Schools and sports leagues across the country are scrambling this week to announce plans for football. But the clock is ticking. And the phone is ringing.

The Miami Marlins are calling.

This was to be the week when we learned the intentions of conferences such as the ACC and schools across the country making bold plans to play football while time bombs fall all around them. Ideas floating as trial balloons are losing air now. Reality has entered the picture.

The news out of Philadelphia, where the Marlins announced a COVID-19 outbreak only three games into the season, has rattled the nerves of football coaches and administrators, most of whom are suddenly very quiet. They know now that any plans for league-only schedules, Notre Dame dreams or ideas of football independence will come with a caveat.


You want to play football now? You’re going to need a team of good lawyers. And a good judge.

This is about more than games now.

The Marlins currently have 13 players and coaches confirmed positive for coronavirus. So far, two games have been postponed and the entire team is being quarantined in a Philadelphia hotel.

Derek Jeter, the Marlins CEO, said everything is on hold for now, while the Atlanta Braves and the Phillies are holding their breath. Both played games against Jeter's team in the past few days.

“Postponing tonight’s home opener was the correct decision to ensure we take a collective pause and try to properly grasp the totality of the situation,” Jeter said in a statement.

He was talking about the Marlins, but his message echoes across all of sports now. Florida’s disastrous response to the coronavirus has infected the thinking of a lot of people in sports, and now the infection is real. Anyone willing to risk the health and the lives of athletes and students now is risking the foundation of games, sports, leagues and universities.

For the first time, serious people are now realizing the truth. Fall sports cannot be safely played. None of them. If there can be an outbreak in baseball, a game played outdoors with virtually no contact, there is no way on earth that we can play football.

For the first time, we’re hearing novel ideas of redshirting entire classes of athletes at some schools and sketchy plans for pushing fall sports into spring.

Scheduled meetings this week among university boards such as N.C. A&T and league announcements from the ACC involving possible football scheduling aren’t likely to happen now, at least not the way they had planned. Expect the can to be kicked further down the calendar now.

Or expect major announcements from, until now, silent administrators.

Time is no longer the enemy. The virus is the clock now. This isn’t about football coaches, one of whom told Sports Illustrated, “We’ve got to start swappin’ spit here and see what happens.” This isn’t about money. Small schools already affected by leagues announcing conference-only games are lawyering up.

This is about science.

A week of big announcements and grand plans and football fantasies is now altered by a baseball team locked in a Philadelphia hotel. All of baseball is watching and waiting. All of sports is paused and trying to “grasp the totality" of the situation.

Footballs are being kicked down the road. Administrators are no longer interested in what the coaches are telling them.

They’re looking to the scientists now.

And they’re calling the lawyers, just in case.

The virus isn’t back. It never went away in the first place. It just put on a Marlins jersey and went to Philly. And now it’s asking us all a simple question.

Are you ready for some football?

Contact Ed Hardin at 336-373-7069, and follow @Ed_Hardin on Twitter.

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