Safeguard players from this virus
The decision by the Big Ten and Pac-12 to delay football to the winter or spring has met with sharp criticism, impassioned player testimonials and parent-authored letters.
Evidently the health and well-being of players, coaches and any fans lucky enough to be allowed inside the stadium of the remaining Power-5 schools still electing to play takes a back seat to the huge financial windfall this sport generates.
All at the expense of amateur athletes who have little to gain but everything to lose.
Only in America, right?
For those schools still intent on putting their finished product on the gridiron despite an active pandemic that, as of this writing, has resulted in over 170,000 lives lost nationwide, I suggest the following nine alternate rules of engagement each school should abide by with a major emphasis placed on limiting the spread of this deadly contagion:
n Teams are limited to 55-man rosters consisting of upperclassmen that have been on campus for a minimum of 30 months. Lesser tenured players avoid unnecessary viral exposure (and further injury) while retaining a full year of eligibility.
n A maximum of six conference games are played every two weeks using alternating day/night schedules. Per my prior rant, a school could quarantine an infected player within hours after a game and, pending a successful re-test, permit him to play in their next contest.
n Those Yale-generated, quick turnaround saliva tests recently approved by the FDA are administered to every player daily. Since test results are available within three hours, players can be tested early on game day with their outcomes known before they board the team buses.
n Smaller rosters should equate to shorter games to minimize player fatigue and injury so let’s make each of the four quarters only eight minutes long.
n Once the games begin, all participants must agree to contact tracing and to be housed inside a dormitory near the football facility. The NBA has demonstrated they can successfully prevent any widespread outbreaks so these schools should create a college version of the Orlando Bubble.
n Conference games would take place only between teams that are either a reasonable driving distance from each other or at neutral sites (the Florida-Georgia battle in Jacksonville comes to mind). Doing so avoids turning a plane ride into an aerial hot zone where any asymptomatic individual unknowingly carrying the virus after delivering a false negative (the Yale saliva test is, after all, only 94% accurate) infects other teammates. Flying a team to an away game is an avoidable expense as would be quarantining an entire football squad in some foreign city for two weeks.
n All games should be played in empty stadiums.
n Schools take out $3 million dollar life insurance policies for each participant which would be payable in full if the player develops long-term heart (or breathing) problems or worse, dies from this perilous disease. You can fund those insurance premiums with the money saved by pro-rating the eight-figure salaries of coaches from inactive conferences.
n If more than five players test positive, the school must cancel all their remaining games.
My bottom line is if we are to expose amateur athletes to COVID-19, let’s do all we possibly can to balance the risk and reward while still putting a recognizable product on display.
Contz was a starting offensive tackle on Penn State’s first national championship team in 1982 and played six NFL seasons. He published a book in 2017, “When the Lions Roared: Joe Paterno and One of College Football’s Greatest Teams.”