Orange Watch: Coronavirus may upend the 2020 Syracuse football season

Syracuse Orange defensive tackle Josh Black
Oct. 18, 2019; Syracuse NY, USA; Syracuse Orange defensive tackle Josh Black (85) celebrates during Syracuse's 27-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: Since earlier in the month when athletes began returning to campuses around the country to begin voluntary workouts, nearly two dozen schools have reported positive COVID-19 cases among their ranks, requiring those infected to self-quarantine for a 14-day period. Many of the positive tests came from players who left campus to socialize, as college students are wont to do, and the reality is that fabric of their college lifestyle is not going to change.

College athletes cannot be placed in a bubble atmosphere such as the NBA has planned for its resumption of the season in Orlando beginning next month.

These are amateur athletes who are a small part of each college’s student body. They go to classes, study at the library, meet with like-minded students on academic projects, and socialize with their teammates and friends just like everyone else.

The college student lifestyle is simply not conducive to practicing social distancing when socializing, especially those that are minus facemasks.

There’s also so much economic disparity between the Power Five conference members and the other schools in the ranks of 130 FBS teams, it’s impossible to expect programs to have the same depth of resources available to conduct the minimum obligations of safety protocols and instruction, and any necessary medical treatment of its student-athletes should they test positive.

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No matter how well Syracuse succeeds in limiting its positive cases of the virus’ transmission, and since players returned June 9 there’s been no reports on any positive tests from Manley Field House, it takes two to tango.

Week one opponent Boston College (Sept. 4) just had its players return to campus Monday, and they immediately began up to a 14-day self-quarantine period to comply with the current state of Massachusetts recommendations. Each player will be tested about eight days into the isolation period. It’s simply too early with regards to BC if its affected by any positive COVID-19 cases.

However, if this were game week against the season’s second foe, Rutgers (Sept. 12), then the Scarlet Knights would be minus some players on the roster. Head coach Greg Schiano announced Monday that four members of his team are in quarantine following testing conducted this month. One player tested positive, and three others had contact with him, although the contacts were to be re-tested this week.

Not all ACC members have made public test results due to privacy laws, but of what’s been reported Clemson has perhaps been hit hardest with 23 players testing positive during voluntary workouts.

On July 1, the Syracuse opener will be 66 days away in suburban Boston, and with so much still unknown surrounding the virus and its effect on athletic departments, the date will bring us no closer to realizing if the game will indeed be played.

The balancing act of the economic consequences of not playing the season, or planning to move it to the first quarter of 2021, versus the health risk of players, coaches, staff, or anyone associated with the gameday environment at the Dome, will be debated and guided by medical developments over the next month.

Presently, with more positive tests likely around the country, the consensus mood in Power Five athletic departments, unfortunately, seems to be pessimistic that a 2020 season can be completed as scheduled.

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Brad Bierman
About Brad Bierman 679 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.