Opinion: Kirk Herbstreit’s reckless speculation does college football a disservice
ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit offered a bleak projection of an autumn without football Thursday night.
“I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football. I’ll be so surprised if that happens,” Herbstreit said on ESPN radio as reported by TMZ. “Just because from what I understand, people that I listen to, you’re 12 to 18 months from a [coronavirus] vaccine. I don’t know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball. I just don’t know how you can do it with the optics of it.”
Herbstreit’s reasoning stems from a concern about players’ health as the world battles the coronavirus.
“Next thing you know you got a locker room full of guys that are sick. And that’s on your watch? I wouldn’t want to have that, Herbstreit said. “As much as I hate to say it, I think we’re scratching the surface of where this thing’s gonna go.”
Herbstreit’s comments might’ve come with good intentions, but we’d all be better off not knowing his opinion.
The college football season is still more than five months away. The only people who think we need to be deciding now whether games will be played this fall are media personalities looking for content to fill an otherwise barren void. They should be ignored — Herbstreit included.
Most of the major sports leagues that have been forced to suspend play due to the coronavirus are having their own conversations about when to resume. It’s quite possible that the NBA, Major League Baseball, the PGA TOUR and other entities could be back holding competitions with or without fans well before the time college football teams typically begin their practices in late July or early August.
If those sports aren’t able to return at some point this summer then it obviously predicts a problem for football, but the time to deal with that will be when and if it actually happens.
Which is not to say Herbstreit’s concern is completely unfounded. It’s fair to ask how we’re supposed to know when it’s okay for our country to return to normal. What will be the indicator that we’re all safe to gather together in public again? The answer to that is unclear, but it’s a safe bet that the decision shouldn’t be made by a sports broadcaster.
Furthermore, Herbstreit’s declaration that there won’t be a season is reckless. It comes across as callous to the gigantic ramifications of what college athletics would look like if football disappeared for a year.
“From a financial standpoint, if we’re not playing football games in the fall, it will shake the foundation of college athletics.” Florida athletics director Scott Stricklin recently told the Orlando Sentinel. “As everyone knows, football pays for the enterprise to go forward.”
It’s not often that the host of DawgNation Daily — and the founder of the Gator Hater Updater — would say this, but count me in agreement with Stricklin on this one.
If there is no football in 2020 then it’s quite possible that some coaches at certain schools from a variety of sports could be in danger of losing their jobs because there’s no budget to pay them, and some scholarship athletes could lose their spot in school because their sport is going away.
Not to mention the various businesses around college towns that count on football game day revenue to keep their doors open.
An ESPN personality making millions of dollars might be able to absorb a year with no work, but plenty of others in the college athletics community won’t be so lucky.
Which is not to say football should be played no matter the consequences. It’s simply an acknowledgement that something that stands as crucial to our societal framework as football should only be canceled as a last resort, and it should only be done at the last possible moment.
DawgNation isn’t the place to deliberate on how well our society is doing at battling the coronavirus, nor is the place do debate how much better or worse things are likely to get in the immediate future.
I don’t know enough about the subject to offer expert analysis on either of those fronts. However, I do feel well-informed enough to say that if things haven’t progressed enough that we feel comfortable getting back to the sport we all love come September then God help us all in dealing with the aftermath.