Villanova Sports Law Blog
College Football Meets Coronavirus
By: Amanda Daoud
With the Coronavirus silencing sporting events over the past few months, many events have transpired. On January 13th, LSU defeated Clemson 42-25 in the presence of nearly 77,000 fans packed into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Sounds like a lifetime ago, right? The thought of being surrounded by many people in today’s world seems unimaginable. It was an exciting day for many.
Purple and gold streamers filled the stadium as Joe Burrow, LSU’s quarterback and the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, put on a show nobody would ever forget. The city of New Orleans came to life that night as celebrations traveled from the stadium to Bourbon Street. Some of us took the day for granted, which is reasonable. Who would have thought football the following fall would potentially be cancelled?
It is now September, the leaves are beginning to change, the weather is cooling down and school is back in session – fall is almost here. Typically, this is one of the most exciting times of the year. College football fans would be back in the routine of tailgate traditions and gameday celebration. Not only has the pandemic put a damper on spring sports, but now, it is affecting the remission of fall sports as well.
The past few months have been a whirlwind for the NCAA to say the least. The association has left it up to the commissioners of each conference to decide what would be best for their football players. While some conferences, such as the Big Ten and Pac-12 have based their decisions to not play based on the science of the Coronavirus, other conferences have weighed in player opinions along with public officials of their different schools’ communities.
Prior to the ACC decision electing to play, Clemson quarterback and widely favored first overall pick of the 2021 NFL draft, Trevor Lawrence, petitioned on his Twitter asking the ACC to allow his school to play. In his Tweet, Lawrence said, “People are at just as much risk, if not more risk, if we don’t play. Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract COVID-19.”
From a financial standpoint, Tuscaloosa, AL Mayor Walt Maddox said that football is necessary for his city’s economy. Without it, there would be a direct economic impact of $200 million, forcing many mom and pop shops to close.
The conferences that have decided to play are participating under extreme safety protocols. For their protection, players, and coaches must wear masks while on the sidelines, stadiums must operate at a minimal fan capacity and most importantly, teams are only allowed to play other schools within their conference (with the exception of Notre Dame joining the ACC.)
While the majority of teams required their players to sign waivers, a big concern that has not been resolved is: who would be liable if a player contracted the Coronavirus and became extremely ill? Although reports and scientific facts show that the virus favors elderly and high-risk, immunosuppressant people, there are still is a slight probability that a player could come in contact, especially with new reports showing the virus may be responsible for causing myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) in asymptomatic football players.
Despite the safety protocols put in place, many players and coaches failed to follow wearing masks while on the sidelines since beginning their season. Clearly the conference commissioners and higher authority need to step in and strictly enforce these restrictions if they teams intend to have a full season. The virus is known to spread quickly; if one team member contracts it, then he is puts the rest of the people on the field at risk not only their his team but also the opposing teams. By signing the waivers, these players are not only stating that they are aware of the COVID-19 risks, but that they will fulfill their duty of taking the required safety protocols that are necessary to play. Without players taking that contract seriously, the seasons may be cut short.
 Bill Feig, Can LSU football repeat as national champions? A look ahead at 2020 betting odds, The Advolcate (January 14, 2020), https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/sports/lsu/article_c2b64a38-36cd-11ea-bfb6-83caf99fb0f3.html.