FishDuck, Oh FishDuck … Can We EVER Play Football Again?

Mike West Editorials 43 Comments

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My gosh, Mr. FishDuck, you really laid it on us Wednesday. Canceling college football never felt so horrible.

When I was considering the 2020 college football season season post-COVID, I was favoring the side that some would call the money men. But after reading about the health risks players face, I’m seriously reconsidering. Safety actually matters to me: who wants to see anyone — especially young men — face a lifetime of serious health issues?

I talked to my dad about the health risks, and we discussed the vaccine angle. Nobody has ever developed a successful vaccine in less than four years. I seriously hope those mega-super-computer calculations we’ve heard about rewrite history this time, because if history doesn’t get rewritten, then college athletes have very tough decisions to make.

We’re in Unprecedented Times

Charles Fischer, (Mr. FishDuck) says that if a vaccine doesn’t get developed, there isn’t a university that would touch the risks associated with high impact sports (football and basketball). Why would schools accept liability for possibilities they have no reasonable means of controlling?

I don’t know how schools can control students — including the athletes — enough to eliminate the risks. And we haven’t even discussed how individuals aged 18-23 actually regard the risks associated with catching and or spreading COVID-19. How could you ever expect a university to control thousands of individuals? Especially, when most of those individuals are young men and women trying to make social connections with each other?


The men’s basketball team appeared primed for a deep playoff finish in March of 2021

As we all know, risk never goes away. But you can kiss college sports goodbye if treatments (not vaccines) don’t arrive here and now. The ramifications of canceling the season will be disastrous. It really could spell the end of scholarships for thousands of high-school and college athletes.

Yet, how do we justify moving forward with the season this fall? While I’m still rooting for playing this season, the current COVID cases among P5 players give me pause. It might be reckless to go ahead with it. The combination of all these issues creates enormous stress for coaches, athletes and the fans; many seek professional mental health counseling during this unprecedented time from reliable sources such as this, which help keep a mental equilibrium intact through these unexpected challenges.

Who Should be Responsible?

Life in America has always been about individual responsibility. I know what I would personally do as an athlete. But I cannot speak for them. Nor can I speak for the universities. We actually talked about that in an article here on FishDuck. And here we are, five weeks later and nothing has changed. The risks involved are huge, whatever decisions are made.

Consider this, if a successful vaccine takes more than a year to develop from today — or two (three?) years — the 2021, 2022 and 2023 seasons are a repeat of this year. And what if the virus is still around after that? That’s what makes this issue so tough for all involved. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. But the risks should be shared.

What does the future hold?


The Ducks 2020-2021 roster could be the program’s greatest talent pool in recent history

Personally, I want a college football season. But how do we make that work? Is it really reasonable to hold a football season this year?  What would you do if you were a University President or Athletic Director or Conference Commissioner? What would you do if you were a player?

Mike West
Las Vegas, Nevada
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove

Bob Rodes, the Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.

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Well all’s I can say is this, unless they have a real season in the SPRING, I would have to believe in my time as a Duck fan would have to be the biggest, let down, WORST Season W/O a doubt of my life. This is in my estimation the best Football Team on paper the Ducks have ever had in their History.

To have Sewell and Thibadueax not play in a season that would no doubt have been a historic for both we just won’t get that to see. So yes I have to think sometimes this team just seems Snake Bit and the fans also. Sorry for the Doom and Gloom and I need to be positive so everyone else hopefully can. Thanks for all the great stuff you guys continue to bring our way.


This is all just pushing the spilt milk around the floor. Get over it. It was a bad decision IMHO (Is My Hearing-aid On). Kids will be kids and these kids will be living a far more untested danger of a lifestyle outside of football than inside.

My interest is on what will happen to the kids now that the supposed adults in the room ducked and covered. Is it wiser for an athlete/student to skip the school year and work on their body, than throw away a college year making no progress towards their professional aspirations, getting more healthy, getting more competitive?

Who would they be — 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th year players with different issues around that? Could or would the schools penalize them somehow? What kind of mess would that be for high school recruits now and next year competing against an older and more experienced team members? During the year out of useless college (to the athlete) do 7 on 7 clubs spring up everywhere, except in SEC who will likely be embarrassing the other conference pussy cats and becoming even more attractive to the best HS players?

This is what I would be curious to see happening now.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

I believe the ones who are going to be embarrassed are those conferences who play. Things will happen and those conferences will be sued….often.

And the Pac-12 will look smart.


Maybe, but they will be going against SEC country judges and juries. The embarrassment will play out comparing which students actually suffered playing in the SEC or partying on the Coast.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

The big difference between getting COVID from partying versus playing football? They can’t sue Oregon when they get it partying…

THAT is what this is all about.

Bob Rodes

But…But…Notre Dame’s playing too. And we all know how smart they are. :)


There is also issue that the students now are more TED-talk audience members! What would really be missed if skipping this school year and getting a complete schooling the following year. What is the appeal to an athlete to instead be a virtual student? What about the coaches? Are they going to be highly paid what-if blackboard warriors? And what after all was cancelled? Playing the Saturday games, but still being able to participate in fall training and practices that their scholarships promised?

Just saw Coach C answering questions that are starting to inch towards these topics. He was talking as if he will have fall workouts or at least walk-throughs with the team. Which players will be satisfied with that instead of bumping this year for next? Would they be farther behind their player competition if the 1st to 3rd year players skipped this year? Does the entire team Red-shirt?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

No answers yet. We are all learning in this new COVID world, but I do think things will be different in six to nine months.


Anyone who has ever played any higher level of football understands that there is a vast chasm of difference in contact between people on a football field, than in a classroom. Anyone who says they don’t understand this has their head in the sand.


Ok, please excuse my ignorance in this matter, but shutting down the season due to COVID-19 due to concerns about athletes getting the virus, how can a college justify having students on campus going to classrooms and living on campus? Aren’t the athletes still in danger of contracting the virus as well as the non-athlete students? So, where are they saving them from getting the virus?

They might be safer in a more controlled environment in the areas they are mostly in for the day. I guess I am not seeing it. They shouldn’t open the campus for students period and strictly have online classes if that is the case, or are they going to shut down the campus? I’m not sure if that is what they are planning on doing.

I can’t see them having two seasons in one year. They should start the normal season for the 2021 year. Let athletes have an extra year in scholarships, which I believe that is what they are planing on doing to make up for the lost season. I am thankful for this forum and all the contributions everyone puts in. I know I very rarely contribute, but again, very thankful for this site.

Bob Rodes

Excuse my ignorance on this matter, too, because I’m wondering the same thing. :)


Interesting to note that a vaccine for Coronavirus may only take 12 to 18 months to develop. Thats the goal that was set by researchers in the US starting back in January. Helping to move this development along at a fast pace is the 9.5 Million Dollars the US government has invested to speed things up.

The mumps vaccine took 4 years to get approved and in the quest for an HIC vaccine its 36 years and still counting.

Once a vaccine is out you can bet that college football won’t be far behind if its not already started before then.

Sounds like the 2021 season might have us starting to get back to normal

Santa Rosa Duck

So let’s look at a realistic timeline. I am older and read everything credible about COVID 19. Also like all of you, I can find two articles a day which justify wearing a mask and two a day which say a mask is worthless so take this with a grain of salt. I have three good friends who have had the virus. My business partner and his wife recovered fully after about five weeks. My young 32 year old triathlete friend got a viral overload and almost died and is now fully recovered (?) after about 12 weeks. This thing is nasty.

While it took four years to get a mumps vaccine, in 2020 we have fabulous biotech firms working on this. I say we will have a vaccine and perhaps 3-4 vaccines by say March-April that work and have gone through Phase III testing. Perhaps these vaccines are from 40-70% effective. Now we have to manufacture enough doses for the USA and world population. Does it take one or two vaccinations? Now we have to distribute the vaccine through out the USA.

By the time we can vaccinate perhaps 70% of the population, we have already missed not just the 2020 season but the 2021 season as well. The next big question is how many people will get vaccinated? I have seen estimates from 40% to 75% will get vaccinated. 50% vaccination with a vaccine that is 50% effective (like a normal flu vaccine) DOES NOT ACHIEVE HERD IMMUNITY!

Almost certainly you cannot force people to take a vaccine. You can probably say if you cannot show proof of vaccination you cannot enter Autzen Stadium but beyond that? I do not know what the answer is but I do know because of personal contacts that those that discount how dangerous this CV 19 can be are nuts. Jon Joseph has covered the legal aspect well. The litigation attorneys will be circling and casting a wide net.

Bob Rodes

It’s unlikely that we Americans will be at the forefront when it comes to manufacturing doses for the world. As far as I know, India currently leads the world in this department, and by a wide margin. Call me cynical, but the more likely scenario is that some American firm will develop a vaccine, refuse to allow anyone but themselves to manufacture it, and in so doing delay worldwide distribution by three or four years. Not to mention “paying for their R&D” by making it cost-prohibitive for 90% of the world’s humans.


The decision to cancel football is commingled with the decision to have
a closed campus or a hybrid model with strict social distancing. It’s hypocritical and irresponsible to exempt the football team from the same protocols. There’s no way to keep the football team in a bubble. If a major outbreak were to occur, which seems highly probably once full contact occurs, then it would likely spread on campus and to the larger community. It’s a public health issue.


What I want is more clarity on this whole virus. Some are saying a vaccine will be ready in months, others say years. Some say kids aren’t at risk, others say kids are at risk. I think we are grasping at things right now.

First off we need testing, credible quick testing. This will provide teams the ability to monitor their student athletes. Oregon should lead on this, not just shut down the program. Without testing just saying we shut down the program won’t differentiate Oregon from other programs. I want to see strong leadership on a testing program at Oregon.

Next I want communication about what we know and what we are doing. Oregon can become a leader in communicating what can be done, should be done, and what is being done. Right now no one is leading, gives up a perfect opportunity for Oregon to do what it does best, innovate.

Lastly change doesn’t often come from the inside of a large organization. Right now we need change to come from somewhere and why not at little old Oregon. Create a program where this virus is identified quickly, effectively and neutralized. There are many systems out there that seem promising. Let Oregon go at it and innovate a way to end this virus within the Oregon Athletic Department. Nothing great happens with setting big goals, why not?

Bob Rodes

Notre Dame is doing a pretty good job of defining protocols and sticking to them. So far, they have one of the lowest positivity rates anywhere. If they make it through the season, their process could become a blueprint for other places.

My solution is neither simple nor easy; the liability must be eased for the universities, but only if they have followed rigid protocols to protect the athletes. Those new regulations or protocols have yet to be truly established because we still have much to learn about the disease.

It can happen within the next year in my view, but legislation would have to be created for these university protections and, of course the new regulations. There may need to be a whole new body within the NCAA for COVID purposes?

So, all of this can be learned and established, but what are the chances of legislation being passed regardless of who wins in November? Let’s not get political in who-wants-what-and-why, etc. The question is, “what are the chances of liability-releasing legislation occurring?”

Because that is what will bring back college sports, IMHO.

Jon Joseph

When it comes to CTE liability, there is no ‘right thing.’

It will be no different with COVID.

In theory, state schools may be indemnified under current state law. But such indemnification has done nothing to cordon off CTE liability and I do not see a difference here. If there is such an indemnity, private schools are, of course, not covered.

I do not see how any school public or private school can accept the risk; especially not Notre Dame, Duke and Boston College.

BTW, Notre Dame is a football playing member of the ACC in 2020. So why in the upcoming meeting of conference commissioners, is the Notre Dame athletic director attending?

Coming out of ‘this’ much has to and will change. Among the changes should be Notre Dame losing its most-favored-nation status.

Indiana and Purdue will not be playing football in 2020, but Notre Dame will be playing?

Jon Joseph

Thanks Mike. Great take.

America and CFB did experience ‘this’ back in 1918. Back in the day, 645,000 Americans died from the Spanish Flu. Close to 2% of he USA’s population at the time. Extrapolate to today and you are talking around 6M dead in the USA alone.

In 1918, CFB, there was no meaningful pro football back then, was played. But it was played ad hoc with teams arranging their own schedule. A number of schools claim the 1918 title, among them, Pitt and Texas.

However, in 1918, there was a legal maxim referred to as ‘Assumption of the Risk.’ If you were aware of the risks you were facing but went ahead regardless, that was on you. In today’s litigious society, with legions of lawyers and the belief that next-to-nothing can be your fault, someone or something else is to blame, the calculus of whether to play, or not, has been completely altered.

I see across the CFB world many stating: ‘But the kids want to play!’

No problem if a group of young men want to find a vacant lot to play on, but a far different matter playing under the aegis of and for, a given university. Even if the university has given you the opportunity to opt out with no consequences. The potential liability for any school that decides to play in 2020 is unknown, and thus from a downside legal risk analysis, untenable.

And it is not just football players that a school will ‘be putting at risk.’ The students playing soccer, running cross-country, and training for the basketball season in on-campus facilities, are also at risk, and thus, the sponsoring school is at risk.

And a student-athlete cannot ‘waive’ this risk away. Any lawyer who just passed the bar exam could blow such a waiver away.

What will a jury hear? ‘Ladies and gentlemen, these so-called student-athletes were put at risk not so they could benefit, but so XXXX University could bring in millions of dollars. Money these damaged athletes did not share in and will never see.’

Hopefully, this virus burns itself out before a vaccine is perfected? But until COVID disappears on its own or a virus is perfected, I do not understand how any responsible leader can put young athletes at risk by playing sport organized by a given university. And thereby, opening the sponsoring school and responsible adults to unknow liability. Simply bringing students back on campus, let alone having them engage in organized athletic activities where ‘social distancing’ is an impossibility, is risky on its own.

This too shall pass. But not without major financial reckoning for athletic departments dependent on CFB income and to a lesser extent, CBB income.

A final analogy. Football players were aware of the risk and protected from the risk by the best equipment and by rules changes to make tackling safer; yet, CTE liability has already cost the NCAA hundred’s of millions of dollars in uninsured settlement costs.


Jon, you hit it on the head when you said This too shall pass. But not without major financial reckoning . . . “

Jon Joseph

Hats off to the Pac-12 for giving the by far, most detailed description of the medical reasons why 2020 fall sports have been called off.

I simply do not understand how COVID is a risk to a player in CA, OH, NJ, etc. but not in Alabama. OK, TX, etc.


I’m clearly not telling you something that you, or anybody else doesn’t know already when I say that we all know exactly why this is the case. We all treat it as kind of an aside when we talk about how much, “footbawl” means to the people in those areas. We say that here, we love football Saturdays and everything that goes with them. But they aren’t EVERYTHING!.

It’s now obvious that such talk isn’t just talk. Football, beyond any reasonable thought, for now, football is going to be played in Alabama, Florida, South Carolina. Sure, there’s talk in LSU that attendance at games might be cut to 50%, so only 50,000 fan-atics could get in to the stadium, but that’s the only concession to Covid 19, that these areas will tolerate.

Jon Joseph

Totally agree 30, great take. But if you dance to the music …


A big Quack-out to the OSU Pres:

nick daschel

The Pac-12 has called off football this fall. The SEC has not. Asked Oregon State president F. King Alexander what the Pac-12 is seeing the SEC isn’t.

“I think, probably, reality,” Alexander said.

Bob Rodes

I’m a Notre Dame fan, and I’ve been closely following the way that Notre Dame has handled the process of getting ready to play. I think Notre Dame is doing an excellent job of minimizing the risk. Nevertheless, maybe South Bend is a little pocket of “those areas” where football is EVERYTHING as well, albeit smack in the middle of Big Ten territory, and I’m simply out of touch with reality, too.

Bob Rodes

I don’t see that that’s what’s happening, Jon. I think we all agree that all of us are at risk to catch the disease, and that if we catch it, there’s a further risk of serious health consequences up to and including death. But what we do not know is whether players have an increased risk in a practical sense, and upon this people may reasonably disagree.

Theoretically, of course they do. The theoretical protocol to minimize risk of catching the disease is pretty well known: wear masks, social distancing of six feet. But in practice, to cite a particularly high-profile example of how well we as a people are following that protocol, you have a US congressman refusing to wear a mask, getting infected, probably infecting one other congressman, quarantining a few others, and telling the world that he probably caught the disease because he was forced to wear a mask on a few occasions. A more typical example is me going to a Bojangles (drive-through) the other day and seeing half the kids in there with their masks pulled down below their chins, and not going to any trouble to stay six feet apart. The SOP of probably about half of us is to refuse to follow the protocol.

So, then the question becomes what is the higher risk? A rigorously followed protocol that allows students to play with as much safety as possible, or being exposed to a general population, half of whom are willfully ignoring the protocol? I’m on the side of the #WeWantToPlay kids, who make the same point.


Just reading the part that “Nobody has ever developed a successful vaccine in less than four years.” sends shivers down my spine.

I for one, take the virus very seriously and I am hunkered down with minimus contact with the people of the outside world. I don’t like it this way, but because of the virus I do it. It’s like being in a war situation where your world is all of a sudden turned upside down and things are different. You think to yourself “well I can out last this” and after awhile you find your daily life stile completely different and your begging for things to go back to the old way – – but they can’t, not now, because it isn’t over yet.

Can things ever get back to the way they were ?? No, because by the time it can we all will have changed and “adjusted” to a new way of life.

So what about sports, can we make enough “adjustments” in how we deal with sports that we can still have them ?? Yes we can. things will be different but we will still have them. The University Presidents, Athletic Directors and Conference Commissioners will have to make some of these adjustments but sports will return. A couple of conferences have already put the hammer down and said “stop”, until we can find ways to limit the spread we are going to stop and look for ways to proceed.

Advancements will be made that will help us get sports back. For example if a test could be developed that has instant feedback you could test players and fans alike as they enter the stadium. If you had a 98% confidence level that everyone on the field and in the stands did not have the virus you could feel much more comfortable in playing or watching a football game live. Is that really much more different than the bag searches we have to put up with now ??

An inconvenience yes, but so is the body and bag searches we put up with with air travel, but now we will call this one a COVID search.

Jon Joseph

Great take BDF. And I very much doubt that we will see a return to an ‘as-is’ financial situation. Cuts are coming.

Jon Joseph

Quantum computing when and if, perfected, will change the world more than we can possibly imagine.

There is a huge race going on between the US, China, Russia, Israel and others to see who gets there first.

Among other things, every security code no matter how secure today, will be rendered useless by quantum computers. This includes all of the nation’s defense systems and all financial data.

Viruses were here long before us and will likely be here long after us. And the little SOBs never stop mutating.

Bob Rodes

“‘Nobody has ever developed a successful vaccine in less than four years.’ sends shivers down my spine.”

Way to craft the ol’ words, there, Mike. :)


Say it loud and clear. We shut the program down for the safety of the students. Two years down the line we juxtapose our position on the recruiting trail with the likes of Alabama, FSU, and Nebraska. This line will sway recruit’s parents for years to come. Be the first to put students health first and it will pay dividends on the recruiting trail.

ok, the moralistic argument. How much risk do we place on our unpaid students and family for our football pleasure. Even if a student survives the disease, an asymptomatic student can bring it home to kill a family member.

Jon Joseph

Nebraska despite the whining, is shut down along with the rest of the B1G teams.

But you make a great point. At least in the short run, this decision could hurt the B1G and Pac-12 with recruiting.


As a DUCK , who until my daughter broke my 98 straight home /away , Tuesday decision was terrible ! BUT , WE as adults / parents / aunts / uncles / grand parents , HAVE to make tough decisions . These STUDENT / athletes are ALL our children , and like the old saying , “ it takes the whole village , to raise a child”, couldn’t be more TRUE then NOW !!!! They are NOT athlete/STUDENTS ! Trust me , my Fall Saturday’s are going to suck ! For 29 seasons , the fall means every Friday I’m on a plane somewhere , living in SD , my home games are in LA not Eugene . My heart is broken in so many ways , But the lives of our children are FAR MORE IMPORTANT !



A lead off home run, great job, Mike. I’ll get right to it. No, I don’t think it’s reasonable to have a football season this year. If the Pac-12 just, “followed” the Big 10’s lead, I’m fine with it, because they both pulled up; the Big 12, ACC and of course, the SEC, are still racin’ down the road, ignoring the signs.

A while ago the idea of football in the Spring came up and I wrote that I’d pass on that too. I understand that it doesn’t hurt anything to keep that as an option now; but I don’t see the health concerns being curbed by then, so it would be true, “March Madness” to try to start a football season, let alone the logistic problems that such a season would face.

Jon Joseph

Yet, back in the day, pitchers started both ends of a double header. I’m kidding; I agree with you.

I think ‘spring football’ is a carrot for players and fans.