Maybe we don't deserve college football this year

Not that everyone falls into neat camps. There’s dissension and mixed messaging within conferences and at individual universities as well. Ohio State University quarter-back Justin Fields has started a petition to reinstate the season, and it’s already garnered more than 275,000 signatures. The University of Alabama, whose football team brought in $94.6 million in revenue during the 2019 academic year, is among the schools trying to give the most unsocial-distanced of sports a go, but its fans can’t seem to get out of their own way. On Aug. 16, a large group of people in Tuscaloosa–home of the Crimson Tide–were spotted lined up, bunched together and unmasked, outside a bar. The school’s athletic director took to Twitter to tsk-tsk the youthful-looking patrons. “Who wants college sports? Obviously not these people!!” wrote Alabama AD Greg Byrne. And on Aug. 17, the University of North Carolina announced that after 130 students had tested positive for COVID-19, the school was reverting to remote instruction. A few hours later, the school’s athletic department released a statement, saying workouts and practices would continue. A campus was deemed unsafe for students. But the “student-athletes” would apparently be just fine.

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College football’s lost season carries devastating consequences. The sport often funds entire athletic departments: at Alabama, football accounts for 77% of team revenues, according to federal data. Canceling football could cause schools to cut athletic opportunities in other sports. Stanford, for example, had already dropped 11 sports, like fencing and field hockey, in early July, citing the harsh financial realities of COVID-19. Expect more such decisions around the country.

Sadly, Americans can only blame themselves–and their leaders–for the disarray.

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