Brian Kelly gives tight timeline to avoid a diminished college football season

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97 days. If the coronavirus pandemic has not been sufficiently contained in 97 days, Brian Kelly expects it to impact Notre Dame’s football season. If the Irish cannot begin training by July 1, it will affect their season.

Kelly baked a few aspects into that date, so there may be a slight cushion, but the reality is clear: The 2020 college football season is already very much in jeopardy as the coronavirus spreads further and further into the United States.

“There’s going to be a date where we all, as college football administrators and coaches, come up with a date from a player safety standpoint — we have to say this is the date that we can live with to get these young men physically conditioned and ready to go into camp,” Kelly said late Wednesday night in an interview on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt. “… The realistic goal here is probably a minimum of four weeks of conditioning before you put them in camp. College football is going to be affected if we’re not playing in 90 days in terms of a conditioning element in getting these young men ready.”

Kelly was working backward from the season’s start. Notre Dame’s first game is scheduled for Aug. 29 against Navy, planned to be played in Dublin but that is beside this point. That meant the Irish could open preseason practice July 31. Before beginning practices, though, the players will need to regain some of the fitness lost during the nearly four months at home. To regain all of that, well, the best strength coaches would need more than a few weeks, but to get 18- to 21-year-olds into fighting shape, a few weeks would be a strong start.

“If you can’t start training your football team by July 1, you’re going to need at least four weeks,” Kelly said. “Strength and conditioning coaches are going to want at least six. Sports medicine is probably looking at 4-to-6 weeks.”

In those terms, July 1 is a late date, but Kelly sees it as the last chance to have teams ready for the season as scheduled.

Now consider what has to be in place for teams to convene training. Just as the idea of continuing spring practice hung on avoiding Patient Zero, so would summer conditioning. If just one of 100 players, 10 coaches, conservatively 30 support staffers and all the Guglielmino Athletics Complex kitchen and custodial staff were to test positive for the coronavirus, everything would grind to a halt. (And apply that to 129 other teams, as well.)

It is that kind of reality that has forced the Chinese Basketball Association to push back its plans to resume play to May after hoping for mid-April. That would be nearly four months after the first death from COVID-19 in China.

The first confirmed death occurred in the U.S. on Feb. 28. Four months from then? July 1. And the U.S. is operating without the total shutdown tactics deployed in parts of China.

That said, Kelly’s target date included an afterthought. If football activities do not begin before July 1, there could still be a season, the football just would not be as good.

… in terms of a conditioning element …”

Note: No one wants to see lesser quality football. The higher the quality, the better. That is why the SEC gets the attention it does. But a sloppy season would be preferable to no season, as long as the players’ health is protected all the same.

The moral of the story is simple: If you want to see college football in 2020, stay home.