Well, it’s here.
In just a few days, Michigan football will begin its journey toward trying to complete the season. And, in some ways, that’ll be even more difficult than the games themselves.
We all heard for so long that the Big Ten botched the fall season with its decision to cancel in August and then reinstate it just a month later. That the other conferences were more prepared and would play on. And, say what you will about the Big Ten — we all know they haven’t exactly been a gleaming example in transparency — but there’s an overwhelming sentiment that the university presidents and chancellors were inherently wrong in their decision to approach this season with an abundance of caution. That’s the reason they had to back track their decision after all.
But, why does the conversation always state that the Big Ten was wrong at first? Why don’t we ever examine if the Big Ten actually got it right in August?
On Tuesday, days before Michigan was scheduled to play its first game, a stay-home order was issued for undergraduate students at the University of Michigan. Varsity athletes were exempted, so football can go on. Still, is that not a point in the Big Ten’s favor?
People want football on their televisions. And no one can blame them. The world is weird enough as it is, what’s wrong with a little distraction?
But when you do accept that it’s just because people miss football — and athletic departments face empty pockets — that’s when you realize that the Big Ten’s decision to reverse course and play this fall wasn’t really rooted in the health and safety of all those involved.
I mean, how could it have been?
Have you looked at the state of college football lately? Have you looked at the country lately?
In college football alone, there have been so many instances that have shown that this is not about health and safety. Take Dan Mullen and the Florida Gators having a massive outbreak, with 25 cases as of Oct. 20; Alabama coach Nick Saban testing positive; an outbreak at Vanderbilt leading to a game postponement as they failed to reach the 53 man roster minimum for SEC play; games being canceled left and right; weekly reports of players being unavailable due to contracting the virus that has killed more than 200,000 Americans. It all feels a little dystopian, don’t you think?
Maybe you’re about to say that those were all schools down South, where you see few masks in the stands, and larger crowds than you’re probably comfortable with.
Well, I’ve got news for you. Cases are rising right here in Ann Arbor, too. According to the University of Michigan’s own COVID-19 dashboard, there were 301 cases recorded last week alone, a new record high.
And, to complicate things even further, there’s the stay-at-home order issued by Washtenaw County, right before around 150 Michigan football players and staff are about to travel to Minnesota to play a football game. To say this feels odd would be a gross understatement.
Football players are getting tested daily. Regular students can’t get tested when they’re asymptomatic without exposure to COVID-19. The juxtaposition is, at best, tone deaf. At worst, it’s a slap in the face to everyone who’s not on an athletic scholarship.
All of these factors just make you think about the world the Wolverines are about to step into when they kick off against Minnesota on Saturday night. Is this all going to be worth it?
So, I’ll pose the question again. Are we sure the Big Ten got it wrong back in August?
Realistically, we won’t have a definitive answer until we can look back upon this year with hindsight.
But I have a feeling we all know what the answer will be.
Raines can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @Spencer__raines.
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