COLUMN: The SEC football conference will struggle to return based on COVID-19 regulations set in place.

College football will not hold the same excitement as usual, but it needs to happen.

Campbell Biemiller is a first-year journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about political/environmental controversies and entertainment for The Maneater.

Decades of tradition have shown that the typical college football season consists of friendly banter among rival fans, crowded tailgates and cheers from the student section. This is the football we know and love.

2020 has brought nothing but surprises, not necessarily for the better. Now that school is back in session, many are wondering what the NCAA Southeastern Conference (SEC) is going to do.

The 14 college football teams in the SEC have accumulated some of the largest fan bases in the country. Currently, they have an important decision to make. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will the teams honor their standing decision to play in the 2020 season?

The PAC 12 and Big 10 conferences have already indefinitely postponed their seasons. They expect to return sometime during the spring semester, while other conferences outside of the Power 5 have also postponed seasons.

As many schools continue to delay game days, the decision gets harder for those still playing to follow through with their original plans. Fans across the country are disappointed to hear their favorite teams are out for the season. For the teams that play, they take on the risk of COVID-19 potentially impacting their players for years to come. Teams that don’t plan on playing will be losing an estimated four billion dollars if the season was cancelled. This could hurt them long-term depending on the severity of the postponement and the projected recovery time.

CBS Sports asked multiple SEC committee members about the prospective spring return or continued fall season, to which there were completely mixed views. The committee wished to stay anonymous, out of the uncertainty for the situation.

A proposed solution to this so far has been sports bubbles, where every sport has a single destination that all games will be played at. For example, all NBA teams are traveling to Disney in Central Florida to finish out their season. The games have zero in-person fans in the audience and distanced coaches and players.

According to USA Today, only two of the 322 players tested positive for the virus as of July 3. Following that, USA Today posted another article saying zero players tested positive for three consecutive weeks as of Aug. 5. Being that it was not a controlled experiment, the exact way they caught the virus is unknown.

Despite speculation, it’s likely that sports bubble prevented spread of the disease, given that a small percentage of players contracted it. The bubble worked because the NBA held its players responsible for staying inside and strictly enforcing the guidelines.

This begs the question, could the idea play out for the SEC and other conferences? Universities must decide if they are willing to risk public health to enjoy a little competition. The SEC schedule for the fall term has a mix of home and away games, meaning the fall schedule will play out basically how it normally would, with slight precautions due to COVID-19. However, fans and students can still attend games. According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, MU Athletic Director, Jim Sterk, seems pretty confident about the situation, and excited for the SEC-team-only schedule that was released August 17.

University of Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban made a powerful statement claiming that he wants to play for the players’ sake, not for the money. In a perfect world, everyone would like to have it exactly how it has been for the last 152 years. The athletes deserve a great season as well as the coaches and communities that have been built around the teams. However, no one can change the fact that we are in a global pandemic and shouldn’t pretend like we’re not. The sad fact of the matter is the way the SEC has proposed plans to return is bound to leave numerous people sick with the virus.

The safest option would be if the SEC, as well as other football conferences, took the time to plan for sports bubbles like the NBA did. Being that this is not the case, it ultimately is unsafe for the SEC to continue with the current precautions set in place.

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Edited by Sofi Zeman | szeman@themaneater.com

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