-season title and set to take the court in the ACC Tournament. The women’s basketball team had made a run to the ACC Tournament title game. And FSU baseball had just knocked off No. 1 Florida on the road.

March was going to be fun. And it was … until it wasn’t. This gave the “in like a lion, out like a lamb” saying a very different meaning.

Some have seen the impact of COVID-19 firsthand. FSU running backs coach David Johnson lost his mother-in-law, Artherene Trufant Encalade, who was on a ventilator for more than 40 days. FSU offensive lineman Andrew Boselli battled the coronavirus, as did his brother, mother and father. Most of us know someone or have met a person who has fought a virus that is unlike any other we’ve seen in our lifetime.

So it’s important first to be thankful and to reflect on the importance of family and friends. We social distance in hope that at some point things will get better. And while sports often don’t seem all that significant in the big picture, the games are part of what brings us together as a community or gives us a distraction from the stress of everyday life. Old FSU games and highlights on YouTube or ACC Network as well as new interviews via Zoom video have allowed us to stay connected.

The sports world is trying, cautiously, to return. After a two-month break, it’s a good time to take stock of what plans have been made and think about the future goals. There’s little doubt that sports featuring no contact, or ones that minimize contact, will return sooner.

Golf and NASCAR return: Yes, you can watch live sports on Sunday. There won’t be fans in the stands or in the gallery but sports will be back. Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff will play in a charity skins game at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla., beginning at 2 p.m on NBC and the Golf Channel. NASCAR will race on Sunday at Darlington, S.C., at 3:30 p.m on FOX and plans other races in the coming weeks.

MLB making plans: Major League Baseball owners are pushing forward with a plan that, according to reports by ESPN.com, has spring training starting in June with an 82-game season beginning in July. It’s possible that we’ll have baseball games around July 4, with a focus on regionalized matchups: NL East teams will play inside the division as well as go up against AL East teams, for example. Where games will be played is a big question moving forward.

College athletics: As you may have read on theOsceola.com and various sites, “I don’t know” is a common and very acceptable answer when coaches and administrators are asked about ideas about the return of college athletics. Schools across the country have every intent to open with in-person classes this fall. Presidents, athletics directors and conference officials are putting together a variety of plans and then will adapt in the coming weeks. The ACC is holding its spring meetings this week via video call, so expect a few more updates in the coming days.

That’s what we know. Now for what we think could happen.

My feeling is that some college sports will return, cautiously following the lead of pro sports, and that these games or matches will be played without fans in the stands for the foreseeable future.

Men’s or women’s golf have a good chance to be among the earliest college sports to return in the fall because of the game’s natural ability to social distance. It’s also a strong likelihood that golfers could travel a few hours to play 18 holes and return home the same day. Now a major concern remains if colleges would want to keep student-athletes in a hotel for a night or two for a multi-day match. 

College baseball coaches are no doubt watching as the sport has returned in South Korea. But back in the U.S., there is a good chance that college players will be able to participate in summer leagues. A few of the top-flight leagues, such as the Cape Cod League, will not play in 2020 but others from Florida to Texas to California and Alaska will make an attempt to play games.

Mike Martin Jr. is among a group of college baseball coaches who would like to play an expanded fall schedule. In the past, fall baseball has gone well under the radar with mostly intrasquad games. But in recent years, the NCAA has allowed for a few games and FSU has played the likes of Jacksonville and Alabama. It’s worth watching to see if coaches and players can safely host games or travel, playing a few games in a weekend in months like September, October and November.

Now, for football. Reading the comments from some of the more outspoken conference commissioners, they will push forward and play at some point in 2020 if enough of their member schools can safely play. We could see one league start on time and another delay until Oct. 1 (a Thursday), Oct. 3 (a Saturday), deeper into October or November. We could see leagues try to play only conference games, something the Pac-12 is examining as one scenario. We could see schedules rearranged or completely torn up. We could see college football pushed to the spring and a request to the NFL that the draft push back to late May. The current status appears to be one where all options are on the table.

What do you think? We’re asking you to participate in our poll below and we would love to hear more thoughts in the comment section below:

Are you likely to travel to FSU for football games or other sports in the fall?

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What would make you feel safe?

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If there are safety procedures, what would make you feel safe? (check all that apply)

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  1. Jeri Damasiewicz

    Your first question is missing the option of “Yes, whether or not there are safety measures” That would have been my answer.

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