*DISCLAIMER* Please do not watch football games like the above meme (which was shot a long long time ago but photoshopped this morning) this fall!— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) September 16, 2020
Please watch safely and socially distanced at home with all your Badger red on.
The Big 10, after seeing cases spike in college towns all across the country, and after seeing the ACC and Big 12 play in, have decided to move forward with an abbreviated college football season starting in late October. It’s still early in the process, as today’s announcement was almost entirely “we’re doing it!” but still...I have questions and concerns about how this is going to happen.
Where Are The Badgers Going To Play?
In the before times, Wisconsin called the fourth-oldest stadium in college football, Camp Randall, home. Camp Randall, like all University of Wisconsin athletic facilities, is found in Dane County. Dane County’s Department of Public Health’s current order specifically bans medium and high-risk sports (see section 4-c). Now, it’s possible that the game of football can be modified to comply, as it does say “Games and competitions within teams are allowed for medium and high-risk sports if the games and competitions are modified to ensure physical distancing is maintained at all times.”
Now, this seems to have some teeth. Madison’s pro soccer team, Forward Madison FC, moved their games to Wauwatosa to comply. Of course, there might be an exception because it’s the Badgers. Given that Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Becky Blank are not on great speaking terms right now, that might be a tougher ask than you’d expect, especially since all the ancillary benefits of 80,000+ fans coming in to Madison spending money are out of the picture.
What Are These Metrics?
As part of today’s announcement, the Big 10 released their metrics for when football activities would change or stop entirely. You can look at their color-coded thresholds here, but I’m more interested in the thoughts behind deciding on these metrics.
First, the team positive rate is (Total Positive Test Results) / (Total Tests Administered). The “Total Positive Test Results” is intuitive and fine, but that denominator is worrisome. If you need to get those percentages low enough to play Iowa next week, why not test the new walk-on punter three hundred times? He’s never played football before, and was recruited based entirely on the fact he lives alone, has only online classes, and gets three weeks of groceries delivered at a time, but he’s willing to get his nose just absolutely worked to keep the team playing.
The population metric sounds like it would deal with the campus community as a whole, but no:
Questions asked to Nebraska and the Big Ten leaders this morning about the "population positivity rate" that will factor in team's ability to play. It's not the population of the city or university. "It has to do with the team group," chancellor Ronnie Green said.— Mitch Sherman (@mitchsherman) September 16, 2020
(Number of positive individuals) / (total population at risk) is actually a pretty good metric. Since they refer to individuals on a roster, it makes it difficult to change those stats. The fact that this announcement already needed clarifications on what it means fits in with how the Big 10’s handled the last few months.
There’s also the whole issue of what a positive COVID-19 test actually means for someone’s ability to infect other people. Can of worms alert!
NEW: All these months into the pandemic, we may have been testing the wrong way. Data from some state labs suggest up to 90% (!!) of people who get a positive result are no longer contagious and don’t need to isolate.— Apoorva Mandavilli (@apoorva_nyc) August 29, 2020
Strap in, this is important. 1/xhttps://t.co/rR4aBDK4Xl
No Games Have Been Played Yet
There are nine games that have already been rescheduled - and that total is already outdated. There’s a reason advertisements refer to these times as uncertain. In the next month and a week, what will change?
Barry Alvarez confirms his subcommittee presented a schedule model that started weekend of Oct. 17 and included an open week for all teams. The B1G presidents "decided another week [before the season] may answer more questions and allow us to be prepared better." #B1Gisback— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) September 16, 2020
Interesting! We could have had football a week earlier, and have some flexibility for rescheduling to have a better chance at playing a full schedule. Having that extra week in a pandemic that’s lasted six months will really help make this be safer for everyone. We’ll have more answers thanks to those seven days. I’m uncertain of it!