Steinbrecher: It's not possible to play college football in a bubble setting

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It was announced by the Mid-American Conference on Saturday that it had postponed all 2020 fall sports seasons due to the concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference is hopeful that they can be able to play its 2020 fall sports season in the spring of 2021.

The MAC became the first FBS conference in college football to announce the postponement of its 2020 season after a number of conferences and programs in the FCS already canceled or postponed their football seasons due to continued concerns over the coronavirus. It has now been reported that the Big Ten conference is reportedly set to be the first Power 5 conference in college football to cancel its football season.

For MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher, the decision to postpone the 2020 fall sports season was not an easy one. He joined the Howard and Jeremy Show on Monday to discuss more of his reasoning on the decision, as well as the possible thought of playing the 2020 college football season in a "bubble environment" similar to that of the National Hockey League or the National Basketball Association.

Here is some of what Dr. Steinbrecher had to say:

 

Steinbrecher on the process of deciding to postpone the 2020 fall sports season:

"This was a unanimous decision of our membership. It was one that came about after numerous conversations among the various governing groups, and most particularly the feedback from our medical advisory group. I'll keep going back to this being a health and welfare issue, and what ultimately caused great concern is there are still so many unknowns about this virus. We're just starting to learn about some of the potential short-term complications for people who contract the virus, some of which involve cardiac [issues], and we're unclear of what the long-term implications of it can be. When we speak of sport and participation in sport, we go into it with an understanding of what the physical risks are. If I play a certain sport, I may have a chance to injure my shoulder or my knee or my ankle, or whatever the case my be. We're dealing with a virus that we don't yet understand all the implications that could occur if you contract that virus. This isn't just the flu. There are things starting to pop up that we don't have our hand completely around, and so we were uncomfortable putting out student athletes in a position where they could not be fully informed of what those risks might be."

 

Steinbrecher on any pressure on being the first FBS conference to postpone the 2020 football season:

"The bigger pressure is you're dealing with your student athletes and your coaches, and you know how hard they work, how much they want to compete, what a narrow window of opportunity the student athletes really have, four or five years to do those things. That was really the overriding thing. Are you aware that no one else has gone down that path yet? Yes, but you're also aware that everybody is having similar conversations. Maybe others will get there, maybe they won't, but we were tasked with making tasked with making decisions for the student athlete and coaches out of our 12-member instiututions."

"We've had conversations across all of the FBS with great consistency, and we've all shared thoughts and ideas of what's going on in our leagues, what are you talking about. I have been fairly up-front for a couple weeks that we were hoping to get the season underway, but as we sat here we were skeptical if whether we'd be able to do so based on what we were hearing. I think the others are wrestling, they may be getting a little different twist on that, I don't know for sure. But we recognize that everybody's got their own set of medical advisors, they're listening and working with them, and we'll see where everyone comes out."

 

Steinbrecher on the possibility of college football playing in a "bubble environment":

"[It's not possible], and that plays into it. You're seeing the NBA, NHL, the folks that have the ability to create that bubble have been successful. Let's contrast that to what's going on with Major League Baseball: We have a St. Louis Cardinals team that's now lost its fourth series, we have various players here and there that have had some issues. They look a little more like what we do, although they even are going to be able to protect their players or put them in more of a bubble than we are. Our student athletes are part of a larger campus community, in which you really can't build a bubble. They're going to be interacting with dozens or hundreds of other people in the course of their activity. Now in contrast, what we can do on the sports field with what we can do in a classroom; I think our universities have a pretty good opportunity to build a way to have kids in class, have faculty in class, maintain social distancing protocol, get people in and out of buildings in a responsible way. It's the stuff that occurs outside of that that's going to be challenging. Let's face it: sports is not particularly social distancing friendly. That's not what you do, but we continue to hear it over-and-over-and-over. That's going to be a critical part to us ultimately knocking down this virus."

 

You can listen to the entire interview below: