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COVID-19 creeping into college pigskin world

June 18, 2020 - 06:00
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  • COVID-19 creeping into college pigskin world

As much as we all might have hoped there wouldn’t be any COVID-19 issues with college football players returning to campuses to begin workouts for the fall after the long layoff from the dreaded coronavirus pandemic, I’m sad to say the news isn’t particularly good at this moment.

The great news, thus far, is the lack of any reported cases from Georgia but two SEC schools weren’t so lucky. At Alabama, according to multiple reports, including Sports Illustrated, several football players tested positive in early June. Over at Auburn, an Auburn athletics spokesperson confirmed to CNN the positive test results of three football players who were asymptomatic and placed in isolation in a dorm away from the rest of the team.

Elsewhere, at Arkansas State, seven athletes from three of the school’s sports tested positive. A spokesman for Florida State told CNN last Tuesday at least one football player was positive but refused to elaborate on any additional numbers due to privacy rules (HIPPA). Iowa State has one case and West Virginia reported several athletes testing positive.

At Oklahoma State, at least 150 student-athletes, staff and administration were tested in the athletic department’s reopening procedures and three athletes were positive. According to reports, linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga announced on Twitter he had tested positive after attending a protest in Tulsa.

Texas Tech reported an unknown number of positive tests in its men’s basketball program while Central Florida had three football players test positive and Iowa reported one person tested positive.

What’s truly frightening is the tip of the iceberg theory. Folks, my spider senses tell me it has only begun in the college ranks. As optimistic as I am trying to be, I can’t shake the feeling a devastating impact on fall football is more than potentially out there, waiting and watching.

Let’s just use Georgia as an example. Suppose this nightmare happens and fans can’t attend games. Last year, Georgia football posted a net profit a little south of $74 million while basketball came in a little shy of $3 million in profit. Those were the only two Georgia sports teams to post a net profit.

What happens if most of that goes away? I’m just dumb enough to do the math on this one. The same thing holds true for all college athletic programs. We have to hold onto our hats here and wait this out. We’re nearly two weeks into these kids returning to campuses and the monster is already growling. Whoa Nelly!

Putnam County is in the middle of its first week of conditioning workouts and it is important for our readers to have some insight on some of the precautions being taken to thwart the spread of the virus for football and the outlook on the other school sports.

According to the Georgia High School Association precaution protocols, teams can only have 25 players and coaches total at a workout at one time. The GHSA does not allow for teams to have 25 in the weight room and 25 on a field at the same time. Additionally, multi-sport athletes can only work out with one team. They cannot cross over into another team for conditioning.

The good news came from a late afternoon email from the GHSA to Putnam athletic director Paul Stokes last Thursday, notifying him the group size had been increased from 20 to 25. The restrictions on the safety precautions necessary for the conditioning work are stringent but will be well worth it in the long run.

As the workouts begin, each team is greatly anticipating the last week of June when the GHSA is expected to announce the plans for Phase Two of the preseason workout program before the “Dead Week” during the first week of July.

While Putnam football will be conditioning in the weight room and on the practice field, coach Jerusha Hudson will have the girls’ basketball team doing station conditioning in the gymnasium. Because “no contact” rules are in effect, balls of any sort are not allowed, for any sport, although the Lady War Eagles will be allowed to use jump ropes as a station program. Not to mention a whole bunch of running. Yahoo! Additionally, the Putnam JROTC Raiders will be conditioning outside well away from the football team when their program shifts to outside work.

With the use of mats prohibited at the moment, the wrestling team and the competition cheerleading teams will delay their workouts until July or maybe August. However, on June 20, the wrestling team will hold mass physicals for sixth through 12th graders at the high school. More information on this program can be found on the high school and athletic department’s Facebook page.

Cross-country and volleyball will also delay workouts until July or August. New softball head coach Taylor Fernandes had her new team of 19 girls on the field on Monday and conditioning workouts will continue Monday through Friday.

So we’re off and running. Literally. The conditioning programs are a good sign for the future of fall sports so we can only hope Phase Two will be as kind and our world as we know it continues to improve as we all collectively try and dig our way out, one shovel full at a time.

In the meantime, stay tuned to The Eatonton Messenger for all the up-to-the-minute news of this continuing sports saga affecting Putnam County.

Until then, this is Got a minute. We’re out.