No one knows for sure what the world in sports will look like a month from now, much less four months from now when college football and NFL teams are supposed to be right in the middle of training camp for the 2020 football season.
However, if sports are allowed to return to the playing fields, arenas, courts and tracks, should the COVID-19 pandemic subside, some wonder if spectators should be allowed back in the venues until the country has a better grip on the situation.
In recent days, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and North Carolina head football coach Mack Brown were opposed to the idea of college football being played without fans in the stadiums.
“I don’t see a model where we play, at least any extended number of games, in facilities where we don’t have fans,” Swarbrick said to ESPN. “College football is about the cheerleaders and the band and the campus environment on game day. We’re interested in solutions that allow us to have a traditional game-day experience.”
Brown took it a step further, saying he doesn’t think college football can return without the fans.
“I don’t think we can have football without fans,” Brown said on the Paul Finebaum Show earlier this week. “I can’t even fathom it. That’s not even something that I think about or talk about. Because number one, financially, football supports all the other sports.”
“Secondly, if it’s not safe for fans, it’s not safe for players,” he continued. “They’re gonna be right next to each other. They’re gonna be hitting each other in the mouth and breathing on each other for three and a half, four hours. So, I just don’t see that working, either way.”
Unlike Brown, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney says college football can go on without the fans, but he feels it is probably unlikely.
“Could it happen? Of course,” he said on ESPN’s “First Take” Thursday. “Anything can happen, but I would say that is probably more unlikely than not. But I have no idea what next week is going to bring, much less three months from now.”
At this time, the Tigers are still scheduled to open up the 2020 football season on Sept. 3 against Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Swinney says, between now and then, there will be a whole lot of discussions from school presidents to athletic directors to conference commissioners and television executives on what is the best plan of action for the sport and its players.
“Again, there is just so much unknown right now. This is April 9th. I would say May 9th, you can have me back on and we are probably going to have different conversations and different questions the way this thing is changing all the time,” Swinney said. “I think, by the time you get into June, July and August, the conversations are even very different then.
“But, to answer your question, I think college football is very different than the NFL. In the NFL there are 32 teams and, as you said, college football is way bigger than just the Power 5. So, I think at the end of the day, the decisions will come through the presidents, the commissioners, the ADs, the TV people, all of those things. Whatever is best, that decision will be made.”
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