Saturday, August 15, 2020 : By John Simmons
On August 12, PAC-12 Commissioner Larry Scott and Big 10 Commissioner Kevin Warren postponed all fall sports to the spring season.
This is in the wake of new findings regarding myocarditis, which is the inflammation of the heart muscle that often follows a viral infection like COVID-19 and can lead to death in rare cases.
Preceding these decisions, over a dozen Power 5 schools have reached out to Dr. Matthew Martinez, director of sports cardiology for Atlantic Health System in New Jersey, saying that over a dozen of their athletes had some form of a post-COVID-19 myocardial injury. As a precaution, two of the most prestigious collegiate conferences have been postponed indefinitely.
While this may seem wise, the decision to suspend fall sports is steeped in failed logic and fear.
According to Martinez, the percentage of all athletes with this disease is likely “less than 5%,” That means the 65 schools in the Power 5 conferences have reported a minuscule number of athletes that suffer from complications from myocarditis, and because of the small percentage of thousands of fall sport athletes, no sports will be played in the upcoming months.
Conference commissioners have followed the precedent set by government officials during the pandemic by taking ridiculous measures to stop the consequences of a potential COVID-19 outbreak.
These conferences have punished the athletes who are physically capable to combat the virus to save the minority who might be at a higher risk. Furthermore, players who have made countless sacrifices to play could potentially lose a year of their eligibility and chances to improve their stock for a professional career.
All this could have been avoided if the schools could have compromised to keep athletes with myocarditis complications safe while allowing others to play. Scott and Warren could have distributed resources to protecting the health of these athletes through testing, screening, and examinations without preventing most athletes from pursuing their careers.
The Big 10 conference generated roughly $759 million in revenue in the 2018-19 season and the Pac 12 generated $530 million in the same year. Some of these abundant resources could be distributed to continue the fall season as planned, but Scott and Warren effectively squashed that idea.
Dr. Cameron Wolfe, Chair of the ACC Medical Advisory Group said on Tuesday that a season could happen and that it is possible to play the season safely.
“We believe we can mitigate it down to a level that makes everyone safe,” Wolfe told The Daily. “Can we safely have two teams meet on the field? I would say yes. Will it be tough? Yes. Will it be expensive and hard and lots of work? For sure. But I do believe you can sufficiently mitigate the risk of bringing COVID onto the football field or into the training room at a level that’s no different than living as a student on campus.”
Wolfe’s mentality is the type of attitude, vision, and resourcefulness needed from leaders in times of crisis, both in sports and in government. But once again, fear and emotion have driven major decisions instead of courage and logic. The PAC-12 and Big 10 shutdowns are 2020 decision-making in a nutshell.