Kirk Herbstreit made headlines in March, just a few weeks into the nearly nationwide shutdown due to COVID-19, with what was a pretty pessimistic take about the season. He’s changed his tune a bit, as it looks pretty likely that we’ll have a college football season of some sort this fall.
“I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football. I’ll be so surprised if that happens,” Herbstreit said during a March ESPN Radio appearance. “I don’t know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball.”
He certainly wasn’t wrong in his sentiment, though he was ripped by numerous college football fans for expressing it. Even now, as things have flattened out a bit nationally, putting unpaid amateur athletes on the field is going to be a controversial move. It does appear to be more likely than it was just a few weeks ago.
Kirk Herbstreit and his broadcast partner Chris Fowler appeared on SportsCenter this morning. Herbstreit still has some significant questions over how the sport will best proceed, especially as far as fans in attendance are concerned. He is definitely more open to the idea than less than two months ago, though.
— 247Sports (@247Sports) May 19, 2020
“If you had fans, are you going to just open it up and allow fans to be fans, which is tailgating, on top of each other, cheering? Are you going to let 25 percent of the stadium be full? Are you going to let 50 percent of the stadium be full,” Herbstreit wondered during the appearance, per 247Sports. “If it comes to it, I guess we would have games without fans. But man, I know you guys love the sport like I do. I cannot imagine college football without fans in the stadium.”
Even assuming that we continue to progress in the fight against the virus, packing tens of thousands of fans into stadiums seems unlikely. Having the sport without fans would be a blow to college football, but better than no college football at all.
“As we sit here right now, it seems like there’s been progress in the last, I don’t know, 5-7 days during this phase one,” Herbstreit added during the TV appearance. “There seems to be feedback that’s been somewhat positive. And that’s just five days of this. Can you imagine where we potentially could be by the time we get to the middle of August, or the end of August? You’re still talking about three months.”
We have three months to make progress towards college football season, but those three months could also imperil our chances of getting the sport back if people throughout the country stop taking things seriously and risk more major outbreaks. Hopefully that won’t be the case.