Teel: Campus ‘bubble’ may be best hope for fall college sports | College

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In mid-May, ACC commissioner John Swofford called the notion of staging a football season without students on campus “foreign,” an outlook most of us shared. Less than four months later, the prospect seems far more palatable.

In fact, until the COVID-19 pandemic eases, virtual bubbles are the best hope for college sports.

Some will consider this philosophical 180 a patent money grab and exploitation of young athletes. But while the amateurism model has been shredded, and the financial implications are clear, the pivot in thinking isn’t that cynical.

Thousands of players, coaches, administrators and medical advisers in the ACC and five other Football Bowl Subdivision conferences have worked endless hours and sacrificed personal routines to make a season remotely possible. If they succeed, jobs and Olympic sports programs will be spared.

If the coronavirus pandemic dictates otherwise, if football proves unmanageable, there’s no forecasting the long- and short-term fallout — football generated about $350 million in revenue for the ACC in 2018-19.

And even with the first scheduled game, UAB at Miami on Sept. 10, less than two weeks away, that’s certainly possible. Too many infections and too much quarantining of athletes could doom the season before it starts.

But derailing the attempt at this late date, after all this effort, only because full-scale campus life is untenable feels misguided. University presidents appear to concur, and late Friday afternoon the ACC took another step toward the season with an update to its virus protocols.

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