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NCAA washes its hands of the coronavirus — SEC creates task force on the return of college sports

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As usual, Alabama leads the way in the SEC response

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Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

With July 1’s drop-dead date rapidly approaching, the SEC has begun contingency planning for a return of college sports (and, if so, under what condition they will return.) That led to today’s creation of a special task force that will set forth guidelines, phases, benchmarks, and otherwise provide Greg Sankey with guidance.

It is good to see that hopelessly conflicted (and understandably concerned) AD and coaches and other administrators are not on the task force. Rather, it it comprised of a representative medical officer or physician from each member school — and is led Alabama’s Dr. Jimmy Robinson, the Tide’s CMO and head physician.

The conference had little choice in the matter either. While the timing and logistics matter of a potential return, the conferences also have no guidance from the NCAA now.

Just three days after sternly warning that “if there were no students in classrooms, there would be no college sports” Mark Emmert has decided to reverse course on this entirely. Instead, he is toeing the line today that the return of college sports will be determined locally.

According to NCAA president Mark Emmert, neither of those scenarios will happen. He told ESPN, “It will be the local and state health officials that say whether or not you can open and play football with fans.”

Obviously, this takes the burden off of the NCAA for regulating schools in different states with varying degrees of regulations from local officials. But it also seems to create a variety of scenarios that seem less than ideal.

The reason is clear, of course. The NCAA doesn’t want to be put in the position (or be exposed to liability) where it determines winners and losers of the ‘Rona Lottery. Nor does it want to take an antitrust hit for sanctioning athletic performance while other students are on Zoom meetings. Nor does it want an internal civil war between the Power 5 and the rest of the members — and within the Power 5, for that matter.

And there’s the greater issue of regulation. The NCAA does not want (and probably does not need) to be in the business of regulating one-size start dates and schedules; particularly when different regions have varying levels of viral infiltration, have opened up in different manners at different times (if at all), have instituted differing precautions, and will be locking back down again at differing times and phases when the very worst hits later this winter. And, honestly, it the NCAA doesn’t have the resources to do so even if it were so inclined.

The nation’s chief virologist is uncertain that it can happen, but the NCAA has punted the matter to the conferences — washed their hands, even — and in turn the conferences to their own committees. In the SEC’s case, it is reassuring that the decision will be informed by those experts, not just departments strapped for cash, fans desparate for our secular religion, local businesses so reliant on those events, and politicians who badly want to give their voters a much-needed uplifting. And, trust me, I sympathize with each and every oneof those as perfectly fine motivations. But, they will at least be balanced against what the docs say when it comes time to make a decision.

Sure, this seemingly prudent hands-off approach has craven motivations by the NCAA, but 1. It really is beyond their scope, and 2. since when has Mark Emmert not been craven?

Still, for fans of football (and it is exactly that kind of big-money, outdoor activity that we will most likely see initially), we seem to be steering towards some degree of certainty for 2020.

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Is 2020 CFB happening?

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  • 33%
    Yup, on time and a full slate.
    (146 votes)
  • 42%
    Yup, but it will be delayed, shortened, or later cancelled.
    (188 votes)
  • 5%
    Maybe in the Spring? I don’t see how it happens in the fall.
    (23 votes)
  • 7%
    Nope, not happening.
    (32 votes)
  • 11%
    Vanilla ice cream really is better than chocolate
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