What does LSU football look like in a COVID-19 world?

Deadlines. We all have them, especially in this writing business. And today was the day to finish writing about LSU football.

But today is July 10.

And by the time you read this in August, well, you might not recall exactly the whirlwind of events concerning NCAA fall sports that happened this week. But, with an eye on football season, specifically LSU’s, consider that in the past two days alone the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced they would play only conference games, the Ivy League said it would have no sports at all in the fall, and a few other conferences at different levels simply said they will have no sports in 2020-2021.

Award-winning sports writer and author Lee Feinswog has been in Baton Rouge sports media since 1984. He is the host of Sports 225, the longest running locally owned sports TV show in the country and the author of three books, two of which are about LSU football. He is also the co-publisher and editor of VolleyballMag.com.

What’s all that got to do with LSU football? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything in our new normal, where the world of college athletics changes daily, deadlines be damned.

If we’ve seen nothing else the past five months, the dominoes can fall into place quite quickly.

Earlier this week, college football teams the land over were reporting that some of their players had tested positive for the coronavirus. Just down the road, Tulane reported that all 115 of its tests came back negative. But this, of course, was a few weeks after the LSU team had more than 30 positive cases. (Luckily, none were serious.)

As football games were canceled or altered, debates broiled over about if we’d even have a football season, and if we do how many—if any—fans will be allowed to attend.

And that was just college football.

The debate over high school sports—or the lack thereof—took on a life of its own. Politicians saying no way. The Louisiana High School Athletic Association was saying full speed ahead (and then later revised its protocols to allow football only after schools reach Phase Four of reopening).

But back to LSU, which is a member of the Southeastern Conference, where football is king and then some. Again, it’s July, but most observers expect the SEC and the other two Power Five conferences—the Big 12 and ACC—to follow the lead of the Big Ten and Pac-12.

SEC football is also located in the region of the country where—at this writing—coronavirus cases are spiking again. The calendar turned, the bars opened, the beaches became major gathering spots, and many people at both went maskless.

When you score a touchdown, if you spike the ball in the end zone, you get an unsportsmanlike penalty. In this case, the spike means we could all be penalized in some form of football fashion or another. Spikes are bad, except in volleyball, another fall sport, by the way, that has its hopes pinned on football. No football, no volleyball. And no cross country and no soccer.

The stakes are high. Football is the tail that wags the dog, especially in the SEC. We all know what LSU football means to the populace and the business world and to the well-being of the university. The dollars are huge. TV is begging for it, and you can bet the networks have upped the ante.

That’s why an abbreviated, few-or-no-fans-in-attendance schedule is still on the table.

July 10. We’re a long way from the first weekend of September. There are still seven weeks to go until what the SEC hopes will be the start of the season.

Perhaps when you read this, football will be facing a first-and-goal. But right now it feels like fourth and long.

Very long.

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This article was originally published in the August 2020 issue of 225 magazine.