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College Football Totters To COVID-Ruined Finish

Hillel Steinberg via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

If your household was like mine around this time of the year, the life of the turkey we dined on on Thanksgiving Day extended long past the meal of the fourth Thursday in November.

The leftover white and dark meat became turkey sandwiches with gravy or turkey salad, while the bones, added to some broth and vegetables, yielded turkey soup. And, for my money, leftover sweet potato custard was better the day after on its own or, better yet, in a pie crust.

All of this comes to mind as you ponder how those who run college football are doing their damndest to extend the life of the current season beyond what should be a proper resolution.

All over the landscape, games are being postponed and teams are playing with depleted rosters, all in the name of keeping a husk of a 2020 campaign alive.

Ten college football games were postponed or cancelled two weeks ago. That number grew to 15 the following week. This past weekend, 18 contests, nearly 30 percent of all scheduled, were called off, some of which never to be made up.

For a second straight game, Maryland was forced to put a contest on ice. After cancelling a Nov. 14 meeting with Ohio State, Maryland officials nixed this past Saturday’s clash with Michigan State, with neither date to be rescheduled.

The highest profile game to be lost this past weekend was the meeting between No. 4 Clemson and Florida State, which was scrapped less than three hours before its noon kickoff Saturday.

The Tigers and Seminoles are at the heart of arguably the biggest rivalry in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The enmity between the teams is so strong that players, coaches and officials traded recriminations about who was responsible for the delay.

At the core of all of the postponements and cancellations is the scourge of COVID-19, which is running roughshod over football the way it has over society in general.

For instance, Maryland has seen more than 20 players and staff, including head coach Mike Locksley test positive in just the past three weeks.

The Clemson-Florida State game was held up when a backup Clemson offensive lineman tested positive Friday and received results after the team arrived in Tallahassee.

The player had been practicing with his teammates before the positive test and Florida State officials did not want to risk having him or his fellow Tigers expose the Seminoles to the virus while in the midst of the hand-to-hand close contact that takes place in games.

As the nation moves to what president-elect Joe Biden has described as a dark winter in terms of the coronavirus, it seems the proper and obvious thing to do is to pull the plug on this season now before more damage is done and more illness is spread.

But just as the battle over the wishbone rages after the turkey is served, so, too, likely will the silliness over playing football in a pandemic, but with far greater consequences.

And that’s how I see it for this week.

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Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.