“We knew going in, and I think all of us — whether it’s the Big Ten and all the other Power Five conferences — understood what we were getting into when we made the decision to play,” Locksley said by Zoom on Thursday, the day Maryland announced the cancellation of Saturday’s scheduled date with Michigan State. “I don’t think there’s been any surprises with any of us.”
That’s the striking thing about all of this: the norms we now accept. The virus is here. It has killed more than 250,000 Americans. There is not yet an approved vaccine. Football is trying to rage forward. The virus is beating it back — from the SEC to the Pac-12 to the Big Ten and back again. Feel like flipping on the alma mater Saturday? Check the schedule first — and make sure it’s updated.
“As I’ve talked to our team, I’ve assured them that this is not a Maryland thing,” Locksley said. “This is a national landscape thing.”
So what sort of season remains here? Not just for 2-1 Maryland, which has three more scheduled regular season games. Not just for the Big Ten, among the conferences using Elmer’s to hold together its schedule. But in totality.
Over the past three weeks, the virus has wiped out 40 games. That number isn’t carved in granite, either. Wait an hour, then check back for updates. There are bound to be some, particularly because cases are skyrocketing — a million new cases nationwide in a week, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.
“I want to remind everyone that this is not a football-spread virus or a sport-spread virus,” said Yvette Rooks, the assistant director of Maryland’s university health center who is monitoring the athletic department’s testing results. “It is a community-spread virus.”
That is an important thing for all of us to understand. Football isn’t alone in spreading the virus. But football is being played in communities where the virus is spreading. Therefore, an impact on the sport is all but inevitable. It’s another bridge we seem to have crossed: being comfortable staging games as the pandemic worsens rather than improves.
What we’re left with, then, isn’t so much the normal mayhem of a college football season that builds to conference championships. Remember when the biggest controversies surrounded who was ultimately selected for the College Football Playoff? Those were civil, simple times. It would be refreshing to argue whether a two-loss SEC team deserves a spot over a one-loss Big 12 candidate.
Rather, this is just mayhem, period. The games, by this point, are glorified exhibitions. They exist not so much so the young men who play in them and the older men who coach them can learn about teamwork and camaraderie and overcoming adversity. No, they exist because ESPN and Fox and CBS and all their tentacles need programming, period. Not just this fall but headed into a long, cold, gray winter. You only have to hear how television executives refer