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Fall sports forge ahead

But the coronavirus pandemic could still shut it all down.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 16 West Virginia at Kansas State Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re just about two weeks from Kansas State’s 2020 football season. Maybe. After all, there is real live 2020 college football today, as Austin Peay and Central Arkansas kick off the season on ESPN.

While the excitement is palpable, (and it feels like we’ve been waiting approximately three years for this unusual season to start), there remains broad skepticism about the viability of the football season.

— A lot more than just football hangs in the balance. For example, Big 12 commish Bob Bowlsby noted that fall sports in the Big 12 will go ahead, but that the entire roster of fall sports would be cancelled if football is cancelled. There’s also the potential economic impact of cancellation, particularly devastating for smaller college towns.

— On the other hand, the networks that carry college football may not be too concerned about cancellation. Conventional wisdom suggests the impact would be significant and negative, but the dirty little secret here is that rights costs are now so high that a cancelled season might actually give the networks a reprieve, especially in a season with lagging ad revenue.

— The Big 12 is resolute about playing football in the fall, and announced a plan to test athletes three times a week during the season, with the conference contracting with a test company to administer an antigen test in addition to the more accurate RT-PCR tests already in use throughout the conference footprint. Testing shortages and delayed results could still throw a wrench in the works, however.

— Big 12 teams have not been immune to the coronavirus. Texas Tech leads the conference with 21 active cases of COVID-19 on the football team. Practices continue as usual, however, with only the players testing positive in self-isolation. Meanwhile, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley noted that a cluster of positive tests ahead of a Sooners’ scrimmage wiped out almost an entire unit of the team. What happens during the season? Well, Big 12 spokesman Bob Burda noted that the conference’s in-season plan is still a work in progress.

— At Kansas State, seven players have tested positive, following the first Saturday off for the team since workouts began. Chris Klieman, expressing concern over the return of students to campus, noted that positive tests were basically inevitable. “It’s going to be difficult, there’s no question. They’re still 18-to-22-year-old college students.”

— At least one football player had an age-appropriate reaction to his first day of classes at Kansas State. “The theme is castles,” noted Felix Anudike as he walked across campus. I’m sure many of us have felt or said similar things, but none of us have also been touted as the Wildcats’ next great defensive lineman by the coaching staff, or referred to as a “baller” by one Wyatt Hubert.

— The football team was not specifically named when Riley County released its most recent information, but several sororities at Kansas State are linked to the county’s recent COVID-19 outbreak. Just days into the fall semester, 167 students have been isolated after positive tests and another 364 are in quarantine due to possible exposure to the virus.

The 2020 volleyball schedule has been released, and features 16 conference matches. Instead of the typical home-and-home arrangement, the teams are scheduled to play a two-match weekend series on consecutive days in a single location. The team with the highest winning percentage at the end of the shortened season will be the conference champion.

— At Bill Snyder Family Stadium, the south end zone is now the Shamrock Zone, so named because the Ryan family, a major capital contributor, owns and operates the Shamrock Trading Corporation. While I’m happy that well-heeled alumni continue to support the school, I’m a bit disappointed that Kansas State did not see fit to meet this particular moment in history by naming a part of the stadium in honor of football players like Harold Robinson and Veryl Switzer who helped break the conference color barrier.

Have a great weekend, all! As always, stay safe and healthy. Wakanda Forever.