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How in jeopardy is the 2020 college football season?

From medical experts to veteran college football voices, there are cases to be made for canceling or altering the season as COVID-19 questions abound.

FOR DIRK FACER CROWD STORY High attendance as the University of Utah defeats Colorado State University 49-16 in Mountain West Conference NCAA football in Salt Lake City, Utah, Oct. 18, 2008. Photo by Tom Smart
Fans cheer during Utah football game against Colorado State. What will football stadiums look like this fall? Players with fans? Players but no fans? No fans and no players? Time will tell.
Tom Smart, Deseret News

Will 2020 be the year without a college football season?

Unfortunately, the way things are going, it might be where we’re headed.

At the least, there could be adjustments in schedules, seating, or even no crowds.

This isn’t meant to be a Debbie Downer examination, but there are golf courses empty right now when they’ve got hundreds of acres to spread a gaggle of golfers across fairways and greens. Stopping golf?

On Wednesday, England canceled Wimbledon. The stadiums used for Wimbledon are nothing like the seats that cram bodies into mega stadiums in the United States. Take a place like Michigan’s Big House, any school in the SEC and even high school stadiums in Texas and they beat Wimbledon by a factor of about a trillion.

Well, that’s an exaggeration. But the point is taken. Social distancing and the interpretations of exactly what that means is now leading some cities and states to threaten citations, fines and even jail time if people hang out.

Can things really change that much in a few months when football practice is scheduled to begin and there’s been no spring practice or time for players to prepare for the game? Heck, wasn’t it just a few weeks ago people were in overcrowded bars in New York and New Orleans partying like nothing’s happened?

Now we’re wearing masks at Home Depot, keeping 6 feet away from others.

I asked CBSsports.com national college football expert Dennis Dodd what he thought the chances were that the college football season would be canceled.

His response?

“I’ve been putting it at 40/60 against (4 out of 10?). Too many logistical hoops to jump through right now. It is hard to envision there not being any positives IF camp opens on time. Putting 100 people in a room goes against everything we know right now. Plus it’s hard to play football if school isn’t even open. That said, administrators are desperate for that TV money.”

I also reached out to Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, an award-winning college sports expert who covers the Pac-12, with the same question. He was more optimistic.

“I’d say 25% chance there are no games played, 25% chance it’s business as usual, and 50% chance that it is delayed or interrupted,” said Wilner.

“The schools and the networks will exhaust every option — even if it means playing on Tuesdays and starting in November. There is too much at stake. They will be as creative as is humanly possible,” said the Bay Area journalist.

In my guess, it is 50-50.

But this is the biggest crapshoot ever.

By September, folks may not be able to afford a football ticket, a gallon of milk, or stadium popcorn.

ESPN’s chief college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit went on the radio the other day with a stark warning for all college football fans.

“I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football. I’ll be so surprised if that happens,” he said through TMZ. “Just because from what I understand, people that I listen to, you’re 12 to 18 months from a (coronavirus) vaccine. I don’t know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball. I just don’t know how you can do it with the optics of it.”

The benefits, like the economy, are huge. TV revenue, ticket sales, sponsorships, corporate partnerships, community togetherness, feeding fans what they need and crave, providing psychological jet fuel to the masses.

These are media takes.

For the medical folks, just tune in and listen to what they say. They’re adjusting their daily reports as fast as they can. They don’t know.

Nobody knows.

The stark truth to just playing on is this: What public official in city, county, state, federal government is going to give the “all clear” order if this thing continues through the summer, which it might likely do?

What athletic trainer or doctor is going to advise a coach to put players on the field if they haven’t properly trained and are at risk of this virus?

Who is going to open the gates for mass gatherings come the first of September unless there is absolutely no chance of a second wave and there is no vaccine? Who is that person?

The new normal has not even hit us before our old tax day arrives on April 15 and we aren’t even managing it very well with guidelines, warnings, edicts and quarantines being ignored by many.

Defending national champion LSU coach Ed Orgeron told the media this week he is optimistic that there will be a college football season this year.

But here’s the big rub, and we’ve already seen it with some sports like the PGA Tour, where players have refused to play. It might all come down to an NFL or college football player or two refusing to play. If that happens, it will not be the decision of the president, governor or mayor. It will be the pawns in the matrix simply shutting it down.

Remember what happened earlier this month when we were all gearing up for March Madness with plane tickets bought and hotel reservations on the brink of being signed.

All it took was Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert testing positive for COVID-19 in Oklahoma City and the entire NBA shut down within hours. Then it was a domino effect like we’ve never seen before across every sport and every major event we know from the Masters to spring football and even bingo at the old folks home.

Beware.

This is far from over. Prepare your minds and hearts.

And be sure Netflix is working.