Let me be clear: I want football and I believe we’ll see SEC football in 2020.

I do not want the season to be cut short or canceled outright due to complications from the COVID-19 pandemic. As someone who used to work in the service industry, I also don’t want bars and restaurants in our city to close either.

I want myself and my classmates to have as fun of a fall semester as any other year. However, there are a plethora of significant problems when it comes to keeping our student-athletes safe during a global pandemic. According to an employee of Alabama athletics, the school’s athletes are attending their hybrid classes, as planned. One major problem lies in their time outside of the athletics facility, with other students.

LSU v Alabama
Getty Images

Because I feel like it’s been done enough already, I’m not going to vilify my classmates. However, multiple photos and videos depicting students not following COVID-19 mandates at bars make me believe that college football isn’t as important to them as it is to me and other sports writers. And that’s fine — it doesn’t have to be.

Nonetheless, we can’t allow our student athletes to be in the proximity of certain classmates that choose not to follow the rules. Not only for the safety of our football season, but for the safety of the men and women that proudly represent the Crimson Tide in all of our athletics.

Essentially, I want our student body to be able to safely go out a Saturday night and make their own choices in general. But for the safety of our players (and all hope on finishing a 10 game schedule), I believe the university’s administration will have to remove the student-athletes from the rest of the student population.   

Here’s how I’d try to get the 2020 season completed:

If I were to play King for a Day, I’d essentially create a bubble where all of Alabama’s football players and staff would stay between the Hotel Capstone, the Mal Moore Athletic Facility, and Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Hotel Capstone should already be familiar to our players as Coach Saban has the whole team stay there the night before home games.

NCAA Division 1 athletes, including Justin Fields and Joe Burrow, have been able to take their classes online for years because of their workload on-field as well as the amount of attention they receive on campus. There is no reason why Alabama’s athletes can’t take all of their courses online for the benefit of safety. If the university has enough money to operate a football season during a pandemic, they should have enough money to proctor exams in the Mal Moore Athletic Facility.

For comparison, the NHL has completed the remainder of its regular season and is currently starting their playoffs in a bubble. Hockey has managed to play this entire time without a single positive COVID-19 test most likely because of their protocols and the development of a bubble system.

Photo Courtesy of AL.com
Photo Courtesy of AL.com

In an e-mail to Alabama students on Friday, the Vice President for Student Life announced tighter rules and harsher penalties for COVID-19 safety protocols. Even so, college students, like some always have, will continue to put others at risk and break protocols.

If the big idea is player safety, the universities the athletes compete for are generally going to be the most safe place for the majority of players to stay. Nonetheless, if students don’t want to follow protocol, the previous statement becomes less and less true. As the season the season plays out, I believe the University of Alabama will and should, in fact, find a way to further distance their athletes from the rest of campus life.

For more content from J.R. and all the talented interns at Tide 100.9, make sure to tune-in for Tide Tonight - MWF 6:00-7:00pm. You can hear all of our radio content on the new Tide 100.9 app!

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