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Mike Anthony: It's up to our leaders to pull the plug on college sports for 2020

Mike Anthony: It's up to our leaders to pull the plug on college sports for 2020

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Empty stands inside of Clemson Memorial Stadium on the campus of Clemson University on June 10, 2020 in Clemson, South Carolina.

Empty stands inside of Clemson Memorial Stadium on the campus of Clemson University on June 10, 2020 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/TNS)

It has moved from silly to absurd now, all this circular conversation about college sports in the fall, to the point where I don't know whether to laugh or cry as I consider such foolish hesitation.

I'll say it again, another week gone by, same plea: Cancel sports for 2020.

But we remain at a time of half-measures, delay tactics, announcements of scale-backs that pass as news for a moment but really add up to nothing more than a kick of the can, a bunch of useless sentences that fail to achieve resolution, provide true safety or so much as touch reality.

The Big East was at it Thursday, announcing the elimination of non-conference competition for the fall, as if COVID-19 only prays upon settings for, say, UConn vs. Northwestern in sports like field hockey or soccer.

More and more people, I believe, are coming to grips with the fact that 2020 is not a time for college, or even high school, sports. But not the people at the top. Not yet. It's mind-boggling.

There was more bang-your-head-against-the-desk madness later Thursday out of the Capitol, where Gov. Ned Lamont's coronavirus press briefing became an examination of college and high school athletics, most of which are still, ridiculously, on as scheduled in some form.

What we learned, though, was that the upcoming UConn football season is actually off. There was no announcement, mind you, but a logical conclusion to draw from a twisted knot of a dialogue.

Because if UConn travels to a state on Lamont's growing quarantine-upon-return list - and the Huskies are scheduled to with games in Mississippi, North Carolina and California - members of the program would have to remain in lockdown for 14 days, Lamont confirmed.

Think about that. No practices. Virtually nothing that resembles normal student life. Which means one road game costs the team not only the next two games, but most facets of the primary reason for being on campus: an education. Then we'd send them back to the field, rusty and ready to rupture some ACLs. Great.

Of course, the more likely action is to cancel those road games and/or disallow the travel, another means of erosion to a schedule and a season that doesn't need to take place. On Friday, the Colonial Athletic Association announced cancellation of conference competition in the fall. And while those schools are free to pursue an independent schedule, another UConn 2020 opponent, Maine, is in question.

The college sports world is a collage of untenable models for obvious reasons, but round and round we go, a square dance of trying to stuff square pegs into round holes, the health and safety and experiences of our young people not fully recognized or appreciated.

Continuing on for the hell of it as if I'm a conference commissioner unwilling to give up on a wild goose chase, I'll also note that any visiting team from a state on Lamont's list would have to quarantine for 14 days. Middle Tennessee, if that state remains listed, would have to arrive Nov. 6 for a Nov. 21 game in East Hartford. Forget the fact that the Blue Raiders have games Nov. 7 and Nov. 14.

Questions I've asked before: Where are we? What are we doing? It's almost embarrassing to have to again dissect this issue, the we'll-try-something-we-shouldn't-try approach. Football has to be, at the very least, postponed until spring, when maybe, just maybe, we'll have enough of a handle on the virus to even consider staging events.

But no one is saying it yet.

Can someone just say it, please? Just say it!

UConn president Tom Katsouleas: Just say it.

Big East commissioner Val Ackerman: Just tell us fall sports are a no-go.

CIAC director Glenn Lungarini: Just pull the plug on efforts to get our kids on the field when we don't even know they can get into the classroom.

Gov. Lamont: Speak from the top. Call it all off. No matter that every UConn football game brings $172,500 to the CRDA in rent from the University.

Look, you won't hear from me for a while. Vacation time. Road trip. This column is Volume III of my Forget Fall Sports Campaign. I shouldn't have to write Volume IV while in my own quarantine upon returning to Connecticut.

In the meantime, this is what I hope for: Conference announcements - from the Big East in UConn's case, and like the America East on Friday - that no events will be held before Jan. 1. An NCAA announcement that fall championships are canceled, thereby motivating universities to do away with the whole charade. Then a UConn announcement that its first season of football independence will be pushed. Because if the university didn't move quickly toward that decision, it would tacitly acknowledge a belief that it's safe to play football while unsafe to play field hockey and soccer.

This situation is an unmanageable mess. These campuses and athletic outfits can create bubbles, but what's the use of a bubble if it is pierced by numerous aggravating factors, including travel and campus interaction? UConn plans to return about 8,000 students to Storrs in mid-August.

Financial Armageddon. That's what a friend in the college sports industry said to me about fallout from the elimination of Power Five football.

So be it. It can be fixed in the spring, probably. Even if it can't be fixed in the spring, again, so be it.

COVID-19 is raging. As America continues to drop the ball, we can't push children and young adults onto the playing field. Professional outlets like the NBA can spend millions to create something secluded and perhaps sustainable.

But ...

"It's harder at the collegiate level," former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said of bubble scenarios. "It's even harder at the high school level. Quite frankly, I would prioritize getting students back into the classroom before I introduce extracurricular activities."


UConn has reported zero positive COVID tests on student-athletes and that's wonderful. But even the bizarre lifestyle that student-athletes - our guinea pigs, sadly - are experiencing and an ongoing conversation about health and safety perpetuates anxiety over the whole situation.

It's not fair. It's not feasible. And there's, what, maybe 120 players on campus? Wait until the student body returns. Shouldn't our focus be on protecting their safety, instead of whether there should be a kickoff in September or a tip-off in November? We're lost.

Regarding high school sports, Lamont said, "At least you're not traveling to high infection states. High school sports is limited to a state where you have a very low infection rate."

So it's wise for, say, Hartford Public to go play Windsor in football? Is it wise, in any other setting, for over a hundred people from Hartford and Windsor to get together and wrestle for a few hours?

On and on through the circles of irresponsibility we go, still waiting for someone at the top to say what needs to be said.

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