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Will there be college football this fall? We may find out today

Power 5 conferences could follow lead of Ivy League

  • Russ Walker
Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford, left, dives for a first down against Michigan State's Shakur Brown (29) during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford, left, dives for a first down against Michigan State's Shakur Brown (29) during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

Schadenfreude. it’s a German word for that giddy feeling one gets when a bad thing happens to a bad person. That word came to mind this morning when I saw this headline from the York Daily News: “Convicted Holocaust denier who was ‘naked from the waist down’ found guilty in York County.” Folks, the arc of history bends toward justice! —Russ Walker, PA Post editor

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford, left, dives for a first down against Michigan State’s Shakur Brown (29) during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

Wednesday is a big day for college sports. At some point today, the Ivy League is expected to reveal its plans for the fall 2020 football season. There’s a very good chance that the league will shift its season to the spring, believing the risks of coronavirus are too large to start playing in September like its member schools normally would.

The Ivy League is hardly a powerhouse football conference (and hasn’t been for half a century or longer). But its decision could set off a chain reaction, CBS Sports’s Ben Kercheval notes: “[W]hat happens with the Ivy League could set the tone for the rest of college football. After all, it was the Ivy League that initially canceled its basketball conference tournament back on March 12. After initial blowback for supposedly overreacting, other conferences quickly followed suit once the gravity of the COVID-19 outbreak became clear.”

But even if the Ivy League cancels fall sports, it doesn’t guarantee the rest of the nation’s colleges and universities will follow suit. “Is it definitely going to impact what we do? As a whole, not necessarily,” said Shane Lyons, chair of the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee . “We have to look at what we’re doing with testing and protocols and the safety and well-being of our student-athletes, making sure we’re doing the right thing from that aspect of it, to see if we can fill any type of season.”

Smaller college conferences aren’t waiting to make a decision. Close to home for many Pennsylvanians is the decision by the Centennial Conference to cancel fall sports. The conference includes Bryn Mawr, Dickinson, Gettysburg, Haverford, Franklin & Marshall, Swarthmore, Ursinus and Muhlenberg.

A fall without football would be devastating for many college towns. But even if games are played, stadiums may not hold many fans. “I have heard, so far, of no university that intends to have a full stadium coming into the fall, but rather most are planning for a highly restricted attendance,” said Penn State President Eric Barron.

Fewer fans means local businesses will suffer, as Reuters noted in a story published in May that looked specifically at State College, Pa., and Athens, Ga. “On seven or eight weekends each fall, thousands of fans and alumni pour into State College, a town of fewer than 45,000, to watch the Nittany Lions football team. In a region that saw no economic growth in 2018, the last year for which local-level data is available, football weekends are vital,” Reuters reported.

Talking to PennLive, Penn State Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour underscored the financial hit a football-less fall would bring: “And, yes, there would be a significant financial ramification to it, there would be a significant community, both economic and kind of morale and psyche, implication to that, but none of that is worth risking the health and safety of our students and ultimately coaches, staff and community.” The York Daily Record: had this Barbour quote: “One of the things I can say with certainty … without a season ticket, you’re probably not coming to a Penn State game this year.”

And it’s not just big time college programs and professional leagues. Coronavirus concerns must be weighed by high school athletes and coaches too. “With all of the unknowns, things can change in a second. And that’s what gives me the uneasiness about it all,” said Chambersburg High athletic director Jeremy Flores. “We just don’t know what this is going to look like come fall, come winter.” this York Daily Record story from late May.

A fall without college football, for this writer, is inconceivable. There are fall Saturdays that are circled on my calendar, year after year: The third Saturday in October, for example, is the scheduled date for the annual Penn State-Ohio State game, and closer to my heart, the yearly meeting of Alabama and Tennessee.

As with so much about coronavirus, the solution lies with each of us. James Franklin, coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions football team, plans to live apart from his family this fall to avoid any risk of passing the virus to them, including a daughter with sickle cell anemia. He’s making that sacrifice. “We got to do everything we possibly can to keep everybody as safe as we can and then with that, people have choices to make,” Franklin said. “Our players have choices to make, the staff has choices to make, local governments have choices to make, fans have choices to make, and the reality is, we can’t reduce all risk.”

But one thing we know reduces the risk is wearing masks when in public. So wear a mask. This football fan is counting on it.

Further reading:

Best of the rest

People gather to protest against racism and over the death of George Floyd, outside the 26th District Police station in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, on Wednesday, June 3, 2020. Floyd, an African American, died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet, continued: Monday’s Context looked at how social media was used to lure people to the Gettysburg National Military Park on July 4 for what was purported to be a flag burning rally sponsored by Antifa. It was fake, but plenty of armed “patriots” showed up to defend Confederate memorials and the American flag (irony there?) Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer notes that these sorts of made-up rumors, designed specifically to spark confrontation, aren’t unique to rural areas: “fears about antifa — spread online through earnest warnings, hoaxes, and even jokes — have resonated widely. And, they have spilled over from social media into communities around the country already roiled by civil unrest, including South Philadelphia and Fishtown, and, on July 4, in Gettysburg. In each case, residents tense from weeks of civil unrest organized to fight threats that scarcely materialized, sometimes with serious and violent consequences.”

The story behind the tragedy at the Southeastern Veterans’ Center in Chester County continues to emerge. Yesterday, The Washington Post published a big piece on how hydroxychloroquine was administered to residents, even ones who were never tested for coronavirus. The drug, still not proven to have any benefit against the virus, is known to cause complications for some people with heart conditions. What I found most striking in The Post’s story is evidence of negligence by state regulators: “The center and the two state agencies responsible for oversight have released little information about what transpired. The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs has confirmed the use of the drug but has not offered details about what led the doctors on site to decide to use it. The state Department of Health, which inspected the home on May 1 and did not cite a single deficiency in infection control or patient care, declined to say whether hydroxychloroquine was administered. The center has released no information about how patients were selected or monitored.”

You can read read The Philadelphia Inquirer’s excellent coverage of problems at the home:

The spike in new coronavirus cases in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas is likely to prompt state action, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: “Washington County Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan said that during a 15-minute call Tuesday afternoon with state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, the secretary warned the commissioners the state would announce ‘targeted mitigation’ in the county on Wednesday, possibly aimed at restaurants and bars to which most of the new cases are linked.” Related from PennLive: Troubling wave of COVID infections among 20-somethings hits Pa.

More reporting on which businesses got money from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, this time from The Philadelphia Inquirer which found that “[m]ore than 2,100 of the loans in the region went to law offices in Philadelphia and surrounding Pennsylvania and South Jersey counties, comprising at least $228 million.” Related: Sen. Pat Toomey discusses possible fourth coronavirus relief bill in visit to Lancaster

Coronavirus roundup:

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