Opinion

Badger football is back … but for how long?

When millions of people are battling the contagious COVID-19, it is careless of the Big Ten to prioritize the return of college football without addressing the health and safety of their students.

When millions of people are battling the contagious COVID-19, it is careless of the Big Ten to prioritize the return of college football without addressing the health and safety of their students.

Image By: Courtesy of the Big Ten

There is no better feeling than waking up on a Badger game day, with ecstatic energy in the atmosphere, the people of Madison united in red and the smell of brats roasting on the barbeque. All of this seemed very distant, however, as the season was canceled in late August, leaving Badger fans everywhere devastated. 

The cancellation of the Big Ten conference in response to the COVID-19 pandemic caused an uproar of disappointed fans and players and a lot of backlash, with even Trump voicing his opinion that the conference should reverse their decision. 

Amidst all this criticism from players and fans, Big Ten conference presidents voted to reverse their decision and start the season on Oct. 23.

The Wisconsin Badgers kicked off the season on Oct. 23 and as a fellow member of the Madison community, I was worried about how our town would act in response to the regulations in place and if they would still apply on this game day. 

The Big Ten instituted regulations to keep their players and community safe. Under its new COVID-19 guidelines, the Big Ten will require athletes and staff members on the field to undergo daily coronavirus testing. Athletes who test positive won't be allowed to play for at least 21 days. The athletes are expected to follow these guidelines so the season will be able to continue smoothly. 

The major concern with the return of college football was if our community would be willing to follow the proper rules needed to keep people safe. 

Dean of Students Christina Olstad sent out an email the Thursday before the big game to all faculty and staff emphasizing the rules and restrictions in place within the UW-Madison campus and community. In this email, she stated that if students do not follow the rules, they will be subject to heavy municipal fines and disciplinary action with the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards and University Housing.

This email was a strong action by the university, demonstrating that they are serious and willing to punish students for their actions. Unfortunately, this was the only action taken by UW-Madison. 

There was a lack of enforcement by campus officials to keep social rules in check. Bars were packed with long lines and large groups were gathering on houses all throughout campus disobeying everything that was stated in Olstad’s email. The school failed to handle the student body and did not back up any of their statements made in their email.

The Badgers destroyed Michigan, with the final score of 49-11. Even though we were unable to jump around, we were still cheering on our Badgers in spirit from all over. The second return of Badger football brought some needed joy to our Madison community and united us in today’s very divided environment. 

Sadly this excitement appears to be short-lived, as news of Graham Mertz’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis disrupted the world of Badger football. Mertz’s diagnosis has now revealed that 22 other members of the team including Coach Paul Chryst have also tested positive for COVID-19. This outbreak halted all Badger football activity for seven days, canceling the scheduled Wisconsin vs. Nebraska game for Oct. 31 and the game on Nov. 7 vs. Purdue.

This news has devastated the Badger community and ripped another college football gameday from our fingertips. The outbreak calls Wisconsin football’s COVID-19 protocol and Big Ten’s decision to restart the league into question. Did they do enough to protect their athletes and students? Was bringing back college football an irresponsible decision? 

In this wave of ups and downs, the Badgers resumed activity for their game against Michigan for Saturday, Nov. 14. UW’s protocol is to follow local health officials’ guidelines regarding isolating those who have contracted the virus. Due to the recent rise of cases Dane County just released a new public order banning all indoor gatherings. 

At the first game on Oct. 23, the seven day average for percent positive cases was a mere 1.2%. That number is now up to 3.9% — almost four times larger. If things are not handled properly as we approach Thanksgiving break, we could likely see another spike like the one at the beginning of the semester. 

Wisconsin is not the only school to have COVID-19 outbreaks on their football teams. Jeff Brohm, head coach of Purdue football, contracted COVID-19 and was forced to miss their first game against Iowa.

The decision to bring back college football was made too fast. Not enough safety protocols were established and the health of students at these campuses was put at risk. When millions of people are battling the contagious COVID-19, it is careless of the Big Ten to prioritize the return of college football without addressing the health and safety of their students.

These COVID-19 outbreaks continue to emphasize that bringing back college football was not a smart or safe decision. The future of Badger football remains uncertain, but no matter what happens with the rest of the season, our love for the Badgers will continue. 

Samantha is a junior studying Strategic Communications, with a certificate in Digital Studies. Do you think football should have returned, all things considered? Send all comments to opinion@dailycardinal.com

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