It’s time for Louisville football fans to brace for potentially tough news.
This is not what Louisville football fans, or sports fans in general, want to hear. This is not what I want to write. But it’s time to face the truth:
As the season nears closer, it feels more and more inevitable that, at the very least, sports are going to be pushed back until it’s safe to play.
We like to, probably to a fault, keep things light on this site. We don’t do much rivalry-ing, we don’t do politics, we gloss over scandal news, and we remain positive through tough times for fans. That’s been mine and Jacob’s brand since we took over at BRL in 2018.
But, for a moment, I just want to keep it very real with you on a pretty impactful subject. The odds are stacking more and more against a season even happening in 2020- Football, basketball, or otherwise.
We have heard rumblings of potentially switching up scheduling to make things go more smoothly. Men’s basketball coach Chris Mack even told us that Louisville dropping the Armed Forces Classic this fall and opting for a short bus trip to Cincinnati was a safety-related issue.
Three weeks later, the basketball program reported Tuesday that they are shutting down operations for two weeks after two people on or around the team became infected.
The statistics are a bit overwhelming to look at. The United States continues to see a growing number of cases. Even if the number of deaths are down (which, thankfully, they appear to be at the moment) the number of overall cases are either up or have merely plateaued in nearly every state.
Of course there is something to be said about the increasing number of tests in the United States, but the percentage of people contracting the virus still remains the same or slightly on the uptick. At the very least, there aren’t many correlations to be made that things are getting better during a month in which experts predicted there would be a downward trend in cases.
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Even outside of just the data at hand, you have to consider the amount of normally healthy people who have struggled mightily with the virus- More than just flu-like symptoms as many suggested during the early stages of the pandemic.
This troubling fact couldn’t have hit home more than in the case of former Louisville basketball player Asia Durr, who announced Tuesday that she would be sitting out the 2020 season due to “a battle that has been complicated and arduous.”
Durr says she contracted the virus in early June, testing positive on June 8th. Now, a month later, Durr is still suffering from the virus and says it could have a long-term impact on her health.
One must consider how rapidly the virus is spreading among college sports teams as things are currently set up. Clemson athletics has seen 37 cases thus far, including 23 on the football team. Kansas State reported no cases for weeks, then right after a second wave of players came in, 24 players tested positive.
According to a recent New York Times article, 23 Division I football programs have reported positive tests.
Keep in mind that numbers are going up even with daily testing, mandatory mask wearing, and social distancing. These players aren’t even practicing and encountering situations yet where they are coming in contact with each other.
The PGA Tour, who has been a trailblazer, along with NASCAR, in how to get professional sports up and running again, was scheduled to have The Memorial Tournament in Columbus, Ohio played with a limited number of fans.
After Columbus instituted a mandatory mask policy, the PGA walked back that decision and called off fans.
These cancellations don’t come without a financial impact. The PGA’s decision to go forward with tournaments like the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head last month, only to decide to ban fans after the fact, cost the association well over a million dollars according to a Golf Channel report. The cancellation at The Memorial only three days prior to the tournament will likely prove even more costly.
Many similar decisions could be made across all sports in the coming weeks.
It’s these sort of decisions that both the NCAA and individual conferences will be pressured to make sooner rather than later. To go forward with a season only to cancel games means teams and organizations lose out on TV, sponsorship, and ticket price money, among other issues. One minor slip-up in testing or violation of social distancing rules can cost a program like Louisville football millions in potential revenue.
Don’t forget player safety, too. The NCAA says its mission is to “govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.”
So, if education and integration of this student athlete experience is “paramount,” wouldn’t one surmise that health and safety would be at the forefront of the NCAA’s decision-making process?
If universities have the mission to educate and help student-athletes, shouldn’t they be put first?
I am the first to lambast the NCAA’s inconsistencies and squash the notion that it’s money-hungry ways have anything to do with the well-being of student-athletes, but it’s not just the NCAA who’s money is at stake.
Louisville is the perfect example of revenue working congruently with the student-athlete experience. Yes, universities have to make money to field a good product, but it’s the same universities who play a hand in local economic growth as well. Take, for example, local businesses within walking distance of the KFC Yum! Center or television ads that run during a game. Sports and leisure stimulate the economy a great deal, and without sports, the local economic impact could be devastating.
Without sports, we saw Louisville forced to furlough over 80 members of the athletic department until the university could regain its footing.
The economic impact is felt in the sports world just as much as it is elsewhere. But unlike restaurants and businesses who can open with restrictions and still bring in money, sports teams cannot generate the needed revenue without playing games.
I don’t take it lightly when I say it’s going to take serious change for Louisville football to have any season at all in 2020.
Regardless of what your opinion is on testing, vaccines, data collection, conspiracy theories, or otherwise, the easiest way for me to tell that this situation is serious is to follow the money trail.
There’s no group of people more desperate to get the show on the road and stop hemorrhaging money than massive organizations like the PGA, NASCAR, and MLB. There is no business more money savvy and willing to make these events work, come hell or high water, than that of pro sports front offices and the organizations which they represent. Sports depend on fan revenue to exist.
So, when the PGA starts cutting its losses to prevent COVID-19 spread, when the MLB drags its feet on getting started, and when the NBA gives up its time in the spotlight to play games in a bubble, we should be watching and listening.
There is an unbelievable amount of money on the line for thousands in the sports world. So, for these organizations to be postponing, shortening, and canceling events and sacrificing potential revenue, it speaks volumes to the seriousness of the situation.
There’s no one who wants to believe this madness to be true less than me. Sports are my escape. I run a sports website dependent on games being played to keep going.
I don’t want to write this.
But, sadly, it’s reality. The writing appears to be on the wall. The amount of money sacrificed speaks volumes.
Louisville football, and sports in general, might not happen any time soon, and it feels more imminent with each passing day.