A Season Like No Other
Big Ten football has made its comeback! Seven games kicked off the 2020 college football season at the end of October, and a month later our local Northwestern Wildcats are undefeated in conference match-ups while past powerhouse Nebraska languishes at the bottom.
By the end of this shortened season, each team will have played a total of eight matches within the conference, followed by the Champions Week beginning on December 19. With the new season came new rules and protocols to keep players and staff safe from COVID-19. However, many of these protocols have become obstacles that have gotten in the way of teams’ success. Was such a season even worth it?
One positive test can potentially ruin a team’s chance of competing in their conference games. This is due to the diligent process of contact tracing by the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). When someone tests positive, all of their high-risk contacts — which includes anyone within six feet of the individual without a mask on for at least 15 minutes — are required to quarantine for 14 days.
The problem with this is that teammates are consistently in high-risk contact with each other.
If several teammates are gathered in one place, one positive test can send them all into a mandatory quarantine, which can seriously damage the team’s lineup in their upcoming games. In some instances, teams may even have to cancel their games due to a lack of players. Right after their first win over Illinois, for example, Wisconsin had to cancel their game with Nebraska after 12 Badger players and their coach tested positive for COVID-19. Considering how many “high-risk” contacts this created, there just weren’t enough players to safely or fully field a team.
In some cases, these “high-risk” contacts don’t even end up having the virus and have just squandered two weeks of their season in isolation. What’s more, if players return from quarantine only to come into contact with a COVID-19 case yet again, another two weeks are thrown out the window in quarantine.
The only way to solve this is to adopt a policy known as testing out of quarantine, one that is currently in effect in the NFL. Under this, players can exit their quarantine if they bring back a negative PCR test three days in a row. NCAA officials are currently trying to get this approved by local health departments. Until that happens, however, the Big Ten season could still be a train wreck, especially as fewer and fewer weeks remain in the season. This can, without a doubt, alter a team’s projected performance for the year.
Just imagine if the Lakers made the finals, only to be told they had to continue without LeBron. That’s one less championship in the franchise’s history, simply due to a single player’s absence, but it’s a very real possibility this year in the Big Ten.
At the end of the day, we need to tackle COVID-19 protocols before tackling college sports.