Sports Illustrated obtained a six-page document which outlines the COVID-19 testing protocols the Power Five conferences intend to implement for fall sports this year.
Both football and basketball are considered "high-risk" sports under the guidelines of the document, meaning players must be tested at least once per week and within 72 hours of games — coaches are not required to be tested but must wear a mask on the sidelines if they are not tested in the same way as the players. And anyone who tests positive must isolate for 10 days and be clear of symptoms for three days, though there's no explicit requirement of a negative test.
All that is the standard stuff you'd expect to see out of something like this. However, there is one major detail which could spell doom for college football, if it's played this fall.
Sports Illustrated — Those found to have had “high risk” contact with people who have tested positive will quarantine for 14 days. This 14-day quarantine is mandatory. Even if those quarantined test negative for the virus, they must still complete the 14 days without competition—a significant restriction that could knock out large swaths of a football team. “Institutions may consider testing contacts during quarantine if the local testing supply is adequate, however this does not shorten or remove the need for a 14 day quarantine period,” the document says.
A “high risk” contact is defined as those who are within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes while one or both parties is not wearing a mask. That includes anyone participating in face-to-face or contact drills against each other.
If this is the case, this is the worst news for college football to date. There's simply no way you can play a football season under those parameters and make it even halfway through.
Let's say one offensive lineman tests positive the day after a game in, say, Week 3. Does that mean his team's entire offensive line and their previous opponent's entire defensive line are out for the next two games? There's simply no way any team is going to be able to get through a season like that.
And why is there a 14-day quarantine for possibly being in contact with someone who tested positive, but possibly only 10 days for the actual person who has the virus? I'm sure there's some sort of explanation for it, but it just seems odd to me and something which makes a football season even less likely.
The document also outlines circumstances which could result in the loss of a season, which include "campus-wide or local community test rates that are considered unsafe by local public health officials" and "an inability for the hospital infrastructure to accommodate a surge in COVID-related hospitalizations."
It just really sucks because the reality is starting to set in that we're barreling towards a fall with no college football and I can't even fathom what that would look like. Just keep praying.