Two of college football's biggest conferences, the Pac-12 and the Big 10, are now rethinking their plans to suspend the season over coronavirus concerns as more and more students return to school. However, some people, like the parents of 20-year-old Jamain Stephens, are worried the schools are rushing towards potentially devastating risks.
"He was literally the light of my life," Stephens' mother, Kelly Allen, told CBS News' Nikki Battiste. "Just an infectious personality, an infectious smile, and just a good guy to his core."
Stephens was a defensive lineman at California University of Pennsylvania, a Division II school that suspended all fall sports competition in July. His mother said Stephens returned to school in part to work out with his teammates.
He died in early September. Although his cause of death has not been disclosed, Stephens' family said he died of a blood clot to the heart after testing positive for COVID-19.
Now, with colleges returning to campus life and NCAA sports underway, Allen said she is worried for other students like Stephens.
"I'm very, very nervous for these young men and women… These kids, their lives are priceless. And it's just not worth it. It's not worth it," she said.
So far, 76 Division I college football programs have decided playing the season is worth it. Several have postponed their opening games after coronavirus outbreaks.
In seven of the 11 states where Big 10 schools play, the rate of positive COVID-19 cases is above the recommended rate for reopening, as are two of the six states where Pac-12 schools play.
"College football is kind of a mess right now," The Athletic senior writer Nicole Auerbach said.
She said the sudden shift towards a possible season is likely driven by lost revenue and increased virus testing, but that may not be enough to justify a return to the field.
"Your football player might be following every single rule. They might be dealing with social distancing in the football facility," Auerbach explained. "And then they walk outside of that facility and they're going to be around students who are partying, hanging out, playing video games, going to a cafeteria."
According to Jamain Stephens' father, former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Jamain Stephens, that is a risk that students and their families need to be wary of.
"Sports give us a release. Right. You know, it gives us freedom from all of this drama… we are not in a state of mind with it all to make the right decision," Stephens said. "And as you know, we're sitting here right now talking about the loss of my son because we took the risk."