West Virginia University is waiting to see what reopening its campus will do in terms of COVID-19 spread. It makes sense that the state’s largest university will not allow fans at its football opener, at home Sept. 12 against Eastern Kentucky University, even as other schools announced they will allow 20% to 25% stadium capacity.
It’s a commendable decision to put health and safety first, and it probably wasn’t an easy one to make.
It’s still a very open question as to how safe simply playing college football will be. Teams have 85-player rosters, and will travel all over the country for games. Even with no fans allowed, such a setup has proven troublesome for Major League Baseball. The National Hockey League and National Basketball Association — both of which have much smaller rosters per team — have seemed to be able to eliminate the spread of COVID-19 by playing all games at a few, select locations under tight public health protocols and with no fans allowed. That type of “bubble” plan would be a logistical nightmare for college football.
Like so many things going forward with an unprecedented pandemic involving a virus that has no vaccine or medical treatment, college football will involve a lot of observation and weighing advantages and risks for those schools that have decided to play this fall.
The general medical consensus has been that the novel coronavirus — like many illnesses — more seriously affects older people with underlying health problems, but that is changing in some circumstances. And nothing about football on any level adheres to the general medical guidance of wearing a mask, keeping gatherings small and staying 6 feet away from the next person (again, with or without fans in the stands).
While the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences have opted not to play until the spring, other conferences have decided they’ll embark on what essentially will be a public health experiment. Hopefully, the research won’t prove too costly.