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The Pandemic Proves That College Football Is All About Money

Redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis (right) appears to have the inside track on the starting quarterback job, but does it really matter? Credit: Steve Limentani / UGA Athletics

Let me begin by stating the obvious: None of this should be happeningfootball season, students on campus, bars open downtown. None of it.

With that said, I can now get into some old-fashioned football analysis. Who will be our starting quarterback, JT Daniels or D’wan Mathis? Did you know new Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman was Georgia’s offensive line coach up until this season? Does he know any secrets that could lead to us losing to the Razorbacks? Did you…

Oh, Jesus Christ. I just can’t do it. You’ve probably noticed, but we’re in the middle of something of a pandemic. Almost 200,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, and that number will certainly continue rising for an unforeseeable amount of time, thanks to failures of leadership across many levels of American society

Which brings me back to UGA. In the last month or so, college campuses have become hotspots for COVID-19 outbreaks. The University of Georgia is among the worst of those hotspots. Despite the university’s shabby testing policy, 3,000 cases have been reported since mid-August. What’s the proper response when almost 10% of the student body has had a deadly virus, and many more are expected to get it in the coming weeks and months?

As the situation worsened in Athens and on campus, UGA President Jere Morehead shifted blame to the Athens-Clarke County government and the students. But him? He’s a good boy who follows the rules. Why can’t you all be as good as Jere?

“I can tell you that what we continue to see is measures that we’ve taken on campus have worked,” Morehead said recently. “And they work in my class. I have a mask on; everyone in my class has a mask on. They are all socially distancing. Where it’s not working is downtown in the evenings. It’s not working at off-campus parties. And, unfortunately, these things are beyond my control and are under control of the Athens-Clarke County government.”

That is unfortunate. I’m just spitballing here, but I think the root problem might be that he invited 39,000 18- to 22-year-olds back to campus instead of making the obvious, sane decision to hold all classes online for the time being and keep campus closed. I think that would’ve pretty well nipped this whole problem in the bud. But Morehead, like university presidents across the country, knew that if he went online from the jump, many students would take gap years and others just wouldn’t enroll, costing the university all that sweet, sweet tuition and fee money. God forbid we lose a little money for the sake of human life. Which brings us back to football, because the opening of campus and the sham of amateurism in college sports are intrinsically linked.

Not playing football was never an option. There’s too much money at stake. Of course, all these schools that are foolishly playing could do so without students on campus. But that would reveal the lie that football players are normal students. It would show the truth—these guys are here to play football, not go to school. And once that is laid bare, you have to pay players. That’s a concept that just won’t fly for the powers that be, who have grown fat and happy exploiting these men for free labor.

For people such as Morehead, athletics director Greg McGarity and university presidents and ADs across the country, COVID-19 has never been a human problem. It’s a logistical problem. These guys sold college football to the TV networks, and they have inventory they are expected to deliver. It doesn’t matter if the product is good or even safe. All that matters is that they fulfill their end of the deal so they still get their check. And if some people get sick or die along the way, well, that’s the cost of doing business.

So I have one question for Jere Morehead: What’s the number? I know you’ve done the math. You can’t have gone this far without doing it. It might not have been in any official meeting, but sometime this summer you were sitting at home and worked it out in your head. What’s the number? How many people are you willing to let die to keep the school open? How many before it becomes a bad idea? One? A dozen? 50? 100? What’s the number?

Oh, yeah—Georgia beats Arkansas 35-10.

The Schedule

The Dawgs play a bizarre 10-game conference-only schedule this year in the barest of nods to safety during the pandemic.

Sept. 26: at Arkansas, 4 p.m., SEC Network

Oct. 3: versus Auburn, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

Oct. 10: versus Tennessee, time and network TBA

Oct. 17: at Alabama, 8 p.m., CBS

Oct. 24: at Kentucky, TBA

Nov. 7: versus Florida in Jacksonville, 3:30 p.m., CBS

Nov. 14: at Missouri, TBA

Nov. 21: versus Mississippi State, TBA

Nov. 28: at South Carolina, TBA

Dec. 5: versus Vanderbilt, TBA