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‘We’re Definitely Heading the Wrong Way’: As Virus Cases Spike, Hurdles to a College Football Season Mount

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In the heart of the coronavirus pandemic shutdown, the economy closed and sports stalled, a depressive time with scant optimism, Doug Aukerman, of all people, oozed confidence. As a longtime athletics physician and hospital clinician, Aukerman saw enough progress in the United States to have increased hope for a 2020 college football season. Cases were receding. Deaths were declining. Hospitalizations were dipping.

Then in May, states began to slowly open their economies, and universities announced on-campus classes in the fall. June gave way to more good news. College campuses welcomed back their athletes for voluntary training, and NCAA leaders created a new six-week preseason practice plan.

The optimism over an on-time kickoff, though, came with a caveat from administrators and doctors alike. A spike in virus cases, they warned, could derail the forward progress. “Now,” says Aukerman, “we’re definitely heading the wrong way.”

A month from the scheduled start of preseason camp, a rash of viral cases is sweeping across the country. Schools are pausing summer workouts. States are suspending reopening plans. Hospitals, once clear of COVID-19 patients, are again inundated with the infected.

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