As the spring sports calendar in the United States remains on hiatus, the status of the NFL and college football seasons are also in doubt as coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread across the country. ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit believes that neither football seasons will happen this fall.
“I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football. I’ll be so surprised if that happens,” Herbstreit said, per 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…As much as I hate to say it, I think we’re scratching the surface of where this thing’s gonna go.”
The college football season typically starts a week before the NFL at the beginning of September. The NBA has delayed its season, while MLB has postponed its start date. The majority of professional sports leagues in the United States have yet to set a date on when games will resume.
One Suggestion Is for Football Games to Be Played Without Fans
NBC Sports’ Peter King reported that the NFL offseason programs will either be “shuttered or limited.” King went on to wonder if NFL games could be played as scheduled without fans.
Then the offseason programs, which may be either shuttered or limited. Also manageable. Now for training camps. They open in about four months. Now we’re into the if-everything-goes-right mode. Opening weekend is scheduled to be played in five months and three weeks. Could there be games with no fans in some places, or in all places? Will there even be games?
We have seen other sports go down this path without success. The NBA had plans for some of its teams to play in empty arenas and the same was set to be true for March Madness. This all changed after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 just before a Jazz-Thunder game was about to tipoff creating a domino effect throughout sports.
Playing games without fans does not appear to solve the problem of players spreading the virus during contests. By the fall, there should be better testing systems set up, and it is plausible to think players could all be tested before the season starts. There would still be larger questions such as if players would need to be tested before every game or practice.
The NFL Draft Will Go on as Scheduled on April 23
The one thing we do know is that the NFL draft will go on as scheduled beginning on April 23rd. The league sent out a memo to teams confirming they will not postpone the event as teams and prospects will operate remotely during the three-day draft. The NFL previously announced that the draft would not be a public event as planned in Las Vegas.
It would be surprising if the rookie mini-camps were held in a normal fashion after the draft. It remains to be seen whether the NFL will have to push back training camp dates and, as Herbstreit mentioned, what will happen to the start of the season.