The case for college football

Why players are safer with their teams than at home

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With the current state of our public health crisis, nothing feels completely safe. There is an inherent risk with doing anything in daily life, such as going to the grocery store or even just stepping outside your home. In the past few weeks, a raging debate has sprung up in the sports world on whether or not it is safe to play college football. 

However, we believe that the decision that was made was not in the best interest of the players.

A huge headline from the past few weeks is the news of the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences (two of the largest in the country) canceling football — and all other sports — until 2021. The news sent a shockwave throughout the sports world and was highly controversial. With wide-ranging opinions spanning the media, coaches, players, and fans, there truly was not going to be any popular decision. 

Football is not just important to the players — it is vitally important to the colleges and their student bodies. For example, playing in the spotlight of the Big Ten Conference, the Ohio State University Football Program has a revenue of 210.5 million dollars annually (as of 2019). With the suspension of football in the fall, both universities and conferences lose out on millions of dollars. 

Ohio State ranks fourth in overall revenue in the nation among all universities. For large schools like Ohio State (and for smaller schools as well), the profits received from football are used to fund important programs that expand far beyond football and other athletics. If schools are not able to benefit from football season, drastic and wide-ranging cuts will have to be made.

Justin Fields, a junior quarterback at Ohio State, started the viral #WeWantToPlay petition amid the Big Ten’s decision to postpone the college football season. The campaign centers around the reinstatement of the 2020 college football season and asks the Big Ten to give players and teams the option to opt out of the fall season. 

Fields, a top prospect for the upcoming NFL draft, wants to be able to contend for a national championship in his presumed final season as a Buckeye. As of Sept. 10, the petition has over 300,000 signatures supporting Fields and his cause. 

Critics continue to argue that the risk of starting the college football season is too high considering travel, practices and other factors. They are correct in one aspect — there is no way to eliminate the risk factor that comes with having daily practices, weekly games and traveling to away games. However, the counter-argument for playing college football is simple: players are safer with their respective teams than they are at home.

Ultimately, it comes down to one key factor: coaches. College football coaches are often intense, and their reach extends far beyond the football field. Coaches (there are often dozens on each team) are usually assigned to players to keep track of academically and socially. Not only will guidelines be enacted, but strictly enforced by coaches, who won’t let anything slide. 

What we have been seeing recently with colleges reopening in person is that students simply are not listening. They are socializing, going to parties, etc. While no coach is going to be watching each player 24/7, they will help to ensure that the student-athletes are staying safe and healthy. While that is all well and good, what makes this any better than just staying at home? 

Constantly, the news is filled to the brim with stories of everyday people not abiding by the restrictions set by local officials, causing spikes in cases. Bored at home, we believe that the athletes are far more inclined to skirt the lines of being safe with COVID-19. With less supervision and less to fill their schedule, they may socialize with large groups, not follow safety guidelines, go out to eat, etc. 

We aren’t arguing that college football should go on just as it was last season. The world is simply a different place than it was last year. Nor are we saying that players should be forced to play. However, with safety protocols enforced (masks, limited off-field trips, etc.), the risk for these extremely hard-working young players will be limited. 

The case for college football boils down to one statement: players are safer with their respective teams than they are at home. If players don’t want to play or think it is too much of a risk, they should be able to opt out with no effect on their collegiate eligibility. However, if players want to play the seasons that worked so hard to prepare for, they should absolutely be able to if they have weighed their risks and rewards.

 

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