There’s Still Hope for Oregon Football Season

Jordan Ingram Editorials

If you’re like me, your brain is chewing on just one thing amidst the coronavirus pandemic: Oregon Ducks football.

So many questions. Will there be a season? Other than sports documentaries, will we ever watch live sports again?

The only thing I know for sure is there is a lot of speculation and uncertainty, which is making sports fans antsy — myself included. And trust me, there is a bottomless chasm of soul-crushing information available online to make a rosy-cheeked Ducks fan stare hopelessly into the abyss while contemplating life without sports.

A recent Sports Illustrated article took a hard look at how the entire NCAA system — endorsements, television deals, stadiums, equipment, road games, merchandise — hangs in the balance of our ability to fight the coronavirus.

SI.com reported that athletic directors across the country have already formed “doom” committees to discuss and prepare for the worst-case scenario aka the nuclear option, or “no football.”

Group sports and packed stadiums can be breeding grounds for spreading disease, prompting Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, to say, “It’s extremely hard to imagine any football in the fall on any level.”

Kevin Cline

Don’t give up hope yet Ducks fans.

University of Oregon president Michael Schill recently told The Oregonian, “We can’t control the timeline — the virus does…We will not do anything that puts at risk the health and wellbeing of our students, student-athletes, faculty, staff, fans or the broader community.”

All of these reports sound discouraging, but they are not a death sentence for Ducks fans.

So, you’re telling me there’s a chance?

Undoubtedly, safety is paramount. At this point, who isn’t prepared to wear a Hazmat suit equipped with an intravenous feeding tube if it means they can watch the Ducks host Ohio State at Autzen Stadium?

I’d volunteer to get tossed around the student section in a large plastic hamster ball in order to witness Kayvon Thibodeaux destroy North Dakota State‘s offensive line.

Seriously, things may seem bleak, but it isn’t all bad news.

According to 247 Sports, Rob Mullens, U of O Athletic Director, told media outlets during a Zoom press conference that the school is currently working on establishing models of what Autzen might look like with social distancing protocols in place, including games without fans, in order “to play as many games as possible.”

Kevin Cline

What will Autzen Stadium look like for the Oregon Ducks’ Sept. 5 home opener against North Dakota State?

And the amount of time needed for players to safely return to campus and begin training for the upcoming football season? Mullens said a minimum of six weeks prior to the home opener on Sept. 5 against the Bison, which puts the Oregon practice start date around July 20.

Recently, an NBC reporter shared some examples of a socially-distanced Neyland Stadium at the University of Tennessee, which normally seats 100,000 fans. The graphic depicts individuals seated six-feet apart for 16% percent of stadium capacity, or 16,400 fans. The models also show versions with fans seated in couples and groups of three.

Fans may also be required to wear face masks, have their temperature checked before entering the stadium, and have access to hand sanitizer in every aisle. And a drastically reduced crowd is just one option. There could also be an empty stadium for a nationally televised match-up.

All of these safety measures have proven effective and may be irrelevant if a treatment or vaccine is developed in the coming weeks.

According to BioSpace, a California biopharmaceutical company has already achieved a major breakthrough after discovering antibodies shown to be effective at blocking coronavirus from human cells. While the results are still preliminary (the process has yet to be tested on humans), things are moving in the right direction.

The doom scenarios and apocalyptic visions are very possible.

Is it likely fall sports will look different than in previous years? Probably.

Yes, this virus has left plenty of devastation in its wake, but it hasn’t snuffed out our ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges.

And that’s what I’ll be cheering about until kickoff.

Jordan Ingram
San Diego, CA
Top photo by Kevin Cline

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