Suspicious of college football testing
Alarmed at the number of coronavirus cases reported amongst college football’s elite, Boomer Esiason was quoted in a recent Newsweek article as saying the top teams “…may be trying to gain an advantage by having their players get the virus now instead of during conference play.”
What the former NFL quarterback-turned-broadcaster infers here is not as ludicrous as it sounds as it indirectly exposes the unholy alliance between sportsbook activity and amateur athletics.
When and if college football resumes, the individuals tasked with the responsibility of timely COVID reporting will play as critical a role as the infected parties themselves because make no mistake: The bigger the game, the more suspicious the reporting (or lack thereof) will appear to be.
This begs two questions: Is it realistic to expect teams to fairly police themselves without bias and voluntarily prohibit their top players who test positive from competing in big games and if so, exactly when will they be obligated do so?
Timing could be everything here.
Imagine the impact on prop bets involving individuals banned from participation a mere few hours prior to the game? Huge amounts of money would swing wildly between gamblers.
Don’t be surprised to see mysterious upticks in number of positive tests teams report in the days leading up to bye weeks, especially among teams contending for conference championships. Be even less surprised when key players mysteriously test negative on the morning of those big games.
Just as professional franchises have salary-cap managers, college football’s chosen few could hire folks to “manage” their personnel where top stars’ availability is based not according to their health but to coincide with the biggest games on their upcoming schedule.
If quarantining still warrants 14 full days in isolation by fall then it’s conceivable a team could reveal their bell cow tested positive right after a game that precedes either a bye week or one where the upcoming opponent is a real cupcake.
Assuming the player tests negative after the quarantine, he would be cleared to play in the big game two weeks later.
Farfetched? Consider this possible scenario: Alabama plays at Tennessee on Oct. 24 and (surprise) has the next week off prior to hosting LSU on Nov. 7.
Let’s say the Tide’s star running back tests positive following the conclusion of their contest with the Vols and is immediately quarantined the minute the team plane touches down in Tuscaloosa. He then tests negative 336 hours later and could be cleared be to play for a 7 p.m. huge game against the defending national champion Tigers.
The morally conscious hold out hope that medical professionals employed by universities will err on the side of player safety.
It looks like college football will play scaled-down versions of its 2020 season, one that features regional and conference-only games. This jeopardizes the traditional, cross-country, Kickoff Classic between ‘Bama and USC, thus putting a real damper on Jerry Jones’ Labor Day plans for his extravagantly spacious Arlington Stadium.
Contz was an offensive tackle on Penn State’s first national championship team in 1982. He published a book in 2017, “When the Lions Roared: Joe Paterno and One of College Football’s Greatest Teams.” He resides in Pittsburgh and can be reached at email@example.com.