Oklahoma football: Will there be a 2020 college football season? Some think not

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 23: An Auburn Tigers fan in the stands prior to their game against the Samford Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 23, 2019 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 23: An Auburn Tigers fan in the stands prior to their game against the Samford Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 23, 2019 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images) /

The start of the 2020 college football season is over five months off — at the earliest.

We are reading and hearing a lot these days about the critical importance of social distancing and about how knowing and acting in accordance with the facts will help us quell the fear and anxiety associated with the coronavirus pandemic that has hit some of us like a ton of bricks and turned all of our lives upside down.

It hasn’t been fun, with a terrific number of us being asked to stay at home as a public health and safety measure, having to cope without any live sports of any kind to help us while away the idle time.

Opening day of the MLB season was supposed to be this week, but all the ballparks and spring training sites are empty. Likewise, the NBA, NHL, NASCAR and PGA Tour seasons have all been suspended and all college sports that were in progress have been cancelled for the current academic year.

Oklahoma Sooners Football
Oklahoma Sooners Football /

Oklahoma Sooners Football

College football is not in season, but with major programs like Oklahoma having started or about to start spring practice sessions, that sport also is impacted by the shutdown of all non-essential activities in an attempt to curb the exponential increase of people infected or exposed to the coronavirus.

The Sooners were one day into the 2020 spring practice schedule when the decision came down from the Big 12 Conference to suspend all organized activities.

OU head coach Lincoln Riley, in an interview on SportsTalk 1400 Radio in Norman last week said that he, like most of us, has no idea how long it will be before things will return to some degree of normalcy, and that goes for the ultimate impact the current public health crisis will have on college football and the coming 2020 season.

Riley reiterated what the White House Coronavirus Task Force and other national health experts have been telling us for several weeks now:

"“It’s all going to be predetermined by our nation’s response to this virus and how seriously people take it,” the Sooner head coach said."

Riley suggested that he would like to see some of the current restrictions relaxed over the right  amount of time after spring football was shutdown, but he also feels that there should be enough time to prepare for the new season if fall training camps are allowed to start on time in August.

Riley is concerned that there isn’t a level playing field across college football regarding the response to the COVID-19 crisis. Oklahoma and the other Big 12 schools have not been able to come to the weight rooms, even on an individual basis, and the schools are prohibited from sending equipment to the players.

The conferences have put their own set of restrictions in place, and these restrictions and procedures have not been uniform throughout the sport.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said on a conference call with reporters last week that conference officials will be taking a good look at everything as things begin to calm down a bit.

Riley said he is hoping the NCAA will soon issue official guidance and a uniform set of rules to be followed across all of college football.

I know it seems strange to think that what we are all going through now could last many more weeks, if not months. It’s almost unbelievable to imagine that we would still be battling this invisible enemy and sheltering five months from now, but if we trust what some very smart people are telling us, such an occurrence is not at all out of the realm of possibility.

Everything is in limbo right now. And that includes college football season and what many of us look so forward to every year as a fall rite of passage.

ESPN college football analyst and play-by-play commentator Kirk Herbstreit is someone who has serious doubts that there will be a 2020 college football season.

"“I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, (or) if we have college football,” Herbstreit said on ESPN radio this past week and picked up in multiple media platforms."

“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. I just don’t know how you can do it with the optics of it.”

Herbstreit went on to point out that the average fan doesn’t understand how much work goes into preparing a college team for a grueling 13-game season.

Starting late in the summer or into September to get ready for the season could have dire consequences for the players’ health if they spend months not being able to put on pads and get in football shape, he said.

"“You don’t all of a sudden come up with something in July or August and say, ‘O.K., we’re good to go,’ turn ’em loose,” said Herbstreit."

The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. is continuing to rise at a rapid rate, and whatever light there is at the end of this uncharted tunnel we’re in remains out of our range of sight.

All any of us can do is listen to the experts, take what they are saying seriously, heed the guidelines they are providing and take care of ourselves and each other. That is the surest and safest way to ensure the quickest return of live sports, including college football.

A sentence in the April 2020 issue of Sports Illustrated succinctly captured what all sports fans are holding onto in these trying times:

"“Like the world at large, sports adapt and adjust…and endure.”"