Things are trending in the wrong direction. Almost exactly one month ago, Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth had this to say about his level of optimism there would be a 2020 fall sports season.
“We can’t predict the future, of course, but every week that goes by I get a little more optimistic that we’re going to have a fall sports season, that we’re going to play football and we’re going to be able to keep our students safe, our coaches and our staff safe and keep all of our families safe. I feel better about it almost every week because there’s new information, and we as a community in Northern Nevada have done a really good job. Hopefully we continue that trend, and if we continue that trend I think we’ll have a positive outcome.”
And he had plenty of reason to feel that way a month ago. But now? It’s hard to be realistically optimistic given how poorly the United States (and Nevada) has handled the pandemic. We’re seeing spikes all across the country, and Nevada has the worst Rt in the nation at 1.36 infections. Rt represents the average number of people who become infected by an infectious person. If it is under 1, the disease will die out eventually. Above 1 and it will continue growing. Only 10 states are under 1 right now. That’s not good.
As I wrote last week, as a country we haven’t earned the right to play sports in 2020. We’ve done a god awful job of containing COVID-19, and it could very well cost us college football in the fall as a result. There’s no need to wave the white flag now with the season more than 50 days, but a decision will likely have to be made by early August, so we have a month to get things under control, which will be tough given the recent flurry of bad news on the COVID-19 front.
It’s been a mixed bag in the Mountain West with Boise State and UNLV having to suspend operations due to positive tests while Colorado State has tested 127 student-athletes without a positive and Wyoming has conducted even more without a positive. New Mexico reported only one positive case. Unlike some MW schools, Nevada hasn’t released any information on its testing, so it’s unknown what results the Wolf Pack has had.
The financial incentive of playing a season remains huge, and whether or not college football is played in 2020 seems like it comes down to what the SEC and Big 10 want to do because those conferences have the most money on the line (and because the NCAA provides zero leadership on important issues). As a result, I still think there will be a 2020 football season this fall. I’ll put that it at 60 percent chance of a fall season, a 30 percent chance of a spring season and a 10 percent chance of no season. The MW sent an email today telling media to save the date for its virtual media days (July 27-29), so it’s at least moving forward with that.
In terms of the NFL, as I’ve written before, the league would continue to play even if nuclear bombs were going off in the United States every other day. The NFL does not care about player safety, so 99 percent chance it has a season this year.