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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

On My Mind: This Year In College Football, Every Game Is The COVID-19 Bowl

There’s a unicorn of a college football game coming our way this week. Charlotte is playing Western Kentucky at 10:30 Tuesday morning. A lot of college students aren’t even awake at 10:30 on a Tuesday morning.


The reason there’s a football game at 10:30 on a Tuesday morning is because, you guessed it, COVID-19. The game was scheduled for this past Saturday, but the Charlotte team wouldn't have been able to clear enough players through its testing system to field a full roster by then. And to be honest, we shouldn’t assume they’re going to play Tuesday morning until there’s an actual kickoff.

The virus has turned this college football season, like most everything else, into a strange and chaotic thing.

Charlotte’s 2020 schedule might as well have been written on one of those dry-erase boards. The 49ers have canceled games with Tennessee, North Carolina, Norfolk State and Gardner-Webb. They’ve theoretically postponed games with Georgia State, Middle Tennessee and Marshall, although those games might not be played either. They moved one game from September to October, another from October to December, and this week’s game from a Saturday to a Tuesday.

All that has happened because one team or the other had players who tested positive, or too many players in quarantine, or other conferences had decided to limit their schedules to keep the virus from spreading.

There’s a very good argument that this college football season shouldn’t have been played at all – and not just for the safety of the players. College football is a deeply social sport. Even if you’re not at the game, you might watch your favorite team at a bar somewhere, or you might have your friends over. And even though schools have banned or limited fans at the games, the ones who get in often let the moment overwhelm their common sense. When Notre Dame beat #1 Clemson a few weeks ago, fans swarmed the field and probably gave all the doctors in South Bend a collective heart attack.

College football is my favorite sport. It’s been weird to watch it solo at home, texting with my old buddies from the University of Georgia. But even in this detached way, it has brought me some joy, and connection with people and a place I care about. So I’m conflicted. Which is the same way I feel about a lot of other things where the virus is concerned.

By the way, college basketball started last week, and of course that’s an even bigger deal in North Carolina. It’s got a lot of the same COVID-19 issues as college football … and it’s also indoors. March Madness might have a whole different meaning this year.