As COVID-19 continues to spike in the South, so does the peril to college football.
South Carolina governor Henry McMaster illustrated the coronavirus’ threat to the game in a Thursday news conference while addressing college and high school football in his state.
“If these numbers continue to rise and the danger persists, I can't do it,” McMaster said. “I won't do it.”
“Do it” in the instance means allow the game to be played.
Spike in South Carolina and beyond
South Carolina state epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell confirmed 24 new deaths on Wednesday attributed to COVID-19, the highest daily death total of the pandemic, according to the Greenville News. The state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control confirmed 1,629 new cases and 19 new deaths on Thursday.
Meanwhile, on a national level, the pandemic saw its biggest spike yet on Wednesday with nearly 50,000 confirmed new cases on Wednesday.
No high school or college football in South Carolina, of course, means no Gamecocks football and no Clemson football. That would leave a massive gap in the SEC and ACC, eliminate a Clemson program that won two of the last four college football national championships and would enter the season among the favorites to claim a national title.
Clemson hit hard by COVID-19
Clemson football has already been hit particularly hard by COIVID-19. On June 19th, Clemson announced that 28 people in the program had contracted COVID-19. Of that group, 23 were players. A week later, the school announced 19 new positive cases in the program, with 14 of them among players. That adds up to 37 Clemson football players having contracted COVID-19.
Players who have tested positive have not self-identified. The outbreak amounts to the largest known in college football.
Peril in Pac-12
The pandemic is also wreaking havoc in Western states, most notably Arizona and California, which lay claim to six teams in the Pac-12. The outbreak has forced the Pac-12 to consider its options for the fall season. Commissioner Larry Scott addressed the threat on Thursday.
“I was cautiously optimistic … but the last couple weeks have changed everyone’s outlook because of the extent to which restarting the economy and loosening restrictions has led to significant outbreaks,” Scott told the San Jose Mercury News.
“I still want to be cautiously optimistic, but if there’s no change in society’s response and behavior, which results in a quick flattening of the curve and a decrease in the spread of the virus, that would lead to a much more pessimistic view about our campuses being able to open and our ability to play college sports.”
Scott told the Mercury-News that alternate plans could look like a delayed start or even postponing the football season entirely to the spring.
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