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Sports and COVID-19: Previous Coverage of the Impact on the Sports-Event Industry

The coronavirus outbreak has forced difficult decisions for the sports-event industry. Nearly every major sporting event has been canceled, moved or postponed. Here is a look at where things stand.

Click here for in-depth case studies on how organizations are returning to play.

 

Tuesday, December 29

TENNIS: Indian Wells Postponed Again as ATP Tour Makes Up Schedule

For all the deserved attention we give to the professional, collegiate and amateur sports leagues that are trying to put together seasons this past 2020 and already looking into 2021, there may be no more difficult task than to have a truly international sport go on as scheduled in the coronavirus era — as the ATP Tour is showing.

The tour has scheduled its first 13 weeks of the season with many tournaments being in new spots — including the January 5 season-opening event in Delray Beach, Florida, traditionally held in the spring — but the biggest adjustment recently announced was the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, one of the biggest non-Grand Slam events of the year, postponed indefinitely. The other major non-major U.S. event in the spring, the Miami Open, is currently scheduled to be held in its traditional date of March 22, making it the first U.S. event on the schedule after Delray Beach.

The first seven weeks of the season had already been released with the Australian Open, although delayed, still on the calendar. Qualifying for the first Grand Slam of the season will take place in Doha, Qatar, from January 10–13 before all players and support staff will travel to Melbourne for a 14-day quarantine period from January 15–31 in accordance with requirements of Australian public health and immigration authorities. The controlled environment will enable allow players to prepare for a 12-team ATP Cup in Melbourne, played alongside the relocated Adelaide International, as well as an additional ATP tournament in Melbourne, before the Australian Open starts February 8.

The ATP Tour says that all subsequent sections of the 2021 calendar after the Miami Open remain unchanged at this time.

The 2020 schedule was able to have 33 events overall but none were held from mid-March until August 24. The tennis world was able to have three Grand Slams with the Australian Open held pre-pandemic, then the U.S. Open held on its traditional dates in a strict bubble environment before the rescheduled French Open was held in late September. Nearly 40 events were cancelled including multiple traditional American stops including not only Indian Wells but Miami, Washington and the U.S. Open Series held in the summer at destinations throughout the Eastern United States.

Newcastle’s DeAndre Yedlin, left, challenges Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling during the Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Newcastle United at the Etihad stadium in Manchester on December 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson, Pool)

SOCCER: Multiple Premier League Teams Deal With Outbreaks

The Premier League, the most-followed soccer league in the world, has reportedly discussed a two-week break in what is already a condensed 2020–2021 season after an increasing number of COVID-19 cases throughout multiple clubs, including title challengers Manchester City.

Manchester City’s scheduled game against Everton on Monday was postponed about 90 minutes before kickoff after the team announced that it had multiple additional positive cases in addition to two players already confirmed to have COVID-19. The Premier League earlier this season postponed a game between Newcastle United and Aston Villa when Newcastle had approximately a dozen players infected.

A game scheduled for Tuesday between Sheffield United and Burnley took place despite Sheffield United recording ‘numerous positives’ and Southampton manager Ralph Hassenhuttl missed his side’s match with West Ham after a member of his household tested positive.

The mounting scale of the problem was illustrated on Tuesday when the Premier League announced a record 18 new positive tests among players and staff from tests conducted last week, the highest in a single round of testing since the season began in August. The league does one round of tests each week while many other teams do a second round at their own cost.

While a two-week break would in theory help for the league in trying to get cases under control, there is the competitive issue of a schedule already pressed tighter than a hot panini sandwich. Tottenham Hotspur has played as many as three matches in a five-day period earlier this season and the holiday period in England is traditionally the most hectic point of the season with all teams playing at least three times in 10 days.

The league also must finish by May 23 so that players can be released to their national teams for summer events such as the rescheduled European Championship and Copa America, which begins June 11, as well as the CONCACAF Gold Cup which starts in July.

Monday, December 28

COLLEGE SPORTS: Citing Mental Health, Teams Suspending Seasons

The college basketball season is already a torrent of cancellations and program pauses because of positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing protocols. And with months to go before the NCAA Tournament, the road to Indianapolis remains as full of potholes as ever — with some teams in both the men’s and women’s games deciding that the constant stop and start nature of the season is not worth it.

One of the biggest names in women’s basketball, Duke University, announced that it would be ending the season. The Blue Devils started 3-1 but had three postponed games already and had paused the season on December 16 originally for two positive tests within the program and contact tracing protocols.

The Blue Devils are the first Power 5 to cancel its season in the women’s game, although the Ivy League had cancelled its women’s season earlier this season. The powerhouse Duke men’s team will continue its season, although Coach Mike Krzyzewski has openly wondered about why the season was being played; in what perhaps was a hint for the Blue Devil women’s program’s eventual decision, new Coach Kara Lawson had said weeks ago “I don’t think we should be playing right now. That’s my opinion on it.”

The decision by the Duke women’s program was a few days after the first non-Ivy League men’s team announced that it would be shutting down the season. Chicago State, a member of the Western Athletic Conference, announced before Christmas that it would be suspending its men’s program for the remainder of the season. The Cougars made the decision after starting the season 0-9, none of the games played at home, before postponing a December 22 game at Iowa State because of not having enough players available to participate.

“It was a difficult decision, but a necessary decision in order to prioritize the health, wellness, and academic success of the student athletes,” Chicago State Athletic Director Elliott Charles said.

To be fair, Chicago State is not a national name for college basketball — and while Duke has said that its men’s team will not follow the women’s lead, there are two other nationally recognized programs that have paused its respective seasons and not for the first time.

The Syracuse men’s basketball program is in its third program pause in a six-week period after stopped two days after an overtime win over the University of Buffalo on December 19. The Bulls had a player test positive two days after the game, triggering contact tracing protocols. The Orange already have postponed games against Notre Dame on December 22, Wake Forest on December 30 and North Carolina on January 2. Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim and an unnamed player tested positive in mid-November and team activities were paused for two weeks; a walk-on also tested positive in late November, forcing a three-day pause.

Villanova’s Jay Wright coaches during a game against Butler on December 16, 2020, in Villanova, Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Then, Villanova Coach Jay Wright announced on Sunday that he has tested positive for COVID-19 and the No. 5 Wildcats will stop all team activities for the time being. The pause will postpone at least one game, scheduled for January 2 against Xavier in a battle of Top 25 teams.

Villanova earlier postponed a game against St. John’s scheduled for December 30 so the Wildcats’ players could go home and take a break — one of many decisions that have been made this month in collegiate sports with a nod toward the mental health of players who have been under tremendous stress the past months between trying to keep up with academic responsibilities along with major college sports in an era where the uneven rhythms of the sport have been more of a rollercoaster than ever.

But for any college basketball team that continues its season, or college sports in general, the biggest fear is for an athlete’s long-term health after they contract COVID-19. Often discussed ahead of college football’s season was the issue of players that would later test positive for myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. That fear has reportedly been realized at the University of Florida and its star player, Keyontae Johnson, who according to the Gainesville Sun has been diagnosed with acute myocarditis and will sit out the rest of the season. Johnson collapsed early in a game recently at Florida State and had an extended stay in a Tallahassee hospital; the Associated Press has reported that Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 during the preseason.

Wednesday, December 23

NFL: The Infamous Bills Mafia May Be Let Loose on the Playoffs

One of the NFL’s most famously wild fan bases, away from the stadium for the entire regular season, may in part be allowed back in the stands as the Buffalo Bills end a long drought of home postseason games.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says the Bills have proposed to have 6,700 fans in its stadium for the playoffs, and the State Department of Health is looking at the model.

Fans watch during the first half of a game between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets at New Era Stadium in 2019 in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker says fans would have to prove they’ve tested negative for COVID-19 before entering the stadium and that the Bills will set up contact tracing protocols for all in attendance after the game. Fans without masks would be thrown out.

The governor clarified the plan is “in development.” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, however, did caution a decision to allow fans must be made no later than next week and that the county does not have the capacity to do rapid testing on 6,700 individuals in either a pre-game or prior day setting.

While the Bills will not be home or have fans at home games until the playoffs, this week there will be six games played with fans in attendance, highlighted by the Dallas Cowboys and its plans to have up to — and possibly in excess of — 30,000 fans. The Cowboys have steadily increased its attendance this season and currently average just under 27,000 per game, but several other teams that have had a consistent number of fans allowed this year have not exactly been seeing “sellouts” happen.

The Miami Dolphins have nearly averaged a “sellout” of 12,294, only six under its capacity of 13,000. The Jacksonville Jaguars have allowed up to 16,791 fans per game all season but are averaging 15,701; the Kansas City Chiefs have been allowing up to 16,811 fans per game but are only averaging 13,086.

The NFL’s third team in Florida, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, have been having approximately 25 percent of capacity at home games at Raymond James Stadium, the site of this season’s Super Bowl on February 7. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has floated the idea of the NFL inviting health-care workers to be at the game after they received the vaccine.

Friday’s Game
Minnesota at New Orleans: Up to 3,000 fans allowed

Saturday’s Games

Tampa Bay at Detroit: No fans allowed
San Francisco at Arizona: No fans allowed
Miami at Las Vegas: No fans allowed

Sunday’s Games

N.Y. Giants at Baltimore: No fans allowed
Atlanta at Kansas City: Up to 16,811 fans allowed
Carolina at Washington: No fans allowed
Cleveland at N.Y. Jets: No fans allowed
Chicago at Jacksonville: Up to 16,791 fans allowed
Cincinnati at Houston: Up to 14,444 fans allowed
Indianapolis at Pittsburgh: No fans allowed
Denver at L.A. Chargers: No fans allowed
Philadelphia at Dallas: Up to 30,000-plus fans allowed
L.A. Rams at Seattle: No fans allowed
Tennessee at Green Bay: Up to 500 employees and family members allowed

Monday’s Game

Buffalo at New England: No fans allowed

Tuesday, December 22

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Disorganized, Controversial: Bowl Season Is In Disarray

There may not be a rollercoaster ride with as many emotional ups and downs as that for a college football fan.

While the NFL put in strict protocols, including fines for coaches who did not keep their facial coverings on during games, college football has been filled with enough highlights of coaches going crazy with a mask pulled down around their necks for a six-part miniseries. While each school is a member of the NCAA, the college structure has significantly fractured in recent years. That was highlighted this season with conferences starting at different times, with different schedules and testing protocols along with contact tracing and eligibility rules. Add in health and safety protocols depending on the location of a school and the end result was an astonishing 139 regular-season games canceled.

And bowl season, within days of beginning, has proven to be as inconsistent to keep track of. The Guaranteed Rate, Independence, Military, and Birmingham bowls were canceled. Two new bowls in Boston and Los Angeles did not get off the ground and if you’ve never heard of the Montgomery Bowl, don’t worry about it — the game was created out of nowhere to fill in ESPN’s schedule and bowl inventory and is a one-time event.

It adds up to this: There were 42 bowls scheduled before the season’s opening kickoff and instead, 28 were scheduled to be held. But as COVID-19 surges throughout the country, it has been no surprise that the postseason has been as unorganized as the regular season.

It started with nearly two dozen teams deciding they would not play in a bowl game, citing the mental health of players who have been stuck on campus for months without a break. The Frisco Bowl, the scheduled opening game of Bowl Season, had to be canceled when SMU withdrew because of a COVID-19 outbreak. The Liberty Bowl had to replace Tennessee with Army, a team that won nine games in the regular season but was somehow left out of a bowl game while six losing teams in the SEC earned spots.

One of those teams, 2-8 South Carolina, was scheduled to play in the Gasparilla Bowl on Saturday and its interim head coach, Mike Bobo, said earlier in the week opting out of the postseason was not an option. “There’s no vote in the SEC. You come to play in the SEC, you come to play ball,” Bobo said.

Well, you’re scheduled to play ball at least. Two days after those comments, the Gamecocks announced they were pulling out of the game because of an outbreak among players. The bowl game shortly after then announced it, too, would be canceled.

Even beyond the games that have been canceled or had matchups adjusted on the fly, there is always the College Football Playoff — a hot topic in an ordinary season and even more so this season. Whether it was conferences changing rules on the fly to ensure teams had a week off before the conference title game (ACC), conferences switching rules on title-game eligibility the week before the game (Big Ten) or those taking subtle shots about not switching anything because it just meant more (SEC), the CFP became not only a debate on which teams would be in, but then extended to what sites they would play at.

Between the debate about which teams would make the CFP and where they would play, the irony siren surrounding the CFP was roaring nearly 24 hours a day. Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly said his team would consider sitting out the College Football Playoff if the Rose Bowl would not allow family members to attend the game — a threat that got attention but to be totally frank, would anybody really expect the Irish to skip the game? Kelly also said of the Rose Bowl, “we’re worshipping the ashes of tradition,” a particularly rich quote for a coach at Notre Dame, which until this year has guarded its football independence with the intensity of a lion guarding its newborn cubs and will leave the ACC in football as quickly in the offseason as it joined in the preseason.

Then, after Kelly’s public posturing, his desires were granted: The Rose Bowl, which started the whole concept of bowl games nearly a century ago and is both criticized by some who believe its tradition should not be bowed to and worshipped by those who believe its tradition is exactly why it should have special status, was moved to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. While the CFP took pains to say it was moving the game out of Pasadena, California, because of “the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Southern California,” it would be remiss to note the COVID-19 positivity rate in L.A. County is 14.7 percent … compared to Tarrant County, Texas, where the positivity rate is 17 percent. But, because of the differences between state regulations in California and Texas, the game will have 16,000 fans instead of zero.

And what happens if one of the teams in the CFP — Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Notre Dame — have an issue with COVID-19 outbreaks before the games?

“We are planning to play the games when they’re scheduled,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock told ESPN. “We’ve said all along that we will be ready for any circumstance, and we will. But if one or both teams are not available and have to postpone a bowl game or the championship game, we will do it.”

They have to, after all. There’s TV money at stake, championships at stake, conference pride at stake. Those are understandable reasons. But even with some of the magical moments that have happened this season, or the fun that came about from having matchups thrown together on days’ notice, the chances of people looking back fondly on this college football season are slim.

Monday, December 21

OLYMPICS: No Jumping In Line to Get Vaccine, USOPC Says

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee will encourage athletes to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available but as of now will continue to monitor health trends throughout the country as the International Olympic Committee has said it will not require vaccination for those competing in the rescheduled 2021 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said during a Monday conference call that the USOPC is approximately six weeks from finalizing a vaccine plan for its Tokyo-bound delegation. The United States will send up to 600 athletes to Tokyo next summer and hundreds more in support staff and coaches. IOC President Thomas Bach said this month the IOC would not require the vaccine of its athletes but would encourage immunization.

“We’ll have discussions about access, availability, the proper timing, ensuring we understand any potential allergy reactions, side effects, things of that nature,” Hirshland said. “Suffice it to say, we will encourage and make available to those who desire it, a vaccine.”

Many leagues and sport organizers are hoping the vaccine brings some normalcy but also treading carefully about the topic of when their competitors will get a vaccine, knowing the pushback that would bring from a public relations standpoint should athletes get the vaccine before any high-risk individuals or front-line workers. Hirshland said the country’s vaccination priorities should be people who are high-risk and those working on the front-line of the health care system.

“As time goes on and the vaccine becomes more readily available, we certainly will be ready to be supportive of our athletes and the rest of the delegation as we think about going abroad,” she said.

HOCKEY: NHL Ready To Drop Puck

The National Hockey League will have a lot of rivalry games this season, as an abbreviated 56-game season will start on January 13 with division-only play and a revamped setup of divisions based on regional scheduling highlighted by an all-Canadian division.

The Stanley Cup playoffs would be scheduled to end by mid-July in time for the Summer Olympic Games, and give the NHL the chance to reset its traditional calendar and have an October start and full 2021–22 season.

The Canadian division with seven teams will be the only division that does not have eight teams. Plans are to have the teams play in their home country but it has not been made official yet because of local province regulations throughout the country. In the U.S., the San Jose Sharks will have its training camp in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the home of the Arizona Coyotes because of Santa Clara County health regulations.

Teams in the East, Central and West will play each other eight times. Teams in the North will play each other nine or 10 times. The league will go back to a 16-team playoffs. The top four teams in each division will qualify for the playoffs and the four teams that advance to the semifinals will be seeded by their point totals, leaving open the possibility of two teams in the traditional West or East Conferences facing each other for the Stanley Cup.

“The National Hockey League looks forward to the opening of our 2020-21 season, especially since the Return to Play in 2019-20 was so successful in crowning a Stanley Cup champion,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “While we are well aware of the challenges ahead, as was the case last spring and summer, we are continuing to prioritize the health and safety of our participants and the communities in which we live and play. And, as was the case last spring and summer, I thank the NHLPA, particularly Executive Director Don Fehr, for working cooperatively with us to get our League back on the ice.”

Friday, December 18

FOOTBALL: How the NFL Educated America About COVID-19

The NFL has played through a pandemic that nearly enveloped two teams, has affected every single team and forced dozens of games to be played in stadiums closed off to fans.

And through it all, what many could have called a fool’s errand may instead have been not only a way to entertain football fans throughout the country but also a way to show how the coronavirus can and cannot spread in social settings — as well as lessons in how the spread of COVID-19 could have been potentially contained in normal settings.

Denver Broncos quarterback Kendall Hinton (2) throws against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The biggest point of emphasis is daily testing and contact tracing. The NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed to daily testing during preseason camps and when the union insisted on that continuing into the season, the league agreed to do so. As a result, since August 1, players and staff members from the NFL’s teams have been tested more than 750,000 times, with nearly 10,000 people wearing contact tracing devices each day. By being able to use this information to see how the virus spreads from those infected to those who are not, the league has — perhaps unwittingly — provided a thorough case study for medical professionals to study.

Plus, the playing of games this season has so far shown that one of the biggest fears going into the year — the potential for the virus to be transmitted through physical contact in games — has not happened. NFL’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Allen Sills, pointed out to the Boston Globe that in the days after the Tennessee Titans played the Minnesota Vikings, more than two dozen Titans later were shown to be COVID-19 positive but no Vikings player was infected.

To say that the league has handled the season flawlessly would be incorrect. The Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens had team outbreaks that threatened games not only for their respective teams, but necessitated schedule changes that affected several other teams. The Raiders earlier this season and the Carolina Panthers this week had players fined for not complying with the league’s COVID-19 protocols by either not wearing masks when in social settings or gathering in groups when expressly told not to do so. The Raiders and Saints have had late-round 2021 NFL Draft picks taken away for breaking protocols and other teams have had fines levied.

But as COVID-19 has surged throughout the country, the NFL has been able to keep the schedule on track by tightening its protocols. Teams no longer are able to meet in person on Mondays and Tuesdays each week. Travel protocols have been strengthened to where players are barely able to leave their hotel rooms except when going to the game. The emphasis on masks was reinforced by the league’s close contact protocols, which meant the Denver Broncos had to sit all of its quarterbacks for a game because of one position group’s lapse of judgement in meeting without masks and breaking protocol. Accountability, already stressed within teams, has only seemed to increase.

And based in part because of its success in completing every game to this point, the NFL and the Players Association have agreed that there will not be a playoff bubble for postseason teams, NFL.com reported. There was belief that teams would want players and staff members to stay in a hotel during the playoffs in a modified bubble format to keep from getting the virus from the outside world, but that will not be required by the league. This week’s decision on the future comes as the league’s most recent week of COVID-19 testing revealed a .09 percent positivity rate among players.

As far as the culmination of the season, there has not been a clear decision yet on attendance numbers and other protocols for the Super Bowl, said Commissioner Roger Goodell, who attended a Tampa Bay Buccaneers home game last Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, which will host the game.

“My family sat out in the stands for a quarter-and-a-half,” Goodell said on a Monday conference call. “The pods seemed to work really well and safe. People wearing PPE and staying safe. A lot of assistance around the stadium if needed.”

Goodell said the number of fans allowed at the Super Bowl “is all about (the) safety of our fans and local public health officials. I’m not sure there’s a specific number we’re confident in saying.” Tampa Bay has played in front of crowds at 25 precent of capacity at Raymond James since Week 6 of the season, which works out to around 16,000 fans.

Super Bowl LV is scheduled for February 7. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis gave Florida stadiums approval to open up their full capacity back in the fall but none of the state’s NFL or college football teams have taken him up on that “offer.”

“We’re going to try to bring in as many fans as we can safely do into Raymond James Stadium,” Goodell said. “I’m not sure there is a specific number that we are confident saying, ‘This is what it will be,’ but obviously our focus will be on keeping them safe.”

While Tampa Bay will not be at home this weekend, it will be playing in one of the seven games this weekend that will have fans in attendance. But two teams this week — Arizona and Washington — reversed course and will not let fans in for the final few weeks of the season, having allowed fans at different points earlier. And two other teams will decrease the number of fans they let into the stadium; the Indianapolis Colts will lower its attendance to 10,000 for Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans from its previous cap of 12,500 and the New Orleans Saints, who were planning to have as many as 15,000 fans for this week’s spotlight game against the Kansas City Chiefs, will instead only have 3,000 fans inside the Superdome.

Finally, for those who wonder if not having fans at games this season would change the definition of “home-field advantage,” they were right: Entering last weekend, home teams were 97-95-1, a .505 winning percentage that would be the lowest home win percentage in more than 20 years.

Thursday’s Game
L.A. Chargers at Las Vegas: No fans were allowed

Saturday’s Games
Buffalo at Denver: No fans allowed
Carolina at Green Bay: No fans allowed

Sunday’s Games

Houston at Indianapolis: Up to 10,000 fans will be allowed
Detroit at Tennessee: Up to 14,520 fans will be allowed
Chicago at Minnesota: No fans allowed
Seattle at Washington: No fans allowed
New England at Miami: Up to 13,000 fans will be allowed
Jacksonville at Baltimore: No fans allowed
Tampa Bay at Atlanta: A “limited” number of fans will be allowed
San Francisco at Dallas: A “limited” number of fans will be allowed
Philadelphia at Arizona: No fans allowed
N.Y. Jets at L.A. Rams: No fans allowed
Kansas City at New Orleans: Up to 3,000 fans will be allowed
Cleveland at N.Y. Giants: No fans allowed

Monday’s Game
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati: Up to 12,000 fans will be allowed

MOTORSPORTS: Long Beach Grand Prix Moved to September

For decades, the Long Beach Grand Prix has been a staple of the IndyCar schedule in mid-April. But with restrictions in place across California preventing gatherings, the series has made the pre-emptive move to reschedule the 2021 race for September 26. The move will create a three-race, three-weekend West Coast swing to complete the season championship. Portland International Raceway will host a race on September 12 and the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca will be staged September 19.

“It is important to have Long Beach rescheduled to continue the history and tradition for one of the series’ hallmark events in one of the nation’s premier media markets,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “Further, it’s a tremendous opportunity to wrap up the season with three-straight iconic venues for what we believe will be our most exciting season yet. As we did during the 2020 season, we will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and maintain flexibility across our schedule. We are committed to an action-packed and exhilarating 2021 NTT IndyCar Series.”

ACTION SPORTS: 2021 Winter Dew Tour Moved to 2022

The 2021 Winter Dew Tour at Copper Mountain in Colorado will be postponed to 2021 due to safety regulations and guidelines concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.

The four-day Winter Dew Tour organized by Adventure Sports Network includes the world’s best male and female skiers and snowboarders competing in individual halfpipe, slopestyle, Dew Tour’s signature Team Challenge competition, an industry award shows and a calendar of fan-based activities. The 2020 event was held in February, the first time in the event’s history at Copper Mountain after years being held in Breckenridge, Colorado.

“Our first Winter Dew Tour at Copper was a combination of teamwork, fun and progression,” said Courtney Gresik, Dew Tour vice president and general manager. “But the health and safety of the athletes, fans, partners and staff remain the priority. As we continue to monitor the state of COVID worldwide, and see the numbers continue to rise, we must make the difficult decision to postpone the event.”

Thursday, December 17

BASKETBALL: The NBA Thought Finishing Last Season Was Tough. This Season Will Be Tougher.

For as ambitious as the NBA’s bubble in Orlando, Florida, was to allow the league to finish the 2019–2020 season in a safe and healthy fashion, there is a case to be made that plans for the upcoming season that opens December 22 will be even more so.

Houston’s James Harden goes up for a shot as Los Angeles’ Alex Caruso defends during the second half of an NBA playoff game on September 10, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The league knows what is at stake, especially given the desire to finish before the Olympic Summer Games in late July as many NBA players are hoping to participate. As such, the league has sent multiple memos to teams about how it intends to organize the season and play through the COVID-19 surge in as healthy and safe a fashion as possible, including — according to ESPN — a lengthy document detailing safety protocols and warning that violations that lead to team outbreaks and postponed games would result in “fines, suspensions, adjustment or loss of draft choices and game forfeitures.”

The NBA is taking a risk in trying to play the season in home markets while rising virus numbers throughout the country have overwhelmed ICU units in many of the league’s markets. While professional leagues have played games without being in a bubble atmosphere, the Major League Baseball season was nearly suspended right after it began before steadying itself for the final few months of games and Major League Soccer had multiple postponements of games once it left its own bubble in Orlando.

Knowing the risks, the league has told players and teams that it may “conduct unannounced in-person inspections of team facilities.” It may also enforce in-season quarantines and fines for players that violate rules such as being seen at bars or clubs, visiting public gyms or indoor social gatherings of more than 15 people.

The NBA is going so far to try and maintain the feeling of a bubble-type atmosphere as to detail for teams which restaurants are approved for players to eat at while on the road — establishments that meet league-approved criteria such as being outdoors or having a private indoor room for players only.

The 2020–2021 season opens on December 22 with teams scheduled to play 72 games each. With the NBA Finals finishing in the bubble in mid-October, it will be the shortest turnaround in modern NBA history from one season to another. That means the league will not only face the issue of having the season organized in a safe and healthy fashion but also the ability of players to get enough rest and recovery after an abbreviated summer.

“I was like, ‘Wow!’ And I said, ‘Oh, (bleep),’” L.A. Lakers superstar LeBron James said after the Lakers’ second day of practice. “Being completely honest, I wasn’t expecting that because the early conversations that were going on, I was hearing it would kind of be a mid-January start and training camp would kind of start after Christmas. We would have an opportunity to spend Christmas with our families. So, I had already planned a vacation with my family, which I haven’t been able to do obviously since I’ve been in the league. So, I had to switch up a lot of things.”

The league sent out another long policy document to teams about the issue of resting players, which has each season become an increasingly hot topic especially for fans who only get one chance to be at a game in person and want to see their favorite player on the court, not on the bench in a suit.

NBA teams will be given the chance to rest players in non-nationally televised games (resting in a TV game could earn teams a $100,000 fine) and in some scenarios for teams playing back-to-back games. Qualifying factors for a player to rest include age, injury history, season and career workload and schedule issues — including how many games a team has recently played and how many consecutive road games it has played.

“Every game matters, but we’re competing for something that’s high,” James said when asked about his load management. “… I think it’s 71 days that the offseason is going to be, the shortest [offseason] for any professional sport ever. We’re very conscientious about what we’re going to do going forward, as far as me personally.”

Wednesday, December 16

Football: Rose Bowl Under Threat as College Football Playoff Debate Rages

The College Football Playoff traditionally is one of the most anticipated events in the college sports calendar. Four of the best teams in college football face off during the holidays. Fans don’t know who the four teams that will be until the conference title games are completed, but they usually always know where the semifinal games will be.

But … 2020.

Fans react as Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert scores against Wisconsin during first half of the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2020, in Pasadena, California. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

One of this year’s scheduled semifinal sites, the Rose Bowl, has been the center of multiple reports saying the CFP semifinal may be moved because teams and leagues are unhappy with a recent decision by local and state health officials that would prohibit any family members from attending the game in Pasadena, California.

The Rose Bowl is more than just a CFP semifinal. The original bowl game in college football, the Grandaddy of Them All has been played every year since 1916 — through pandemics and World War — although the 1942 game was played in Durham, North Carolina, because it was less than a month after the Pearl Harbor attacks and public gatherings in California had been outlawed by the government.

But three of the four bowl games scheduled in California have been axed and the Tournament of Roses parade, a New Year’s Day tradition, was canceled earlier this year as well. With no serious Pac-12 contender this season there is also debate on social media whether teams that are located on the other side of the Mississippi River should be required to travel to the West Coast in the middle of a pandemic.

Rose Bowl Executive Director and Tournament of Roses CEO David Eads told Yahoo Sports he is “confident we’ll be able to host the Rose Bowl game in the Rose Bowl Stadium this season” and the iconic venue has been host to three UCLA home games this season. Bill Hancock, the CFP’s executive director, said Tuesday “at this moment, the College Football Playoff looks forward to playing one of the two semifinal playoff games at the Rose Bowl, as scheduled. As we move forward with our planning, we continue to hope that the Rose Bowl’s appeal to government officials to allow the families of student-athletes to attend will be permitted.”

The College Football Playoff itself, traditionally an event that draws rigorous debate with each release of the rankings, is not only facing the spotlight on the reports about the Rose Bowl’s feasibility. Also factoring into the debate are how the Power 5 conferences have differed in their scheduling. Those inconsistencies have led to fierce criticism and cross-conference shots across the bow in the past two weeks, reaching a crescendo as commissioners from the ACC and SEC as well as coaches in each league have fired back-and-forth barbs.

No. 3 Clemson and No. 2 Notre Dame will both play their 11th game of the season on Saturday in the ACC title game while Alabama, No. 1 in the CFP, has played 10 games heading into its title game against No. 6 Florida on Saturday in front of a restricted number of fans in Atlanta.

The sniping started with SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey criticizing the ACC’s decision to give both the Tigers and Irish an open date ahead of this week’s title game instead of playing — and potentially being upset by an unranked team and dealing a killer blow to both teams’ CFP hopes. “I don’t think there’s anybody else that I’m aware of that has played more games than Clemson and Notre Dame, and certainly not more games than the ACC, so that rings pretty hollow to me,” Sankey told ESPN. “We look at our league. We don’t worry a whole lot about other leagues.”

Swofford saying he doesn’t worry about other leagues — while criticizing another league — did not go unnoticed by the ACC. League Commissioner John Swofford pushed back against Sankey, responding to ESPN that the complaint “rings pretty hollow.” And Clemson coach Dabo Swinney added, “If the ACC was trying to really protect Clemson and Notre Dame, why would we even play a game this week? I mean, if six wins can get you in the playoff, shouldn’t nine get you there?”

That, of course, is a reference to Ohio State, which is No. 4 in the CFP with a 5-0 record ahead of Saturday’s Big Ten championship game against Northwestern. The Big Ten’s original rule this year was that a team would have to play at least six games to qualify for the league title game. But that rule was changed last week once it became clear that the Buckeyes would only have five regular season games. Hence the criticism by Swinney for the league changing its rules in the middle of the season to accommodate a playoff-contending team … which his league did for his team.

With all the controversy raging off the field, in normal times the chance to have bowl games would be almost the easy part. But because we are in the middle of a global pandemic, the rest of the Bowl Season admits that game organizers are walking a tight rope at this point hoping for games to be played. The first bowl game was actually supposed to be played on Saturday, the Tropical Smoothie Frisco Bowl — but, in echoes of what this whole season has been like, the matchup between SMU and UTSA was canceled after contact tracing in the Mustangs’ program left them with an insufficient number of players. UTSA will instead play in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl on December 26 against a yet-to-be determined opponent (it hopes).

And while the extended regular season will mostly take a backseat to the assorted conference championship games, there is one notable cancelation already. Purdue and Indiana, which have played for the Old Oaken Bucket every season since 1920, will not be able to have their rivalry game for the second week in a row after both teams have a number of positive cases and players out because of contact tracing. The last time that Indiana and Purdue did not play in football was in 1919. And 1919, of course, was the last time there was a pandemic in the United States.

Tuesday, December 15

MLB: Playoffs Expansion That Isn’t Approved Already Sold to ESPN

Since there is not much time left to say it: This story is sooooooo 2020.

According to the New York Post, Major League Baseball is working on a new TV deal with ESPN that would give the network exclusive rights to the first round of the playoffs — which does not exist. Not as if they haven’t agreed on a format or whether it’s a best-of-three games, or if it would be at a neutral site or one home field throughout. The first round of the playoffs literally does not exist.

Now, it did technically exist this year, but that was after MLB and the Players Association agreed upon an extra round of the postseason with an expanded 16-team field. The move was designed to help drive additional revenue to make up for a portion of what was lost because of the shortened season with no fans in attendance until the tail end of the postseason. But the 16-team playoffs with a bonus first round was a one-off and any resumption of the format would have to be collectively bargained. Given  how icy this past year’s talks were just to have a shortened season, the odds of there being an easy agreement would not be one to bet on in Las Vegas.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has already begun trying to lay the public pressure on players, telling a Hofstra University business school event in September he hopes the expanded postseason “will become a permanent part of our landscape.” The reason, frankly, is money: More postseason games means more revenue from TV deals such as the one discussed with ESPN. And with the CBA ending after the 2021 season, Major League Baseball will be like every other sports league in trying to use as many different avenues — more games, advertising, etc. — to financially over-perform in the future and overcome the losses of 2020.

But first things first … and let’s see if the 2021 season can at least get off the ground.

HOCKEY: Vaccine Report Puts NHL on Defensive

The authorization of COVID-19 vaccines has been heralded — deservedly — as a medical miracle and one of the great achievements of the still-new century. From a purely selfish point of view, any sports league is hoping that the vaccination process is as speedy as possible so that not only can teams welcome fans back into arenas and stadiums, but that players and staffers take the vaccine to eliminate outbreaks to avoid the shutdowns and delays leagues and teams have already experienced.

But one recent report in Canada put the National Hockey League in the crosshairs of a controversy.

The report came after Health Canada approved a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech last Wednesday, with doses of the vaccine in Canada first going to the elderly, long-term care home residents and staff, health workers and Indigenous communities according to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. And its reporting put the league immediately on the defensive, with NHL Vice President of Communications Gary Meagher telling the Globe & Mail that “we would only look at the possibility of accessing vaccines in the context of the availability of excess capacity so as not to deprive health care workers, vulnerable populations and symptomatic individuals from access.”

The reporting from Shannon and the NHL’s quick reaction to it spotlights the issue of pro leagues that have been able to secure large quantities of COVID-19 testing, whether it be rapid testing or PCR testing, while some health care providers have not been as lucky. The league itself has not even announced officially its plans for a 2021 season, though multiple reports have indicated that it will start in mid-January with a 56-game schedule and restructured divisions for this season only, including an all-Canadian division because of travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada.

Monday, December 14

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Very Little Going Right to Start Regular Season

The college basketball season in recent years has had enough trouble getting national attention when it starts a season. Between the end of college football and the NFL, while there can be several high-profile matchups, the sport itself has seen its non-conference play traditionally shuttled to the inside pages of the newspapers and last part of the highlights show.

This season’s biggest game of the year was going to be No. 1 Gonzaga against No. 2 Baylor in Indianapolis, one of the rare times that the top two teams in the AP Top 25 meet early in the season. And in a fashion befitting 2020, the game scheduled for last weekend was canceled because of an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Zags’ program.

Villanova celebrates a win in 2k Empire Classic against Arizona State on November 26, 2020, in Uncasville, Connecticut. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Entering Monday, there are 16 teams in Division I that still have not played a game. Several of them were scheduled to be in the Bubbleville event in Uncasville, Connecticut, but did not participate after having a positive test that required a 14-day shutdown. Eleven of those teams are from the Northeast.

Some teams have had multiple games canceled; St. Bonaventure was scheduled to play four games at Bubbleville before a positive test caused a program shutdown, then its rescheduled opener on Saturday afternoon was canceled less than 90 minutes before tipoff because of a positive test on its opponent’s team.

The daily uncertainty of the season, within three weeks of opening night, has already led Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to cancel the rest of his team’s non-conference games after a second consecutive home loss last Tuesday against Illinois. After the Blue Devils’ game against Notre Dame on December 16, the team will take a 13-day break before a game against Pittsburgh.

“I would just like for the safety, the mental and physical health of players and staff to assess where we’re at,” Krzyzewski said.

Krzyzewski said his decision was made because of the rising number of COVID-19 cases throughout the country and in North Carolina, not because of his team’s 2-2 start — even though Alabama Coach Nate Oats did not resist the chance to take a jab at his counterpart, saying “Do you think if Coach K hadn’t lost his two nonconference games at home that he would still be saying that?” the day after Duke’s announcement.

Still, the decision by Krzyzewski highlighted what will be a crucial next few weeks for college basketball. Players on teams throughout the country have spent months in near-isolation, trying to get through the fall semester without catching the virus so that they could play games. For many of them, the chance to be able to take a week off and go home and see friends and families would be vital for mental health.

On the other hand, there is the train of thought that with college campuses emptying out, basketball teams will be able to have fewer “distractions” with classes and more importantly additional people around campus to increase the risk of COVID-19 on campus. Traditionally, the winter semester break was used to get in a bunch of games and practices.

“We’re being advised by our government not to travel over the holidays and yet these players are traveling,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said Tuesday during the Duke-Illinois game. “There are a lot of questions that need to be asked and we have not had that national conversation and that’s been a failure of leadership.”

Bilas continued throughout the game, pointing to the same issues that many coaches have had already this season: The NCAA and each conference in college basketball have different rules and protocols when it comes to testing and contact tracing. On top of that, there is the issue of traveling in and out of different states and counties and what that entails in terms of different health and safety regulations.

All the meanwhile, the games will go on. Because frankly, there is too much money involved and for athletic departments that have had a fall season where football revenues have plummeted. The need to make sure there is a college basketball season culminating with the NCAA Tournament is imperative.

“I don’t think anyone can say anymore that these young men are amateurs,” Pittsburgh coach Jeff Capel said after one of his team’s recent games. “That’s out the window because they are not. They absolutely are not. They are laying it on the line to entertain people. Something doesn’t feel right about it right now.”

NCAA Women’s Tournament Eyeing San Antonio Bubble

While the regular season is already under pressure, the NCAA Tournament is on track for March, with the strong likelihood of a  bubble-type setup in Indianapolis. When the NCAA announced in November that it was planning on that format for its marquee event, the question then followed to what the NCAA Women’s Tournament would do. The NCAA on Monday morning released that plan, saying it has begun preliminary talks with Final Four host site San Antonio and the surrounding region to serve as the landing spot for the 64-team tournament.

“San Antonio was the perfect region for us to explore because it already has an established and fully operational local organizing committee in place for the 2021 Women’s Final Four,” said Lynn Holzman, vice president of women’s basketball at the NCAA. “We look forward to working with Bexar County, San Antonio and the state of Texas to further determine a path for creating a special championship experience for all 64 participating school while ensuring the safest possible environment for college athletes and officials.”

The announcement was not a complete surprise, with Jenny Carnes, senior vice president and chief operating officer for San Antonio Sports and the executive director of the San Antonio Local Organizing Committee for the Final Four, telling SportsTravel in November that “We’ve proposed that (one-site) concept to the NCAA for months now, thinking it would be a tremendous opportunity for our city. It would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. (The NCAA) has been looking at a number of different contingency plans and one would include an one-site tournament.”

Friday, December 11

FOOTBALL: The NFL Season Won’t Be Canceled. But Finishing It Will Be Difficult.

And then there were zero.

With more than 200 players going on the NFL’s COVID-19/Reserve list this season, whether for a positive test or contact tracing reasons, there was one team that until last weekend had not one person be affected: The Seattle Seahawks. That was until Saturday, when defensive tackle Bryan Mone had been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

While some would snark that accomplishing the feat of being the last team standing against COVID-19 may be worth a banner right next to the one it won at Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014, that will not be the case, least of all because Seattle Coach Pete Carroll was fined $100,000 in September for not wearing a mask during a game.

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

“It was a good reminder that I just got sloppy in that instance, and I can’t afford to be,’’ Carroll said. “I can’t afford to represent that in an effort to try to do this thing better than anybody’s ever done this before. So, I needed to get my own butt kicked, and I didn’t mind that one bit.’’

Overall this week, the vibe from the NFL was actually quite positive. There have also been no games threatened because of positive tests within a team, although the game-day positive of Dez Bryant on the Baltimore Ravens temporarily had fans in an understandable panic, given the team’s issues recently — the Tuesday night game was rescheduled because of last week’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, itself pushed back nearly a week after the team had 10 consecutive days of positive tests, and at least a dozen players were diagnosed with coronavirus, notably league MVP Lamar Jackson.

The league released its weekly testing results on Tuesday and the rate of positive tests fell last week to 0.11 percent from 0.20 percent the previous week with 18 new confirmed positive tests last week among players and 27 among other personnel. That raised the numbers to 173 players and 297 personnel overall since training camp. The numbers are a decrease in positives from the previous round and gives the league and players belief that the latest round of new protocols, which includes no in-person meetings at team facilities and increased use of masks by players on the sidelines during games, is working.

“When we all follow the protocols, they work and they work well,” said NFLPA President JC Tretter, a lineman on the Cleveland Browns. “The contact tracing, getting everyone who potentially are exposed out of the building, works to stop the spread of the virus. It will all come down to how well we follow those protocols and we will continue to evolve those protocols as needed. We know they work and we need to make sure we have 100 percent compliance to finish the season.”

Believing in the ability of players and coaches to police themselves has been the policy as the season has gone on but there are infectious disease experts who say a bubble would be the best way to finish the season.

“We’re in the most dangerous period in modern public-health history, and I feel it would be smarter to do a real bubble and truly quarantine the way that the NBA and NHL did,” Dr. Anne Rimoin, professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, said to the Los Angeles Times.

But NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said during a virtual news conference on Tuesday that epidemiologists the union consults with have advised that moving into a bubble for the postseason has its own risks because given the size of an NFL team roster, one positive could make an outbreak even more pronounced.

“We’re in a world where things won’t all be perfect,” Smith said. “We have to make decisions on the information and data we have at the time.”

Smith need not tell the players on the San Francisco 49ers that things won’t all be perfect, given that the team was forced to relocate to Arizona indefinitely because of Santa Clara County restrictions on contact sports. And one other team that is able to remain home, the Green Bay Packers, officially backed off plans to allow a restricted number of fans to attend home games on Tuesday; the team had been allowing team employees and their families to attend the past two home games in a test run for larger crowds. But in a statement, the team said: “While infection rates in Brown County and in many areas in Wisconsin currently are trending in a better direction, the rate overall remains at a high level locally. Also, with the holiday season coming up there is concern that the rate may spike again.”

Thursday’s Game

New England at L.A. Rams: No fans were allowed

Sunday’s Games

Tennessee at Jacksonville: Up to 16,791 fans will be allowed
Minnesota at Tampa Bay: Up to 16,000 fans will be allowed
Kansas City at Miami: Up to 13,000 fans will be allowed
Denver at Carolina: Up to 5,240 fans will be allowed
Houston at Chicago: No fans will be allowed
Arizona at N.Y. Giants: No fans will be allowed
Dallas at Cincinnati: Up to 12,000 fans will be allowed
Indianapolis at Las Vegas: No fans will be allowed
N.Y. Jets at Seattle: No fans will be allowed
Green Bay at Detroit: No fans will be allowed
Atlanta at L.A. Chargers: No fans will be allowed
Washington vs. San Francisco at Glendale, Arizona: No fans will be allowed
New Orleans at Philadelphia: No fans will be allowed
Pittsburgh at Buffalo: No fans will be allowed

Monday’s Game

Baltimore at Cleveland: Up to 12,000 fans will be allowed

Thursday December 10

SOCCER: MLS Gauges Success as a Most Unusual Season Comes to a Close

Things were looking so bright for Major League Soccer in February. The league was about to start its 25th season with star power in Inter Miami with David Beckham as owner, 26 teams deep with four more franchises prepared to begin play within a few years. There would be a spotlight event with the All-Star Game aagainst a selection of Liga MX All-Stars at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and two weeks into the season the league suspended play. Expansion plans were reshuffled; Austin will still join the league next year while Charlotte’s entry will be in 2022, followed by Sacramento and St. Louis in 2023 for a 30-team league with 27 playing in soccer-specific stadiums.

Seattle Sounders’ Cristian Roldan (7) celebrates a Sounders goal late in the second half of an MLS playoff Western Conference final soccer match against Minnesota United. The Sounders won 3-2. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

After a period of planning its return, MLS was able to pull things back together, resuming in July with 51 matches in 35 days at the MLS is Back Tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. The league also played the rest of the regular season with in-market matches but had to adjust the postseason qualifying procedures in the final weeks after the Colorado Rapids had an outbreak within the team that forced five matches to be canceled, making the league do playoff seedings by points per game instead of total points.

But the playoffs have gone off without a hitch — a few teams have had positive COVID-19 tests but not enough to warrant a postponement — and MLS Commissioner Don Garber made a point of saying “we were the only league in the world to play in a bubble and continue in our markets with a regular season and then complete a postseason in our local markets,” during his State of the League address on Tuesday.

The costs of the season were prohibitive. Garber estimates that leaguewide revenue will be down nearly $1 billion compared with last year with the league incurring unforeseen expenses in organizing the MLS Is Back Tournament. And for the rest of the season, every team traveled on charter flights to cut down on outside exposure other than games.

MLS, compared to the NFL or NBA or MLB, it is a bit more reliant on matchday revenue that includes in-person attendance. MLS was able to have fans in restricted numbers at multiple sites this season, but even should a vaccine be widely available in time for next year, “we are concerned about when we are going to be able to at least have an opportunity to have fans attend our games and revenues from ticketing and sponsorship and concessions related to that,” Garber said.

While the league will be able to celebrate a title game on Saturday between the Seattle Sounders and Columbus Crew with up to 1,500 fans at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus, Ohio — the original soccer-specific stadium in the United States hosting its last big event before the Crew open a new downtown stadium next year — the league is looking to firm plans for 2021. Garber said the season would likely start in mid-March as the league tried to fit in games around multiple international competitions such as the CONCACAF Gold Cup and World Cup 2022 qualifying.

“We are concerned about what this will look like leading into 2021,” Garber added. “I am very hopeful 2021 will be a way better year than ’20, because I don’t think any business could sustain the kind of impact we sustained in 2020 for two years in a row.”

While MLS is finishing the season in front of a small number of fans, the league that bills itself as the biggest in world soccer — the English Premier League — last weekend was allowed to have fans in the stands for the first time since the pandemic began in March. Ten teams are in Tier 2 according to UK COVID standards and allowed up to 2,000 fans: Arsenal, Brighton, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Southampton, Tottenham, West Ham. Should any of those clubs’ regions be moved into Tier 1, they would be allowed up to 4,000 fans. Teams in Tier 3 remain closed to fans.

For the teams that did have fans, there were a long list of regulations. They are supposed to wear face masks at all times — each of last weekend’s games had some forgetting that part when shown on television — and have a mandatory temperature check. Fans are asked not to sing loudly, another rule not followed too closely last weekend. And notably, fans are allowed to have drinks but also advised not to use stadium bathrooms during halftime and game’s end, which raises the question of whether or not they should want to drink at the game.

Wednesday, December 9

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: The National Champion in 2020—Chaos

No matter the records, where the teams stood in the national rankings, one of the spotlight games each season in college football is Michigan against Ohio State. Until this year.

For the first time since 1918 — the last time the world was battling a pandemic — the Wolverines and Buckeyes will not play a football game after Michigan’s announcement that it does not have enough players after a rising number of positive COVID-19 cases between players and staffers.

“It became really apparent to us all that no matter how much we wanted to play the game, that we started this back in March with the goal to put the health and safety of our student-athletes, our coaches, our staff, as the first priority,” Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel said. “As numbers continue to grow, we can’t ignore and put first how much we want to play this great game against Ohio State. We have to put their health and safety first.”

For Ohio State, the cancellation not only takes away the chance to record another win over its rival, but the ramifications are far-ranging. The Big Ten announced at the start of the season that a team must play at least six league games to be able to play in the league title game — and Tuesday’s announcement leaves the Buckeyes stuck at five games played. That does not make Ohio State unique in the Big Ten — only four teams enter Wednesday in a position to play all eight scheduled games — but unless the league changes its rules for title game qualification, the matchup in Indianapolis would be Northwestern against Indiana, not Northwestern against Ohio State.

And with no disrespect to the Hoosiers, not having the Buckeyes in the title game would be a gut punch to the league not only in prestige and TV ratings, but could potentially have devastating consequences if not playing in a title game keeps Ohio State out of the College Football Playoff. Those consequences are why the league will reportedly hold a meeting on Wednesday about a potential quick change to the rules to the Buckeyes’ benefit.

“The conference is committed to transparency and will continue to collaborate with its member institution stakeholders to determine Big Ten Football Championship Game participation requirements as well as tiebreakers,” the league said in a statement.

What the Big Ten is deliberating with changing its rules for the conference title game on the fly has already been done and dusted in the ACC, which changed up multiple games before last weekend to ensure that its top two teams, Clemson and Notre Dame, have off weeks before meeting on December 19 in the league’s championship game. The Tigers and Irish are in the top four of the CFP standings, making its rematch of a classic overtime game earlier this season won by Notre Dame a highly anticipated one. It also will match up two of the five ACC teams that will fall short of playing 10 games this season, which the league set as the schedule for each team with one non-conference game allowed to maintain rivalries as much as possible. But Clemson played The Citadel instead of South Carolina and Notre Dame played South Florida instead of USC after the SEC and Pac-12, respectively, implemented policies of no non-conference games.

All during the preseason when there were severe doubts if the sport would play in the fall, the one that was the most steadfast was the Big 12 — which, somehow, will have all of its teams play at least nine conference games ahead of its title game on December 19. The league is also notable from the standpoint of each team at least once this season had fans at every home stadium.

The SEC, the biggest league in college football, had one team — Vanderbilt — mostly prohibit fan attendance this season. The others typically allowed up to a quarter of their stadiums’ capacity to be filled. One team, Texas A&M, averaged 24,876 through its four games. The league entered this week with the chance of having each of its teams, through a series of rescheduled matchups, playing a 10-game conference-only schedule. But this week disrupted those plans with Mississippi’s test results such that the Rebels cannot play against Texas A&M — a blow for the Aggies, who are fifth in the College Football Playoff rankings and need as many games as possible to make an impression on the selection committee since it will not be in the SEC title game, which will match Alabama against Florida on December 19 in front of 17,500 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Then there is the last — figuratively and in the power rankings, literally — Power 5 Conference, the Pac-12. The league has said it will not adapt its plans for a conference title game, which means there is the chance a multi-loss team such as Oregon would be in the title game against an unbeaten USC. Colorado, also unbeaten from the South Division but with one less conference game, would be out of luck because the scheduled USC-Colorado game was canceled when USC couldn’t field enough players. The league planned to have a six-game conference-only schedule, but the omens were there at the beginning when the Arizona-Utah game was canceled before the league opener between USC and Arizona State kicked off. Overall, only three teams out of 12 are on track to have a six-game schedule completed.

For the non-Power 5 conferences, the numbers are not much different. The American Athletic Conference has the rare opportunity to have a team contend for a spot in a New Year’s Six Bowl with No. 7 Cincinnati — but the Bearcats have not played since November 21 and this weekend’s game against Tulsa, which was already rescheduled from earlier in the season, will not be played because of a surge of COVID-19 cases at the University of Cincinnati.

That’s not to say the teams won’t play; they are already scheduled to meet in the AAC championship game on December 19. The hopes are high for the league that the Bearcats would be able to play the game; the Hurricane just hope they have a game to play given that this is the eighth weekend a game on their schedule has been either postponed or rescheduled. Only four of the league’s 11 teams will end up a full eight-game season.

The picture is not much prettier with a few of the other leagues. In the Mountain West, only two of the league’s 12 teams will play the number of games originally scheduled; in Conference USA, none of the league’s teams will play its full schedule of eight conference games. Credit can be given to the Sun Belt, where all 10 teams will play eight or more conference games by next weekend, and the Mid-American Conference will have eight of its 12 teams play the full six-game conference schedule.

All told, there have been more than 100 cancellations this season in college football — and we aren’t even at the postseason yet. The LA Bowl, scheduled to have its inaugural contest later this month, has been canceled and joins 10 other games sidelined by COVID-19: the Bahamas, Celebration, Fenway, Hawai’i, Holiday, Las Vegas, Motor City, Pinstripe, Redbox and Sun bowls. The New Mexico Bowl has not been canceled but it will not be held in New Mexico, temporarily relocating to Frisco, Texas.

“This season is anything but regular,” said Fiesta Bowl Executive Director Mike Nealy during a webinar organized by the LEAD1 Forum last week. “We’re doing what we can and we can’t control what happens, but we’re trying to stay as normal as possible and plan for our games as normal as can be.”

Within days, Nealy and the Fiesta Bowl announced that their game will only have family members of players in attendance. Hours later, the Rose Bowl announced no fans would be allowed at its College Football Playoff semifinal.

Chaotic? Not really. It’s merely college football in 2020.

Tuesday, December 8

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Ohio State vs. Michigan Rivalry Game Canceled

One of the most iconic rivalries in sports, let alone college football, has been cancelled because of COVID-19.

Ohio State vs. Michigan, scheduled for Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, will not be held after the Wolverines athletic department said that an increasing number of positive coronavirus cases within the program has its numbers too low to compete. The rivalry, which began in 1897, had been played every year since 1918.

“The number of positive tests has continued to trend in an upward direction over the last seven days,” said Warde Manuel, Michigan’s athletic director. “We have not been cleared to participate in practice at this time. Unfortunately, we will not be able to field a team due to COVID-19 positives and the associated quarantining required of close-contact individuals. This decision is disappointing for our team and coaches but their health and safety is paramount, and it will always come first in our decision-making.”

The immediate question is what this will do to Ohio State’s future. The Buckeyes are ranked in the top four of the College Football Playoff with a 5-0 record, but the current Big Ten rules for the condensed season is that a team must play at least six games to qualify for the conference championship game. No other Big Ten team has an off week, so the rules must be changed should the league want the Buckeyes in the spotlight conference title game later this month in Indianapolis.

It is the second consecutive game that Michigan has had to cancel because of positive COVID-19 cases within the program after a December 5 cancellation against Maryland.

HOCKEY: Oh, Canada, Will The NHL Season Be Hard to Pull Off

One of the great accomplishments in professional sports during the coronavirus pandemic was the National Hockey League’s ability to finish the 2019–2020 season in two controlled bubble environments in Canada, crowning a Stanley Cup champion and having more than 33,000 COVID-19 tests conducted without a single positive.

That, amazingly, may be easier than what the league is trying to accomplish next.

Negotiations between the league and players association have run into several roadblocks, most of them regarding player compensation and the collective bargaining agreement — although those concerns seem to be dissipating. Because of that, the league’s tentative plan to start the season on January 1 is more likely turning into a beginning date of January 13, reports ESPN, given the time that would be needed to test players before training camp and let them get up to speed without an increased risk of injuries. That would nix the idea of having an 82-game season with a target instead of anywhere from 52 games to 56 at the most.

Regardless of the number of games, the league’s divisions will change because of the restrictions on cross-border travel, leading to what will be a one-year unique look that includes a Canadian division. No matter the number of games or which team plays which, the biggest incentive is financial in the form of television coverage; the league’s TV partner, NBC, will have the rescheduled 2021 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo starting July 23 and will want to make sure that its schedule is filled with Olympics, not an extended NHL season. Add it all together and you should have a group of highly motivated league and club executives.

Some club executives are so motivated that, according to reports, they are examining the feasibility of having most if not all of their home games moved to outdoor venues given the implied difficulties in having indoor events as COVID-19 continues surging across the country. Multiple outlets have reported that the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks each have explored the chances of doing so; the Kings and Ducks would reportedly try to both play games at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, while the Penguins would play likely at PNC Park and the Bruins at Fenway Park.

The original idea was to try and get some amount of fan attendance, although each of the four teams in the initial report are located in states that currently do not allow attendance at sporting events. Regardless, it would be a sign of the lengths teams are willing to go to so that a season could be played. The NHL had already decided against having its marquee outdoor game events this season such as the Winter Classic, and the idea of having teams playing several games outdoors — if not all of them — would raise concerns from the league office about the novelty of outdoor hockey being lessened.

That the greater sports industry took note of the outdoor plans shows the reports made people talk about the NHL beyond its traditional fan base. Yet, the league remains no closer now to having an agreement for the 2021 season than it did a few weeks ago; and the doubt over how the professional hockey season will get underway extends beyond the NHL and down to its two minor leagues, the AHL and ECHL.

The AHL has tentatively scheduled its season to start February 5; that decision was made by the league’s board of governors in early October, but the league has not made any substantial updates recently. The ECHL, meanwhile, will start its season on December 11 — but 11 of the league’s 26 teams have decided to opt out of the season because of the economic struggles that playing a season without fans would entail. That total includes the entire North Division plus teams in Atlanta; Norfolk, Virginia; and three new opt-outs in Cincinnati, Boise, Idaho, and Kalamazoo, Michigan. Sportsnet has also reported that two other teams in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Toledo, Ohio, have not decided for certain if they will participate in the season.

“This decision for our clubs was immensely difficult amidst the ever-changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic and the inability to return to play throughout our various jurisdictions,” said ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin in a statement. “We look forward to returning fans and ECHL hockey in these great markets as they shift their focus to the 2021-22 season.”

Any of the professional leagues also will be playing under the knowledge that hockey may be the toughest sport to hold this season. The Washington Post reported that youth hockey has already seen a marked rise in cases after tournaments throughout the Northeast; there were more than 100 COVID-19 cases stemming from youth hockey in Massachusetts within a month and on November 12, governors from seven states banned interstate youth hockey competition until New Year’s Day.

The chances of being able to have a coordinated approach from the professional through youth levels is not possible. The chances of being able to at least have the best hockey in the world played this season for fans to watch on television is still almost guaranteed; one would believe the NHL would not cancel an entire season given the enormous financial stakes … until, as hockey fans point out, it happened in 2005.

Monday, December 7

BASKETBALL: Whether college or pro, outbreaks already an issue

Through all of the positive tests and contact tracing protocols in college and pro football, there have been several games postponed because of depleted rosters. But the contact tracing issue will have a bigger impact on indoor sports and especially basketball, given the much smaller rosters in that sport compared to the 50-plus and more rosters in football.

That issue was brought to the forefront on Sunday when the No. 1-ranked team in college basketball, Gonzaga, announced a two-week pause in its program a few hours after another well-known basketball team in the Pacific Northwest, the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, announced it was having to shut down practices as well.

In the Zags’ cases, the shutdown led to the postponement of Saturday’s spotlight game against No. 2 Baylor scheduled for Indianapolis and will also affect games scheduled against Tarleton, Southern, Northern Arizona and Idaho.

“Out of an abundance of caution and the well-being of student-athletes, in accordance with COVID-19 protocols Gonzaga has made the decision to pause men’s basketball competitions through December 14,” the school’s statement said.

The program hopes to return on that date, which would give it a few days to prepare for a scheduled December 19 game against No. 3 Iowa at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

It is not the first time that Gonzaga has had COVID-19 issues this season; the team played on November 27, beating Auburn in a tournament in Fort Myers, Florida, the day after a staff member tested positive.

College basketball has suffered dozens of cancellations and postponements due to the coronavirus and the NCAA has already announced it will host the NCAA Tournament in a single site modified bubble format, likely in Indianapolis.

Unlike college basketball, the NBA has a thorough booklet of collectively bargained protocols that in the Trail Blazers’ case were invoked on Sunday, which would have been its first day of group workouts. Instead, the facility underwent a deep cleaning after three positive COVID-19 tests in a four-day span within the organization.

The Trail Blazers are scheduled to open the preseason against the Sacramento Kings on Friday. Portland’s announcement follows the decision of the Golden State Warriors to delay its training camp start because of two positives within the roster. That announcement was made last week as the NBA and NBPA released the first set of test results for the preseason, acknowledging that 8.8 percent of players tested positive for the coronavirus between November 24–30. The Toronto Raptors also will be pausing its preseason plans after three players tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: LA Bowl Becomes Latest To Cancel for 2020

The LA Bowl, which was scheduled to host the Pac-12 Conference and Mountain West Conference at the new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, has announced that its inaugural game will not be played in 2020. “While the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented us from having the game this year, we look forward to hosting teams from the Mountain West and Pac-12 Conferences next year,” the bowl said in a statement.

It is the 11th bowl game to announce it will not be played this year; there are still 33 scheduled including the College Football Playoff, which would be the lowest number of bowl games played since 2007.

  • LA Bowl
  • New Era Pinstripe Bowl
  • Fenway Bowl
  • San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
  • Bahamas Bowl
  • Hawai’i Bowl
  • Redbox Bowl
  • Quick Lane Bowl
  • Celebration Bowl
  • Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl
  • Las Vegas Bowl

Saturday, December 5

FOOTBALL: As the NFL Tries to Tackle Virus, Dallas Cowboys Want More Fans

The NFL avoided a major catastrophe to its schedule on Wednesday night when the Baltimore Ravens played at the Pittsburgh Steelers. Each team had its games in Week 13 pushed back – Pittsburgh to this coming Monday, Baltimore to this coming Tuesday — and as a result, the league does not have to implement an extra week to the regular season.

The depth of what the Ravens were facing was revealed on Saturday when the team made a statement saying the NFL found “at least four unique strains” of COVID-19 during a cleaning of the team’s facility.

“Three of the four were stopped and not spread within our organization,” Ravens president Dick Cass said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the fourth was a highly-contagious strain and spread throughout our organization.”

At least one Ravens player tested positive for 10 consecutive days up until kickoff of the rescheduled game as Baltimore placed 23 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Only 10 players remain on the list as of Saturday morning.

“From the outset, we have taken the virus seriously, very seriously,” Cass said. “… Despite our best efforts, the protocol is only as effective as our weakest link. With a dangerous virus like this, everyone must comply with the protocol to avoid infecting many. We now know that not everyone at the Ravens followed the protocol thoroughly,” referring to ESPN’s report that a strength coach was not always wearing a mask at the team facility.

The NFL’s front office and medical advisers know the league is close to accomplishing a regular season schedule without having to go into some type of bubble format. Protocols both around each team’s facility and in-game behavior have been increasingly strengthened the past three weeks. But their resistance to switching to a bubble-type of format in the playoffs is evident, with Commissioner Roger Goodell saying as much during a conference call with the media on Wednesday before the Ravens-Steelers game.

“We don’t see the bubble as I think most of you refer to it as, where we’re all in one location and we’re isolating entirely,” Goodell said. “We feel strongly that our protocols are working. As we’ve demonstrated over the last several weeks, we’re willing to adjust those protocols, adapt those protocols, take additional steps that we think might be meeting the environmental circumstances that we’re dealing with in our communities.”

There was wiggle room, however. Given the multiple challenges the league has faced — the Titans’ outbreak, games rescheduled, the 49ers moving to Arizona and last week’s Broncos game where Denver was forced to play without any of their quarterbacks because of contact tracing — the idea that teams would be isolated at hotels in their home markets still remains possible.

“We may look at different ways to reduce the risk for our personnel — whether they’re players, coaches or other personnel — that would limit exposures to others,” Goodell said. “We will continue to evaluate that and we will continue to make those changes as necessary.”

To that point, the NFL has extended some of its strictest COVID-19 safety protocols, including the banning of in-person meetings on Mondays and Tuesdays after games. Virtual meetings only are permitted during the two-day period.

When it comes to the games itself, fourteen teams have not had fans at home games this season and for several teams that have had a restricted number of fans in attendance, some have reversed course in the past month and closed up stadiums.

And then there is the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys are averaging 26,466 fans through six home games. Its past two home games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Football Team both drew over 30,000. And those numbers will only be increased if owner Jerry Jones has anything to do with it.

“My plan was to increase our fans as we went through the season and move the number up, and we followed that plan,” Jones said recently on 105.3 FM in Dallas. “And that’s not being insensitive to the fact that we got our COVID and outbreak. Some people will say maybe it is, but not when you’re doing it as safe as we are and not when we’re having the results we’re having.”

AT&T Stadium had its air conditioning system upgraded before the season and doors behind each end zone are open to allow fresh air during games. Fans in Dallas, much as at other NFL stadiums, must sit in small groups and are supposed to wear masks except when eating or drinking — but anybody who has watched a Cowboys game knows that rule is not strictly enforced.

The Cowboys’ attendance and policy on increasing attendance has come under a microscope as Tarrant County’s health director recently warned residents against large gatherings. Tarrant County has seen cases jump more than 500 percent since the NFL season started; two weeks ago, county health officials said eight residents tested positive and told contact tracers they had been to a Cowboys game recently.

“Whether it’s a sporting event, whether it’s a demonstration or any other large public gathering, there’s always somebody there who has COVID,” Tarrant County Health Director Dr. Vinny Taneja said before Thanksgiving. “No matter how hard you try, people are people. They’re there to celebrate, they’re there to have a good time. You’re going to have some spread occur.”

Sunday’s Games

New Orleans at Atlanta: A limited amount of fans will be allowed
Cleveland at Tennessee: Up to 14,520 fans will be allowed
Detroit at Chicago: No fans allowed
Cincinnati at Miami: Up to 13,000 fans are allowed
Jacksonville at Minnesota: Up to 250 friends and family members of players will be allowed
Indianapolis at Houston: Up to 14,444 fans will be allowed
Las Vegas at N.Y. Jets: No fans allowed
N.Y. Giants at Seattle: No fans allowed
L.A. Rams at Arizona: No fans allowed
New England at L.A. Chargers: No fans allowed
Philadelphia at Green Bay: Up to 500 employees and family members are allowed
Denver at Kansas City: Up to 16,811 fans will be allowed

Monday’s Games
Washington at Pittsburgh: No fans allowed
Buffalo vs. San Francisco at Glendale, Arizona: No fans allowed

Tuesday’s Game
Dallas at Baltimore: No fans allowed

Thursday, December 3

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl Off-Limits to Spectators

The Rose Bowl, always one of the biggest college football games of the season with its rich tradition and this year the site of a College Football Playoff semifinal game, will not have fans at the January 1 spotlight event in Pasadena, California.

The New Year’s Day sunset looms over the Rose Bowl stadium on January 1, 2020, during the game between the
Oregon Ducks and Wisconsin Badgers. Photo Courtesy Rose Bowl Operating Company

The Pasadena Tournament of Roses announced the decision due to COVID-19 restrictions set forth by the state of California, Los Angeles County and the city of Pasadena. The Tournament of Roses requested special permission to allow for a limited number of spectators or a select number of student-athlete and coach guests but the request was denied.

“While we are disappointed that the Rose Bowl Game will not be played in front of spectators, we are pleased that we are still able to hold the game this year, continuing the 100-year plus tradition of ‘The Granddaddy of Them All,’” said David Eads, executive director and CEO of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses. “We continue to work closely with health department officials and the Rose Bowl Stadium to provide the safest possible environment for our game participants.”

The Rose Bowl was the second major bowl game to announce fan restrictions in the past 24 hours, joining the Fiesta Bowl. The game in Glendale, Arizona, will be played on January 2 without fans other than immediate families of the teams participating based on recommendations from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

“While we are disappointed that the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl will not have fans in the stadium to enjoy bowl season this year, we respect the decisions made by the local authorities,” said Fiesta Bowl Executive Director Mike Nealy. “Our staff was incredibly diligent to put health and safety measures in place that earned the endorsement from the Governor’s Office for policies that aligned with recommendations for reducing COVID-19 transmission risk.”

BASKETBALL: NBA Already Dealing With COVID Positives Before Tipoff

The NBA completed its 2019–2020 season in August after spending nearly 100 days of competition in a secure bubble environment at the ESPN Walt Disney Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida. But the 2020–2021 season will not be in a bubble, rather with a book-sized list of protocols to follow and there are already fears the season will become even more disrupted than its professional counterparts in the NFL.

The upcoming regular-season schedule itself is being released in two segments, with the first three nights released by the league on Tuesday and Wednesday and the remainder of the first half of the season, from December 22 through March 4, being released on Friday.

But even within each half of a release, there is an acceptance of the road ahead. The schedule for the second half of the season will be released during the latter part of the first half and will include the remainder of each team’s 72 games not previously scheduled— as well as any games postponed that can reasonably be added to the second half.

Daily testing is already underway ahead of training camps opening next week. Among the protocols is that an “expected number” of cases would not require the league to suspend the season while any player who tests positive will have to sit out for 10 days and then be monitored for two additional days before being eligible to play.

Given the issues that pro and college football have had this fall, and the multiple shutdowns already in college basketball in November because of positive tests, the chances of having the regular season go without a postponement or shutdown is certainly not one on which to bet. Philadelphia 76ers Coach Doc Rivers said during his team’s media day that “I’m very concerned if we can pull this off … if one of our guys and two of our key guys gets the virus and they miss 10 days to 14 days, that can be eight games and that can knock you out of the playoffs.”

To Rivers’ point, the NBA released a statement on Wednesday afternoon saying that as league-wide daily testing resumed from November 24 through November 30, “Of the 546 players tested for COVID-19 during this initial return-to-market testing phase, 48 have returned positive tests. Anyone who has returned a confirmed positive test during this initial phase of testing in their team’s market is isolated until they are cleared for leaving isolation under the rules established by the NBA and the Players Association in accordance with CDC guidance.”

When it comes to fans as the season starts December 22, only one team so far has confirmed it plans to have spectators in attendance. The Utah Jazz will have 1,500 fans in the lower bowl seating along with limited seating allowed on the suite level.

The Oklahoma City Thunder had planned to allow a restricted number of fans before reversing course on November 30 and saying it would not have fans in attendance, joining the Charlotte Hornets, Denver Nuggets, L.A. Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks in officially saying no fans would be allowed when the season gets underway. Most of the league’s teams have not officially announced its policies; the Golden State Warriors were hoping to get fans into the Chase Center but the team’s plan was rejected by the San Francisco Department of Health in November.

While most NBA teams have not announced policies, Dr. Anthony Fauci told Yahoo Sports on Monday that having capacity crowds at any point this season is unlikely.

“We’re gonna be vaccinating the highest-priority people [from] the end of December through January, February, March,” Fauci said. “By the time you get to the general public, the people who’ll be going to the basketball games, who don’t have any underlying conditions, that’s gonna be starting the end of April, May, June. So it probably will be well into the end of the summer before you can really feel comfortable [with full sports stadiums] – if a lot of people get vaccinated.”

AUTO RACING: Daytona 500 to Restrict Fan Attendance in 2021

The 63rd Annual Daytona 500 will play host to a limited number of fans in Daytona Beach, Florida, on February 14. The exact number of fans to be allowed has not yet been determined.

“The Daytona 500 is one of the greatest spectacles in all of sports, and fans from all over the world converge in Daytona Beach to be a part of motorsport’s biggest day,” said Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile. “While we won’t be able to have a capacity crowd here in February, we are excited that we can host the Daytona 500 with those in attendance, as well as for the millions who will tune in live on Fox.”

The speedway will work to accommodate guests who have already purchased tickets to the 2021 race. To ensure social distancing, many fans who already have bought tickets will be reseated in new locations, a process that is expected to be complete by early January.

All guests will be screened before entering the facility and will be required to wear face coverings while maintaining six feet social distancing throughout their visit.

WINTER SPORTS: Outdoor Sports Still At Risk

While most of the focus for winter sports has been focused on how events could be held safely as the coronavirus pandemic continues its surge across the United States, there is no lack of concern when it comes to outdoor winter sports as well given the transnational nature of many of the elite international circuits.

Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States competes during the first run of the alpine ski, women’s World Cup slalom in Levi, Finland, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva via AP)

Between the World Cup ski season as well as bobsled, luge and skeleton, measures are being implemented by international federations to try and keep athletes from being exposed to COVID-19. And while the conventional wisdom is that the risk of infection is lower for outdoor sports compared to indoor sports, that does not mean the concerns are any less.

“Every site must implement and follow strict hygiene and protection plans and every accredited stakeholder must respect these rules,” the International Ski Federation said in a recent statement to the New York Times. “We had a positive start with last weekend’s races in Soelden (Austria) and will continue to work for similar results as the season progresses.”

The ISF requires anybody entering a venue during a competition stop to have had a negative COVID-19 test in the previous 72 hours, while athletes are also to be separate from equipment technicians. But the schedule itself has remained intact contrasted to the International Biathlon Union, which has hosted six events at three locations to start the season instead of at five locations as in the past.

The perils of winter outdoor competition in the COVID-19 era were magnified over the weekend when training and a World Cup bobsled and skeleton race scheduled for March as a 2022 Olympic Winter Games test event in Beijing were canceled, in addition to the World Cup luge event at the same track built in Yanqing. In a letter sent to national federations, International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation Secretary General Heike Groesswang said several weeks of conversations were held about how to move forward with the training week and World Cup “under the challenging circumstances the COVID-19 pandemic causes to all of us.”

Both USA Bobsled and Skeleton and USA Luge announced in the fall that they are sitting out the pre-Christmas portions of the World Cup because of international travel and other pandemic-related issues.

“We are taking every precaution necessary to ensure the safety of our athletes, coaches, and staff members, which means we will not be traveling to Europe for at least the first half of the season,” said USABS Chief Executive Officer Aron McGuire. “We will be utilizing our home tracks to reduce the risk of exposure to Covid-19. We are fortunate to have two world class facilities in our country that we can train and compete on this season.”

Wednesday, December 2

COLLEGE SPORTS: Quarantine period changes the game for basketball

One of the biggest issues in college sports, both football and basketball, has been the issue of how long an athlete has to quarantine. Between NCAA guidelines, then the added layers of different conference regulations and of course the rules from local and state health departments, many teams have had to deal with contact tracing and quarantine periods that for football wipes out a layer of depth on the roster and for basketball simply shuts the program down for 14 days.

Villanova celebrates a win in 2k Empire Classic against Arizona State on November 26, 2020, in Uncasville, Connecticut. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

That reinforces the enormity of Wednesday’s decision by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that its recommended quarantine time for those exposed to COVID will be cut to seven days for those who test negative themselves and 10 days for those who don’t get a test.

Such a decision would have a massive change for college basketball, which less than a week into its season has seen games cancelled by the dozens and matchups sometimes made as little as 24 hours in advance. The NCAA’s previous guidelines for the sport included not only COVID-19 testing three times per week for players, coaches and officials in the sport, but a 14-day shutdown of any program that has a positive test within its Tier 1 group of players and coaches.

The issue of contact tracing and quarantine in all sports has been a difficult issue to parse, but especially so in college sports. For many college football programs, the positive tests within a program have been one issue — but when a 14-day quarantine is factored in, that has brought several cancellations throughout the country.

That factor is magnified within college basketball given the fewer number of players on a roster.

“We’ve got to do something about this now or the season will be destroyed,” Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said after his team’s season opener, an 85-84 win over Bryant played the day after the Orange were cleared to practice as a group after a 14-day shutdown. “Because if you have your team sit for 14 days and you can’t practice, then you can’t play. You can’t come off that and play Virginia, Duke or North Carolina. … You would need seven or eight days to even come close to being ready.”

The uneven guidelines across college basketball was magnified by a wild 24 hours for No. 1 Gonzaga at the Fort Myers Tip-Off. After the Zags beat No. 6 Kansas on Thursday, the team tweeted out a video of the team locker room as players and staff — none wearing masks — celebrated Coach Mark Few’s 600th career win. The next day, Gonzaga beat Auburn while missing two players, one of whom had tested positive for the coronavirus. The celebration video was deleted the next day while questions were asked about how the team was able to play without being a shutdown.

“We had people out for quarantine due to contact tracing, we had a positive test on an administrative staff, then we had a positive test on a player,” Few said. “It’s how the preseason has went. You just wait to get the news on testing, then you have to react, have to stay agile. We followed COVID protocols with the tournament and the Florida health board down here have all been great. Our guys have been incredibly diligent about following all the rules.”

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: ACC Changes Schedule, Medical Protocols

The ACC will change the remainder of its football schedule to ensure that the top three contenders for the league’s championship game all play the same number of games — leaving both No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 4 Clemson without a game after this Saturday.

The third team still mathematically in the title game chase is Miami, which will play at Duke on Saturday, then is scheduled to play at North Carolina on December 12. If the Hurricanes are not in the title game, it will also have a game on December 19 against Georgia Tech.

Should a game involving Clemson, Miami or Notre Dame not be played this weekend, the ACC could reschedule games on December 12. Notre Dame has already clinched a spot in the title game and Clemson can do the same with a win on Saturday against Virginia Tech.

The ACC started the season with a model that allowed each team to play 10 conference games and one non-conference game. The league has had nine canceled games this season overall, two of them involving Florida State — one of those was against Clemson, a game canceled less than three hours before the scheduled kickoff, which still irks Tigers Coach Dabo Swinney.

The league also announced adjustments for its testing protocols. Each team will be required to have a PCR test on Thursday with a result prior to the visiting team traveling to the game locale, which was the source of controversy for both of Florida State’s cancellations.

Monday, November 30

NFL: Ravens vs. Steelers Again Delayed

The National Football League is officially in damage control mode, pushing back a game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers to Wednesday night — almost a full week from when it was originally scheduled to be played.

ESPN first reported the league’s decision, which was set to be the primetime game on Thanksgiving Night before being moved to Sunday afternoon, then Tuesday night and now Wednesday. The decision comes after the Ravens had a player test positive for the ninth consecutive day, making it 22 players altogether either to test positive or be identified by the NFL as a close contact.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is tackled by Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey during a game on November 1, 2020 in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)

The league made the move official around 6:44 p.m. ET, saying that the game will be played at 3:40 p.m. ET on Wednesday and broadcast on NBC. The league will also move both the Steelers’ and Ravens’ games for Week 13 back; the Steelers will play the Washington Football Team at 5 p.m. ET on December 7, making it a doubleheader for Monday Night Football, and the Ravens will play the Cowboys at 8:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday, December 8.

The NFL has moved games back repeatedly this season because of COVID-19 outbreaks among teams, most notably when the Tennessee Titans’ game against the Steelers was delayed for a week and set off a chain reaction of schedule adjustments throughout the league. But to have a game switched around so many times this deep into the season is needed for teams such as the Ravens and Steelers who are both deep in the AFC playoff race with the Ravens holding onto a wild-card spot and the Steelers, the NFL’s lone unbeaten team, holding a half-game advantage for the top seed in the AFC and a potential bye for the start of the expanded playoffs.

The spread of coronavirus that has increased as the league’s season has developed raises more questions about if the league will eventually have to go to some type of bubble format to make sure games are completed on schedule. The NFL Network reported over the weekend that the league, which has repeatedly tried to strengthen COVID-19 protocols the past three weeks, will create “local bubbles” for the teams that make the playoffs with players, staffs and team personnel staying isolated in hotels except for practices at the respective team facilities.

All team facilities are already closed for Monday and Tuesday this week with the exception of the Ravens and Steelers and players are now required to wear masks on the sidelines if they’re not substituting into the game or wearing a helmet. The NFL’s count of positive cases among players and staff throughout the league has mirrored the surge that is happening across the United States; there were 18 positives through the first three weeks of the season but in the past two weeks there have been 122 positives.

The reported decision on another Ravens/Steelers postponement comes hours after San Francisco 49ers announced they will be playing home games for two of the next three weeks in Glendale, Arizona. The team will use State Farm Stadium, the home of the Arizona Cardinals, for games on December 7 against the Buffalo Bills and December 13 against the Washington Football Team after Santa Clara County on Saturday announced new COVID-19 related restrictions preventing contact sports in the county for at least the next three weeks.

“The Cardinals organization, State Farm Stadium and League officials have been supportive and accommodating as we work through the many logistical issues involved in relocating NFL games,” the 49ers said in a statement.

The Niners still have to figure out where they will practice for the next few weeks and said “Information regarding the future practice arrangements will be shared at the appropriate time.”

Monday, November 30

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Another Week Already Disrupted

College football’s upcoming weekend has already been disrupted with Florida State still experiencing issues getting enough players healthy and recovered from COVID-19, the Pac-12 having four teams with issues of varying degrees and potentially the Big Ten crowning a division champion by default.

The Pac-12 enters the week with USC, Arizona State and Washington State trying to see if each will have enough players available for upcoming games — while Stanford is left trying to find out where it can practice and play home games after Santa Clara County’s order banning high school, collegiate and professional sports for three weeks. Entering this week, the Pac-12 has already had nine cancellations in four weeks since its shortened season was scheduled to get underway with Arizona State accounting for three of the nine. The Big Ten has had six cancellations in six-plus weeks and the SEC has had 10 cancellations in 10 weeks.

Stanford blocks an extra-point kick by California during the second half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 27, 2020, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

In another attempt to try and do a more targeted job at contact tracing, the Pac-12 announced it will partner with KINEXON SafeZone technology within its football and men’s and women’s basketball programs. Players, coaches and staffers during all team activities and games will use small lightweight wearables called “SafeTags” to accurately measure the distance and duration between users so chains of infection can be identified immediately and those at risk can be sent into quarantine in real-time, limiting the possibility of large outbreaks. The SafeTags can also be used to enforce physical distancing protocols by flashing a red warning light when certain people are within six feet of each other.

The ACC does not have divisions this year, but it still has an issue with one of its marquee programs, Florida State, getting enough players to field a team. The Seminoles’ game against Clemson was canceled on short notice two weeks ago, a decision that still rankles Tigers Coach Dabo Swinney, before this past Saturday’s game against Louisville was also canceled on the morning of kickoff. Now, this week’s upcoming game against Duke has been canceled as well — with the Miami Hurricanes, who were off this week, going instead to play at Duke.

In the Big Ten, Minnesota’s program revealed on Monday that “since November 19, the program has experienced 47 positive cases, which includes 21 student-athletes and 26 staff.” That has meant not only did the Gophers’ scheduled game this past Saturday against Wisconsin get canceled — the first time the teams have not played since 1906 — but the Gophers’ game this coming weekend against Northwestern will also be canceled. The Wildcats may by the end of the week be crowned Big Ten West Division champions since its 5-2 record can only be bested by Iowa … should the Hawkeyes finish out its schedule, which is never a guarantee this season.

And while the conference seasons are trying to squeeze in as many games as possible, multiple bowls have had to go on hiatus — including the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, traditionally played at Yankee Stadium. The game, scheduled for December 29 between teams from the Big Ten and ACC, will not be played in 2020, joining seven other games to be canceled: The Fenway Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Bahamas Bowl, Hawaii Bowl, Redbox Bowl, Quick Lane Bowl and Celebration Bowl also will not be played this postseason.

“Due to the recent increase in coronavirus cases, which has led to the imposition of various travel restrictions and the cancellation of many college football games, including those in the Big Ten and ACC conferences, we have made the decision out of an abundance of caution and in conjunction with both conferences to cancel the 2020 New Era Pinstripe Bowl,” the bowl game said in a statement.

Sunday, November 29

NFL: Outbreaks Leave NFL at a Crossroads

The National Football League is at a tipping point and a confluence of events is making this weekend the most perilous in the league’s attempt at getting through the season in a global pandemic.

Potentially the weirdest game of what has been an already weird season will be on Sunday in Denver, Colorado, where the Broncos do not have healthy quarterbacks — literally. A backup quarterback, Jeff Driskel, tested positive on Thursday and each of the team’s other quarterbacks — starter Drew Lock and backups Blake Bortles and Brett Rypien — have been ruled out by the league as close contacts. There were also reports from ESPN that the quarterbacks were not wearing masks when together in meeting rooms during the week.

Denver Broncos quarterback Kendall Hinton (2) throws against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Because the league’s rules preclude an emergency signing because of the time needed for any free-agent signing to clear protocols, the Broncos will play the New Orleans Saints with one of its wide receivers on the practice squad, Kendall Hinton, playing quarterback thanks to his background in the position at college before switching positions. Because of the unique situation, many betting books in Las Vegas have taken the game off the line.

The San Francisco 49ers, meanwhile, are scheduled to play this afternoon at the Los Angeles Rams — and the team will have to get used to playing on the road. Santa Clara County health officials on Saturday banned all contact sports at the high school, collegiate and professional levels through December 21; teams from Stanford University and San Jose State will be affected, as well as the NHL’s San Jose Sharks and NBA’s Golden State Warriors in their preparations for the coming regular season.

But immediately, the 49ers will have to figure out what to do the next three weeks. Not only will the franchise have to leave their training site in Santa Clara, the team also have two scheduled home games over the next three weeks on December 7 against the Buffalo Bills and December 13 against the Washington Football Team.

“We are aware of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department’s emergency directive,” Bob Lange, the 49ers team spokesman, said in a statement. “We are working with the N.F.L. and our partners on operational plans and will share details as they are confirmed.”

On top of all of this is the week-long saga that is Baltimore Ravens, who were scheduled to play on Thanksgiving Day night against the Pittsburgh Steelers before the game was moved to Tuesday night because of an outbreak in the Baltimore locker room. The Ravens now have 18 players on the reserved/COVID list, including reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson, and have disciplined a strength coach who was reportedly not wearing a mask around the team facility. The Steelers also had to place a starter, running back James Conner, on the same list ahead of the game.

Neither team has a bye remaining on the season, so getting the game in by Tuesday night is imperative for the league to keep its schedule on track. The Ravens were already scheduled to play on Thursday night against the Dallas Cowboys, a game already moved to Monday night.

As all of these things happen at different franchises, the NFL is working to try and clamp down on any potential outbreaks as much as possible. The league has strengthened protocols each of the past wo weeks and on Friday, the league told every team that practices on Monday and Tuesday would not be allowed after players and personnel celebrated Thanksgiving with family and friends. One example of such was the Indianapolis Colts’ running back Jonathan Taylor, who will be on the restricted list — not because he tested positive for COVID but because his girlfriend left the city to go to a family gathering and has since tested positive herself, making Taylor a close contact.

Thursday’s Games
Houston at Detroit: No fans allowed
Washington at Dallas: An unspecified number of fans are allowed
Sunday’s Games
Las Vegas at Atlanta: A limited number of fans are allowed
Miami at N.Y. Jets: No fans allowed
N.Y. Giants at Cincinnati: Up to 12,000 fans allowed
Tennessee at Indianapolis: Up to 12,500 fans allowed
L.A. Chargers at Buffalo: No fans allowed
Cleveland at Jacksonville: Up to 16,791 fans allowed
Arizona at New England: No fans allowed
Carolina at Minnesota: No fans allowed
New Orleans at Denver: No fans allowed
San Francisco at L.A. Rams: No fans allowed
Kansas City at Tampa Bay: Up to 16,000 fans allowed
Chicago at Green Bay: Up to 500 employees and family members are allowed
Monday’s Game
Seattle at Philadelphia: No fans allowed
Tuesday’s Game
Baltimore at Pittsburgh: No fans allowed

Saturday, November 28

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Outbreaks Make Mockery of Schedule

A schedule that for some conferences was already condensed into conference-only matchups is further deteriorating after a series of outbreaks at some of college football’s biggest programs.

On the heels of Alabama Coach Nick Saban testing positive for COVID-19 and being forced to miss the Crimson Tide’s Iron Bowl matchup against Auburn on Saturday, Ohio State Coach Ryan Day tested positive on Friday morning and by the end of the day, the Buckeyes’ game against Illinois was canceled — putting the No. 4-ranked team on the verge of missing the Big Ten Conference championship game.

Ohio State coach Ryan Day looks at the scoreboard during the third quarter of the team’s NCAA college football game against Penn State in State College, Pa., Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020. Ohio State won 38-25. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

Ohio State already had a game canceled this season with Maryland after an outbreak among the Terrapins’ program. This weekend’s cancellation means if the Buckeyes have one of its final two games canceled, it would be ineligible for the conference championship game.

“We have continued to experience an increase in positive tests over the course of this week,” Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith said. “The health, safety and well-being of our student-athlete is our main concern, and our decisions on their welfare will continue to be guided by our medical staff.”

One team already looks to be ineligible for the Big Ten title game in Wisconsin, which had its game against Minnesota postponed because of positives within the Gophers program. This is the first year since 1906 that the teams have not played; Wisconsin has had three games canceled this season and as it stands would only have five games by the end of the season.

The cancellations continued on Saturday, with Florida State having a second game postponed — this time against Virginia after last week’s postponement against Clemson. The Seminoles may still be able to play a full schedule if it can get next week’s game against Duke in; FSU could play Clemson on a mutual off day December 12, then play Virginia on December 19 since neither team will be in the conference title game.

Another game in a mid-major conference, the Mountain West, between Boise State and San Jose State was also canceled on Saturday morning. The game would have been a key one in the league with both teams sitting at 4-0 in the conference, tied for second place behind unbeaten Nevada.

Colorado’s Pac-12 matchup at USC was already canceled on Thursday night, although within hours the unbeaten Buffaloes found an opponent; it will play host to San Diego State instead in a non-conference game. That was the third Pac-12 game of the week cancelled after Utah against Arizona State was axed because of positives on the Sun Devils, followed by Washington against Washington State after the Cougars did not have enough healthy players. As a result, the Huskies and Utes will play each other on Saturday night.

Cincinnati’s game against Temple was canceled a day after the Bearcats were ranked at No. 7 in the College Football Playoff rankings. And as for the team ranked No. 1 in those standings, Alabama, its game against Auburn is still on — but after a different SEC game between Arkansas and Missouri was canceled, the league made several scheduling adjustments that includes a previously canceled Crimson Tide game against LSU being rescheduled for December 5.

Confused? Welcome to college football in 2020.

Friday, November 27

FOOTBALL: With Byes Completed, NFL Walks Scheduling Tightrope

The NFL is entering the danger zone part of its season. With team byes having wrapped up, it will be a mathematical difficulty to reschedule games should any coronavirus outbreaks happen on a team without extending the regular season a week.

It was easier, so to speak, earlier in the season when the Tennessee Titans had an outbreak. Several teams switched byes, games were moved around and as it turned out, the league was able to hold games almost flawlessly — an unusual Tuesday night game or Monday night doubleheader here or there notwithstanding.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is tackled by Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey during a game on November 1, 2020 in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)

Knowing the tightrope the league now must walk the rest of the regular season, the league has rescheduled what was going to be the spotlight game on Thanksgiving Day, the Baltimore Ravens at the Pittsburgh Steelers, after the Ravens have had five players and four staff members test positive for COVID-19 this week.

The NFL released a statement saying “Should the game be played on Tuesday, the Week 13 Dallas Cowboys at Baltimore Ravens game, originally scheduled for Thursday, December 3, will be moved to Monday, December 7, at 5 p.m. ET … These decisions were made out of an abundance of caution to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel and in consultation with medical experts.”

Being able to move the game back to Monday is the best possible outcome for the league, which otherwise would have been forced to contemplate having a bonus “Week 18” for either Ravens-Steelers or Ravens-Cowboys, since both games will have playoff seeding implications.

The Ravens announced that running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday and the numbers have increased since then. While the league has started to take players being put on the COVID/Reserve list more and more as a “next man up” mentality akin to injuries, the looming difficulty of replacing multiple players still makes it a nervous time for any team.

The Ravens later issued a statement saying an unnamed staff member has been disciplined “for conduct surrounding the recent COVID-19 cases that have affected players and staff at the Ravens.”

The postponement comes a few days after the NFL issued even stricter guidance on Monday for team operations, requiring players to wear masks on the sidelines unless they have their helmet on and are preparing the enter the game — changes that begin Thursday night.

The NFL is threatening players with individual discipline if they do not comply. Along with players wearing masks on the sidelines, coaches who call plays will no longer have the option to wear only a face shield and must wear a face mask or double-layered gaiter in addition to the face shield.

It is the second week that the league has further tightened protocols in an attempt to get the rest of the regular season completed amid surging case numbers across the country. The league says they have had 108 positive tests among players and staff in the past two testing periods; in the 11 previous periods, there were 146 cases.

The number of teams that will allow fans in stadiums changed again this week as well, with the Steelers and Eagles reversing previous decisions to allow fans after a state order from Pennsylvania — but surprisingly, the Green Bay Packers will allow up to 500 team employees and family members of players to attend Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football.

“We don’t take this stuff lightly in terms of being able to have people in the stands,” Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said on Monday. “A couple things that made me feel comfortable about this is, No. 1, obviously, it’s an outside venue. There’s a big difference between outside venues and indoors. When you look at it from the big picture, we’re going to be at less than 1 percent of our total capacity.”

The Packers did not rule out, should it hold Sunday’s game successfully with fans in the stands, allowing a limited number of ticketed fans into games for the remainder of the season. Until recently, Green Bay was the hardest-hit NFL city in terms of COVID-19 infection rates according to NFLPA data from Johns Hopkins University. This week that category is led by Minnesota with an average of 104 new cases per 100,000 people; Green Bay is second at 90.83 and Chicago is third with 89.66.

Wednesday, November 25

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Nick Saban Tests Positive, to Miss Iron Bowl

Alabama coach Nick Saban has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not coach Saturday’s Iron Bowl game against Auburn. Saban earlier this season had tested positive before his team’s game against Georgia but was allowed to coach after the test turned out to be a false positive.

This week’s test is definitely not a false positive. The Crimson Tide, ranked No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings, said that Saban does have “very mild symptoms.”

Alabama head coach Nick Saban, right, talks with Daniel Wright as he walks off the field during the second half of a against Missouri on September 26, 2020, in Columbia, Missouri. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

The game-related fear is that Saban’s positive test may force Saturday’s game to be rescheduled or postponed once Alabama finishes its contact tracing protocols. Saban will have to isolate for at least 10 days, which would put his return on Decemeber 4, one day before the scheduled regular-season finale at Arkansas.

“Based on how we manage things internally in the building, I can’t see any issues with coaches and the players,” Saban said. “But that’s up to [the contact tracing officials].”

Saturday’s head-coaching duties for Alabama will fall to offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Saban will be able to continue to be part of the Tide’s preparations leading to Saturday’s game through video conferences and watching practice from his home.

ESPN says at least 18 FBS head coaches have tested positive for COVID-19 this season.

HOCKEY: National Women’s Hockey League Going to Bubble Format

The National Women’s Hockey League will play the 2021 season and Isobel Cup Playoffs at the 1980 Rink-Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, New York, from January 23 through February 5 in partnership with the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority.

The competition will feature the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan Riveters, Minnesota Whitecaps, and first-year expansion club the Toronto Six without fans in attendance. Beginning January 23, they will each play five games, followed by a playoff round that will determine the four teams advancing to the Isobel Cup semifinals before the title game on February 5.

“The NWHL is excited to provide hockey fans a fast-paced schedule of thrilling games on the road to the Isobel Cup,” said NWHL Interim Commissioner Tyler Tumminia. “At a time of hyper-growth for girls’ and women’s hockey, we see this season as a celebration of the sport. This will be a historic moment as the hallowed arena that was the site of the “Miracle on Ice” in 1980 hosts its first women’s professional championship.”

All of the professional players who signed contracts this year for the NWHL season will be compensated in full and players will be given the opportunity to opt-out of the tournament and still receive their complete salaries. The season remains subject to the final agreement by and among the NWHL, the Olympic Regional Development Authority of New York and the State of New York.

Tuesday, November 24

TRIATHLON: Ironman Shuts Down Remaining Events in 2020

The Ironman Group will shut down the rest of its live events in 2020, including the cancellation of the Ironman 70.3 Florida triathlon in Haines City. The company cited infection rates in key event locations in canceling the year’s remaining events, which in addition to the Florida race was to feature events Arizona (Ironman Arizona, Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona), Tennessee (Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville), and Texas (Ironman 70.3 Texas – Galveston and Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio).

The company has safely held events in some of those markets in recent weeks but said upticks in COVID-19 infections changed its ability to responsibly host events in the weeks to come.

“With COVID-19 infections on the rise around the United States, we are not comfortable hosting any further events in 2020,” said Andrew Messick, president and CEO for the Ironman Group. “While we remain confident that our Safe Return to Racing Guidelines will protect athletes, volunteers and staff, the public health environment at this moment is not conducive to any type of mass gatherings. We expect to be back in action for 2021 with events that follow guidelines and recommendations consistent with the expectations set by public health entities and our race communities.”

SOCCER: England to allow fans at games

Fans of the English Premier League may see a restricted number of fans in attendance when they tune in next month after the government said it would end a lockdown on December 2 and put in a three-tiered system throughout the country in which up to 4,000 fans in low-risk areas can attend sporting events. Up to 2,000 fans will be allowed in second-tier areas but high-risk areas, or Tier 3, will still be closed off to fans.

England is to return to a system of tiered restrictions starting December 2 with gyms, pools, golf courses and leisure facilities allowed to open in all tiers after the government accepted their positive impact on physical and mental health. Indoor events in areas that are either Tier 1 or Tier 2 can have up to 1,000 fans on hand.

The decision to allow fans depending on the region was greeted with widespread relief for those in England’s lower leagues of soccer. Many teams are like American minor league teams in that they are hugely reliant on gate receipts with many teams in League One and League Two raising concerns about their viability financially to survive the full season. The English Football League, which is the organizer of the lower leagues, may shift the schedule around so that matches scheduled right before December 2 get moved to later dates in the month so that teams would have a bonus home game’s worth of attendance revenue.

For teams in the Premier League that have not had fans in attendance since March, the decline in revenues has been stark. Tottenham reported a loss of $85.5 million for the fiscal year ending June 30 after having a $91.8 million profit the previous financial year; the club recently opened a new stadium that cost $1.6 billion and said it would lose another $200 million in the current fiscal year without having fans in attendance. Manchester United said it lost $29 million in the most recent fiscal year after a $24 million profit in the previous one.

Monday, November 23

HOCKEY: Minor Leagues Feeling Economic Pressure

Whether in college or professional sports, one of the biggest issues for leagues playing in the fall and winter is what will happen financially without the ability to have a full house — or any fans in attendance at all.

The ECHL Maine Mariners play their home games at Cross Insurance Arena in downtown Portland, Maine.

The financial crunch is even more magnified in minor league sports, where ticket revenues are the main driver for teams to survive. Not having the ability to have fans in attendance could put franchises on the brink.

One minor league facing that dilemma is the ECHL, which will start its season on December 11 — well, at least some of its teams will, after the North Division’s six teams informed the league that they will be opting out of the upcoming season.

The ECHL earlier released its schedule in a unique format. For 13 teams in the ECHL, the season will be 72 games starting December 11, 2020. The other teams in the league would have a 62-game season that starts on January 15.

The Adirondack Thunder, Brampton Beast, Maine Mariners, Newfoundland Growlers, Reading Royals and Worcester Railers are set to return next year in the 2021–2022 ECHL season. They join the Norfolk Admirals and Atlanta Gladiators as opting out of the upcoming season.

“As we continue to navigate the continually changing regulations across North America, we recognize the difficult nature of this decision,” said ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin. “While some of our teams’ host cities have allowed upcoming plans to include fans inside arenas, we unfortunately do not see the same path for these highly-affected areas in the Northeast.”

For many teams in the North, the decision may sound painful but in reality, it was fairly straightforward. Reading Royals General Manager David Farrar told the Reading Eagle “more prudent decision was to swallow the pain of a lost season and have a clean slate in October, when the pandemic is hopefully under control.”

The Maine Mariners also pointed to the economic difficulties of having a season without the revenue that would normally come from having fans in attendance along with things such as local sponsorships. In that state, the department of health and human services has reduced its indoor gathering limit to 50 people.

“The business model as far as minor league hockey is concerned relies heavily on ticket sales, and if we had reduced capacity and then every away trip required a flight, it just wouldn’t have been feasible,” said Maine Mariners Vice President for Business Operations Adam Goldberg.

The ECHL, played almost exclusively in small or mid markets throughout the country, averaged 4,327 fans per game last season before play was suspended. Players on the teams that will opt out for the season will become free agents; players make between $550 and $1,000 weekly during the season with free housing and a food per diem.

The ECHL’s decision comes as the AHL, which planned originally to start in December, has already delayed its anticipated start for the coming season to February 5, 2021. The league’s Board of Governors approved the decision while agreeing to monitor developments and local guidelines in all 31 league cities, several of which are also in Canada.

The AHL and ECHL, like every other minor league in the United States, are much more reliant on revenue that comes from ticket sales, local sponsorships and having fans in attendance. While major leagues such as the NHL were able to complete seasons in a controlled bubble environment, the AHL and ECHL cancelled its seasons and did not have its respective playoffs because for many teams, the financial challenges of playing without fans was substantial.

BASKETBALL: Bubble Tournament (no, not that one) Coming to Indianapolis

The city of Indianapolis is likely to be the sole host for the NCAA Tournament in March, in part because the ability to have games at multiple sites with the indication that it would be able to do so in a safe fashion.

And the city will have a small test run of sorts this week when USA Basketball joins teams from Mexico, Bahamas and Puerto Rico for a series of FIBA AmeriCup qualifying games to be held in a semi-bubble format.

Players, coaches and staff will go through strict testing and other protocols before arriving in Indianapolis and during the event. The U.S. team would likely be made up of G League players and others with European experience who are available for the event, which is FIBA’s championship for the Americas.

Saturday, November 21

FOOTBALL: NFL Moves to ‘Intensive COVID-19 Protocol’ for Rest of Season

It has been said many times before but it bears repeating: Given the physical nature of its sport, the amount of time the season has lasted and the number of COVID-19 positives among players and staff, the fact the NFL has had to reschedule but not postpone a single game this season is an impressive feat.

Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden adjusts his protective mask along the sideline in the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

And with the team entering the final third of its regular season and as positive case counts surge throughout the country, the league knows that it is at a tipping point. While there has been much success to get to this point, there is still hard work to be done. Getting through the final seven weeks of the regular season, then having playoffs before the February 7, 2021, Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, will likely be an entirely more difficult task.

The NFL seems to know this and starting this weekend, it will clamp down on each of its 32 teams, putting them all in “intensive COVID-19 protocol” status for the rest of the season. The league informed each of the teams this week of the decision in a memo.

“It has been said many times that our 2020 season cannot be ‘normal’ because nothing about this year is normal,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote. “Flexibility and adaptability have been critical to our success to date and we must continue with that approach.”

For a team to be in intensive protocol status this season, someone in the facility must have either tested positive or played against a team that had a player or staff member test positive. The memo added that since Week 5, teams in intensive protocols have seen a greater than 50 percent reduction in close contacts, which both reduces the chances for spread and makes contact tracing easier and more efficient. Almost every NFL team knows the heightened protocols well; 28 of the league’s teams have spent at least one week this season at that status, the NFL said in its memo, and 16 teams have been in the intensive protocols at least twice this year.

“As we continue through the season, it will likely be necessary to take further steps to address broader conditions,” the memo said.

So for the rest of the season, each team must have all meetings either virtually or in the largest possible indoor space inspected and approved by the NFL and NFLPA; grab-and-go meals in the cafeterias; a limit of 10 players and five coaches at one time in the weight room; limited time in locker rooms and masks or face shields worn by all people at all times throughout the team facilities and practice field; and during medical treatment for a player by a trainer in the training rooms, both the player and trainer must wear not only a mask but also a face shield during treatment.

The moves to tighten up team protocols comes as three teams have rolled back their fan attendance policies. The Washington Football Team, which allowed fans for the first time on November 8 in a loss to the New York Giants, will again have empty stands going forward after discussions with health officials in Prince George’s County, Virginia. The nearby Baltimore Ravens, which had 4,345 on hand for a November 1 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, will also close M&T Bank Stadium for Sunday’s home game against the Tennessee Titans.

The Philadelphia Eagles were the third team to roll back fan attendance policies after the city of Philadelphia announced new outdoor restrictions this week. The Eagles had been allowed up to 7,500 for the past three home games; the team does not play again at home until November 30 against Seattle and will definitely not have fans in attendance, although the team said it would work with the city if changes to the policy would be allowed for the Eagles’ final two home games in December.

One team that has not played in front of an empty home stadium this season is the Dallas Cowboys and team owner Jerry Jones is proud of it, saying the team will continue to increase attendance at AT&T Stadium after having 31,700 fans at a November 8 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Texas leads the United States in COVID-19 cases but Jones, on Dallas sports radio this week, said “My plan was to increase our fans as we went through the season, and we followed that plan … We’ve had almost a third of the attendance in the NFL, the whole NFL. I’m proud of that.”

While those comments may make some cringe, it is important to note that “no local case clusters have been reported traced back to NFL games,” NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy said this week. It is also important that while Jones is proud of what the Cowboys have been able to do from an attendance standpoint, the Dallas coaching staff will be staying at the Omni Frisco Hotel near the team’s headquarters as a mini-bubble in an attempt to keep them safe for the rest of the season.

Thursday’s Game
Arizona at Seattle: No fans were allowed

Sunday’s Games
Pittsburgh at Jacksonville: Up to 16,791 fans will be allowed
New England at Houston: Up to 13,300 fans will be allowed
Green Bay at Indianapolis: Up to 12,500 fans will be allowed
Philadelphia at Cleveland: Up to 12,000 fans will be allowed
Atlanta at New Orleans: Up to 6,000 fans will be allowed
Miami at Denver: Up to 5,700 fans will be allowed
Detroit at Carolina: Up to 5,240 fans will be allowed
Cincinnati at Washington: No fans will be allowed
Tennessee at Baltimore: No fans will be allowed
N.Y. Jets at L.A. Chargers: No fans will be allowed
Dallas at Minnesota: No fans will be allowed
Kansas City at Las Vegas: No fans will be allowed

Monday’s Game
L.A. Rams at Tampa Bay: Up to 16,000 fans will be allowed

Friday, November 20

NBA: Toronto Raptors to Start Season in Tampa

The NBA’s Toronto Raptors have announced that they will start the 2020–2021 season by playing home games in Tampa, Florida, as deadlines were looming for the league’s only Canadian team to figure out its plans for the upcoming season. At issue is the ability for the team to travel easily across the Canadian-U.S. border, and for U.S.-based teams to play in Toronto during the ongoing pandemic. Until the situation improves, the Raptors will play their home title at Amalie Arena.

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

“The Raptors worked diligently with public health officials at the local, provincial and federal level to secure a plan that would permit us to play our 2020-21 season on home soil and on our home court at Scotiabank Arena,” Raptors President Masai Ujiri said in a statement. “These conversations were productive, and we found strong support for the protocols we put forward. Ultimately, the current public health situation facing Canadians, combined with the urgent need to determine where we will play means that we will begin our 2020-21 season in Tampa, Florida.

“We want to thank all levels of government and their public health officials for their dedication to this process, and for looking after the health of Canadians. We commit to continuing our work together, planning for a safe return to play in Toronto. And as an organization, we remain committed to doing all we can to promote and demonstrate public health measures to help combat the spread of COVID-19 in Canada.”

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Pac-12 Loses Another Game

The Pac-12 has announced that the Washington State–Stanford game will be canceled after a number of Washington State lplayers have received positive COVID-10 tests.

“The Pac-12 has, after consultation with Washington State University, cancelled the Washington State at Stanford football game scheduled for November 21,” the league said in a statement. “This decision was made under the Pac-12’s football game cancellation policy due to Washington State not having the minimum number of scholarship players available for the game as a result of a number of positive football student-athlete COVID-19 cases and resulting isolation of additional football student-athletes under contact tracing protocols. Under conference policy, the game will be declared a no contest.”

The game marks the second Pac-12 contest that will be not be staged after the game between Colorado and Arizona State was also called off because of positive tests in ASU’s program, including Head Coach Herm Edwards.

Thursday, November 19

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Pac-12, SEC Prepare to Adjust Weekly Schedules

When it comes to nonconference scheduling, you can never plan too far out for college football. Some high-profile games are scheduled through the next decade; the University of Alabama already has a non-conference game scheduled for 2035.

But on the heels of a weekend where the Pac-12 threw together a conference matchup between California and UCLA on 43 hours’ notice, the league has made a further distinction that will allow non-conference games to be scheduled on short notice.

USC running back Vavae Malepeai runs into the end zone for a touchdown against UCLA during the second half of a college football game on November 23, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The Pac-12, which planned to only have conference games in its compressed schedule, has had to cancel five games already through two weeks. Because of the compressed season, the league will allow teams to insert a non-conference game into its schedule with a few contingencies: The opponent must meet Pac-12 testing and COVID protocols, the game must be at the Pac-12’s home stadium and a team can only have a non-conference game if there is no other suitable league game possible by Thursday of that game week.

For fans of many teams in the league, that allows the possibility to dream of impromptu revivals of traditional rivalries thought to be on hold this year such as USC-Notre Dame or BYU-Utah. But that comes with major caveats; sorry Trojans fans but Notre Dame’s schedule is booked solid. But BYU has only one game scheduled after Saturday so should Utah be in need of an opponent, that game could be thrown together.

Colorado’s game on Saturday against Arizona State has been canceled and Colorado State’s game against UNLV was axed on Wednesday because of an outbreak in the Rebels program, so the Buffaloes and Rams could have play this weekend — until the Rams said it would be focusing on next week’s game against Air Force, ending the hopes of those fan bases.

Regardless, any quickly thrown-together game the rest of the season will be a boost for the Pac-12’s bank account; the San Jose Mercury News says each game involving a Pac-12 program televised by ESPN or Fox is worth roughly $5 million to the league.

While not as wide-ranging as the Pac-12’s allowance to let teams play non-conference games, the SEC also made changes to its schedule. The league’s championship game will be December 19 — as well as makeup league games for teams that are not in the title game. It will also allow teams that have games postponed due to their opponents’ roster limitations to play each other as long as the decision is made by the Monday before the scheduled Saturday game.

For every conference at this point, any outbreaks within a league program would require a contortionist’s ability to revamp the schedule, especially because of the timeline in December with championship games on December 19 and the College Football Playoff selection committee picking its four teams for the semifinals the day after. Given the number of COVID-19 cases nationally, one would not be surprised that any team that gets a bowl berth would have to deal with quarantine — a potential issue for the College Football Playoff semifinals, scheduled for January 1 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and Sugar Bowl at the Superdome in New Orleans.

The College Football Playoff management committee met Wednesday with Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott requesting that a discussion take place about delaying the CFP. But ESPN reported the committee will keep the CFP as scheduled with a caveat that if a team is unable to play after its selection, a replacement team would not be chosen.

The biggest game this weekend with CFP implications will match No. 3 Ohio State against No. 9 Indiana in Columbus, Ohio, but the Buckeyes will not allow anybody in the stadium for the game — even family members of players and coaches. The school did have family members in the stands earlier during this already abbreviated season, but the Columbus Department of Health instituted a stay-at-home order going into effect on Friday night and lasting for 28 days, highlighted by a 10 p.m. statewide curfew.

Ohio State did say the decision on family members in attendance will be reevaluated prior to its home game against archrival Michigan on December 12. For now, college football is trying to get through each week … and who knows for sure if that Ohio State-Michigan game will be played on that day.

Last week was a record for the season with 15 cancellations out of 59 games, although one was then added back to the schedule; through Thursday morning this week there have been 15 cancellations or postponements for Saturday’s schedule of 62 games. There have been 78 games this season overall cancelled.

Wednesday, November 18

NBA: San Francisco Rejects Golden State Warriors’ Plans for Fans at Chase Center

No fans have been at any collegiate or professional sporting events in the state of California this fall. When NBC has broadcast two Sunday Night Football games involving the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, the broadcasters were required to wear masks on-air. When one Cal football player tested positive for COVID-19 during preparations for the Bears’ season opener against Washington scheduled for November 5, the game was canceled because several players were required to isolate in accordance with local health guidelines on contact tracing.

That has not stopped the Golden State Warriors from, according to ESPN, presenting a plan recently to state and local officials in San Francisco proposing that they open the Chase Center at 50 percent of its 18,064 capacity when the NBA’s 2020–2021 season begins December 22.

Fans watch from a general view of Chase Center during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game between the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers in San Francisco, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Warriors Owner Joe Lacob told ESPN that the franchise would spend “upward of $30 million” on costly rapid PCR tests to test fans, employees and players each day they come to the arena, which opened last year. Lacob told ESPN the team lost $50 million in revenue by not playing the final 17 games on its schedule last season and a full season without fans would cost the team another $400 million in revenue.

“You cannot sustain this league with no fans,” Lacob told ESPN. “You can do it for a year. We’ll all get by for a year. But suppose we’re in this situation next year. Now we’re talking some serious, serious financial damage to a lot of people.”

Perhaps predictable, the San Francisco Department of Public Health rejected the proposal on Wednesday afternoon. The San Francisco Chronicle obtained a letter from the department to the Warriors which in part said “indoor sports with spectators are not currently allowed under the State of California’s COVID-19 restrictions. Morever, and importantly, San Francisco is experiencing a rapid and significant surge in COVID-19 cases.”

The department of public health did tell the Warriors that should the city reach the state’s “yellow tier” of re-opening in the future, they would consider the possibility of allowing up to 25% capacity (4,500) for home games.

The NBA announced how the 72-game schedule will be set up on Tuesday night, with three games against each team in its conference and two games against each team in the opposite conference. The first half of the schedule with games through March 4 will be released when training camps open December 1, then the preseason will start December 11. The All-Star break — without an All-Star game — will be March 5–10 before the second half of the season is held from March 11 through May 16 along with “any games postponed during the First Half that can be reasonably added to the Second Half schedule.”

A new play-in tournament for the playoffs that would involve teams sitting seventh through 10th in each conference’s standings starting May 18 and the playoffs starting May 22. The NBA Finals would conclude no later than July 22, one day before the Opening Ceremony for the rescheduled 2021 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo.

According to both ESPN and The Athletic, the league does hope to have fans at games in some of its markets depending on health regulations. Initial reports indicate for any team that would have permission to host a restricted number of fans at games, there would be COVID-19 protocols including social distancing and facial coverings strictly mandated; Lacob said the Warriors would make sure fans in their proposed plans follow the league’s requirements.

The Warriors are one of four NBA teams in California; the Los Angeles Lakers and L.A. Clippers have said they will not have fans at home games in the Staples Center until further notice and the Sacramento Kings have not formally announced its policy. Other teams throughout the NBA would almost assuredly be unable to host fans under current governmental restrictions. And given that the NFL has seen three teams reverse its policy on having fans in the stands at outdoor venues because of rising numbers of COVID-19 positive cases in their markets, there would seem to be doubt over the ability to have fans at indoor venues. There also is the unresolved question of where the Toronto Raptors would play if the Canadian government does not grant them a waiver on cross-border travel.

Still, given that in the space of a month during this year it sometimes feels like a year, anything — such as the Warriors’ plans — cannot be entirely discounted.

Tuesday, November 17

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Delay the Playoff? Don’t Expect It

The week was started by the NCAA announcing that the NCAA Men’s Tournament, canceled last March as one of the first big dominos to fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be held as scheduled in March 2021 but entirely at one site. That site will most likely be Indianapolis instead of the traditional schedule of regional sites across the country.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence passes against Syracuse during a game on September 14, 2019, in Syracuse, New York. The ACC will go to a modified schedule this season in football. (AP Photo/Steve Jacobs)

That led to a natural question among those who follow college sports: If basketball is already saying that a “controlled environment” is the only way to hold the NCAA Men’s Tournament, then how would the College Football Playoff expected to be held at multiple sites in January?

As it stands, the CFP would start on New Year’s Day with the semifinals at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and Sugar Bowl at the Superdome in New Orleans, before the January 11 title game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The CFP Management Committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday and according to the San Jose Mercury News, one item put on the agenda is the entire schedule being delayed.

The request was made by Pac-12 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott. CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock told the newspaper that, “they’re talking about anything and everything. Larry did suggest considering the dates of the games, which is certainly in the ‘anything and everything’ universe.”

Three of the Power 5 conferences already had to cancel or reschedule games through Monday night: The Pac-12 axed Colorado vs. Arizona State, and the Buffaloes may be matched up this weekend against an opponent to be determined while the Sun Devils work through a team outbreak; the SEC postponed Mississippi at Texas A&M because of quarantining individuals within the Aggies program; and the ACC has rescheduled the next three games for Miami, which will not play this coming weekend then had games scheduled for November 28 against Wake Forest moved to December 5, and a scheduled December 5 game against North Carolina moved to December 12. And the game scheduled for this weekend for Miami against Georgia Tech? It will be now played on December 19, unless Miami is guaranteed a spot in the ACC title game — in which case it would play in that contest. The ACC also had to reschedule three other future games related to the adjustments to Miami’s schedule.

And if that sounds confusing, take a look at this story describing last week for Cal’s coaching staff which, on Friday morning, was told they would have to be ready for five options for the weekend — playing at Arizona State, playing at UCLA, playing Washington either home or away depending on health regulations, or not play at all. The Bears eventually played UCLA on Sunday, losing its season opener.

That makes Cal 0-1 at the same time that BYU, an independent, is 8-0. It’s just another week in the 2020 college football season.

OLYMPICS: IOC’s Bach Confident Of Fans In Tokyo

As many leagues in the United States struggle to keep together a schedule as cases surge, the biggest event in the world — the Olympic Summer Games — remains on schedule for its 2021 date and the International Olympic Committee’s president says he is “very, very confident we can have spectators in the Olympic stadium next year.”

Thomas Bach made the comment during a meeting in Japan checking on progress for the rescheduled event, which will start July 23, 2021. The visit comes after Japan held a gymnastics meet in early November with several thousand in attendance. Athletes who competed in the event quarantined for two weeks and were largely kept in isolation akin to the bubble format that other pro U.S. leagues utilized over the summer, along with taking daily COVID-19 tests.

Japan also this fall had near-capacity crowds for one weekend of exhibition baseball held at the stadium that will host the sport next summer. Japan has about 1,900 deaths attributed to COVID-19. It sealed off its borders until recently and has almost 100 percent mask-wearing by the public.

Whether the Olympics and Paralympics goes off as scheduled in 2021 is not up for debate among the organizers, as Japan’s Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto said the Games must be held “at any cost.” The costs of having to cancel again in 2021 would be prohibitive; the IOC gets almost three-quarters of its revenue from TV deals to broadcast the Games such as NBC’s contract that is worth over $1 billion per Olympics.

The news about a potential vaccination that would be available within the next year also has boosted the hopes for both the IOC and Tokyo organizers.

“In order to protect the Japanese people and out of respect for the Japanese people, the IOC will undertake great effort so that as many (people) as possible — Olympic participants and visitors will arrive here (with a) vaccine, if by then a vaccine is available,” Bach said after talks with Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga this week.

TENNIS: Australia Setting Up 2021 Bubble

Ahead of the 2021 Australian Open, all of the country’s tennis events leading up to the first Grand Slam of the year will be held in the state of Victoria.

With Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions leaving issues with players moving between states and having to quarantine, Tennis Australia — the organizers of the Aussie Open — will move five tournaments traditionally held across the country all into Melbourne and other sites throughout the state.

Under the plan, up to 550 players and their entourages would fly into Melbourne starting in mid-December, where they will be restricted to hotels or a tennis court until they have completed two weeks of quarantine. Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley told the Herald Sun that the tournament, scheduled from January 18–31, hopes to have at least 25 percent crowd capacity.

One thing, though: Victorian state Premier Daniel Andrews told a news conference the plan was “far from a done deal.”

“The notion this is all a done deal and there’s going to be all these tennis players turning up — no, this is not settled at all,” Andrew said, according to Australian Associated Press. “The public health team needs to sign off on all of these arrangements and they are just not settled.”

Monday, November 16

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NCAA Tournament Moving To “Controlled Environment” In Indianapolis

The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee pulled a major surprise on Monday, announcing the relocation of 13 predetermined preliminary round sites for the 2021 NCAA Tournament to one site with discussions ongoing about the entire tournament being held in the city of Indianapolis.

Virginia players celebrates after defeating Texas Tech 85-77 in the overtime in the championship of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Monday, April 8, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

“Through these discussions, it became apparent to the committee that conducting the championship at 13 preliminary round sites spread throughout the country would be very difficult to execute in the current pandemic environment,” the committee said in a statement.

“My committee colleagues and I did not come lightly to the difficult decision to relocate the preliminary rounds of the 2021 tournament, as we understand the disappointment 13 communities will feel to miss out on being part of March Madness next year,” said Mitch Barnhart, chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee and University of Kentucky athletics director. “With the University of Kentucky slated to host first- and second-round games in March, this is something that directly impacts our school and community, so we certainly share in their regret. The committee and staff deeply appreciate the efforts of all the host institutions and conferences, and we look forward to bringing the tournament back to the impacted sites in future years.”

FORMER 2021 PREDETERMINED SITES (NEXT SCHEDULED YEAR TO HOST AN NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND)

First Four Dayton, OH, March 16-17 (2022-2026 First Four)
First/Second Round Boise, ID, March 18/20 (None Scheduled)
Dallas, TX, March 18/20 (2024 South Regional)
Detroit, MI, March 18/20 (2024 Midwest Regional)
Providence, RI, March 18/20 (2025 1st/2nd Rounds)
Lexington, KY, March 19/21 (2025 1st/2nd Rounds)
Raleigh, NC, March 19/21 (2025 1st/2nd Rounds)
San Jose, CA, March 19/21 (2026 West Regional)
Wichita, KS, March 19/21 (2025 1st/2nd Rounds)
West Regional Denver, CO, March 25/27 (2023, 2025 1st/2nd Rounds)
Midwest Regional Minneapolis, MN, March 25/27 (None Scheduled)
East Regional Brooklyn, NY, March 26/28 (2024 1st/2nd Rounds)
South Regional Memphis, TN, March 26/28 (2024 1st/2nd Rounds)

There then were, of course, questions about what format the NCAA Women’s Tournament would take, which necessitated this statement:

The best laid plans and all of those sayings are pertaining to college basketball, as the season’s November 25 debut is already being put in the spotlight by coaches testing positive for the coronavirus and programs having to pause preseason activities — and two programs on Sunday announcing that their season debuts will be delayed.

And less than a week after Michigan State coach Tom Izzo announced he had tested positive, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim announced on Sunday that he has COVID-19, forcing the Orange to pause all team activities because a player also tested positive.

The pauses in team activities are required through the NCAA’s recommended 14-day quarantine for teams after a player, coach or staffer (Tier I participants, per the guidelines) tests positive. The NCAA’s guidelines can also be superseded by local and state regulations; while the NCAA recommends three tests per week for players and staff in college basketball, ESPN reported that Temple must test athletes seven consecutive days prior to competition under local rules in Philadelphia.

This all comes after the season was delayed by nearly three weeks from its original start date of November 6, which now looks like the wrong move in retrospect because teams will need more time, not less, to get in as many games as possible.

The question of time was raised over the weekend by Rick Pitino, the national championship-winning coach who is now at Iona and has said the season should start at a later date with only conference games being played and the NCAA Tournament, held in March, rescheduled for May instead.

The big-picture question of whether the college basketball season will be held is not really in question. There is too much money at stake for each of the conferences and programs when it comes down to it. But if college football fans have had their heads spin each weekend by not being sure which teams are playing and having games thrown together at the last minute — with two days’ notice in the case of UCLA vs. Cal on Sunday at the Rose Bowl — you may not have seen anything yet once college basketball tips off.

Friday, November 13

FOOTBALL: 19 of 32 NFL Teams Allowing Fans

Going into this weekend of NFL games, 19 out of the league’s 32 teams are allowing fans into the stadium in restricted numbers.

The way that COVID-19 cases are increasing throughout the country, there may not be a 20th team to reach that mark this season.

Fans watch the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons in Arlington, Texas on September 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

In fact, two teams that had kept open the idea of having fans in attendance, the New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings, both announced this week that they will not go forward with those plans. The Patriots have not had fans in the stands for any games this season; the Vikings have allowed up to 250 family members of team personnel in attendance but had looked into getting permission to increase that number.

“While we have worked hard to develop a safe and responsible plan to bring back a limited number of fans, our decisions have been based on medical guidance with public health as the top priority,” the Vikings said this week in announcing the decision. “We take seriously Minnesota’s rising COVID infection rates and increasing hospitalizations and believe closing the final four home games to fans is the right decision to help protect our community.”

The teams not allowing fans this season are the Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Vikings, Patriots, New York Giants, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. The Packers at the start of the year said they would go without fans for two games, then extended that decision further; Green Bay is located in Brown County, Wisconsin, where the positive rate for COVID-19 hit 32.78 percent this week.

The pandemic is hitting NFL teams in the wallet, according to the sports business intelligence firm Team Marketing Report. Its annual 2020 fan cost index concluded the NFL may lose up to $2.7 billion this season in fan revenue based off their index for each of the 32 teams this season, a figure that includes “four adult non-premium tickets, single-car parking, four hot dogs and two adult-sized adjustable hats.” The highest estimated average would have been the new Las Vegas Raiders at $783.36, given the pricing that was scheduled for Allegiant Stadium, with the league average sitting at $553.53.

For teams that have allowed fans this year, attendance figures have seen mixed results.

The Dallas Cowboys have averaged nearly 26,000 fans per game, which appears to be near the maximum allowed at AT&T Stadium. But for some of the teams that have had fans all season, the average home attendance this year is not near capacity. Even for a fan base as devoted as the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs, their team is averaging 13,138 per game this season even though the team is allowed to have up to 16,000 in the stands.

Both teams in Ohio, the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, are averaging under 9,000 per game while being allowed to have up to 12,000. The Houston Texans have allowed up to 13,300 fans in its past three home games; the team is averaging 12,377. And for the two teams in Florida that have had fans at home games all season, the Miami Dolphins are averaging 11,653 (capacity 13,000) and the Jacksonville Jaguars are averaging 15,211 (capacity 16,791).

Thursday’s Game
Indianapolis at Tennessee: Up to 8,297 fans were allowed

Sunday’s Games
L.A. Chargers at Miami: Up to 13,000 fans are allowed
Houston at Cleveland: Up to 12,000 fans are allowed
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh: Up to 5,500 fans allowed
San Francisco at New Orleans: Up to 6,000 fans allowed
Tampa Bay at Carolina: Up to 5,240 fans are allowed
Buffalo at Arizona: Up to 4,200 fans allowed
Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants: No fans allowed
Jacksonville at Green Bay: No fans allowed
Washington at Detroit: No fans allowed
Denver at Las Vegas: No fans allowed
Seattle at L.A. Rams: No fans allowed
Baltimore at New England: No fans allowed

Monday’s Game
Minnesota at Chicago: No fans allowed

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Pac-12 Cancels Two Games, Shuffles Schedule

The Pac-12 has announced that the Cal at Arizona State game and the UCLA-Utah games scheduled for November 14 will not be played because of positive COVID-19 tests in the ASU and Utah programs. But in a conference shuffle, the Pac-12 also announced that Cal would play UCLA at 9 a.m. PT on November 15 since both programs appeared unaffected by any outbreaks.

In any case, the conference joins the Big Ten (one game) and the SEC (four games) as Power 5 conferences that will not play games this weekend because of the pandemic.

Among those testing positive, according to ASU, was Head Coach Herm Edwards. “In the past few days our test results included a number of positive cases, including multiple student-athletes and coaching staff members, one of which is Head Coach Herm Edwards,” ASU athletic director Ray Anderson said in a statement. “This put our team below the Pac-12’s minimum threshold of 53 available scholarship student-athletes under the league’s game cancellation policy.”

In a statement, the Pac-12 confirmed that testing revealed the Sun Devils and Utes would not have the minimum number of scholarship players available.

“The cancellation of this game is very disappointing to our student-athletes and our fans,” the league said. “At the same time it is further indication that our health and safety protocols are working in identifying positive cases and contact tracing cases. While all of us want to see our football student-athletes on the field competing, our number one priority must continue to be the health and safety of all those connected to Pac-12 football programs.”

Thursday, November 12

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Ivy League Cancels 2020–2021 Season

The first collegiate sports league to cancel competition in the spring as the COVID-19 pandemic started is now the first to cancel its college basketball season before it even begins. The Ivy League announced on Thursday afternoon that all winter sports will be canceled as the coronavirus surges throughout the country more than ever before.

Cornell’s Jimmy Boeheim pulls down a rebound in front of Penn State’s Mike Watkins and teammate Josh Warren during a game on December 29, 2019, in State College, Pennsylvania. No Ivy League team will play basketball in the 2020–2021 season. (AP Photo/Gary M. Baranec)

“The unanimous decisions by the Ivy League Council of Presidents follow extended consideration of options and strategies to mitigate the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, an analysis of current increasing rates of COVID-19 – locally, regionally and nationally – and the resulting need to continue the campus policies related to travel, group size and visitors to campus that safeguard the campus and community,” the league said in a statement.

Spring sports have been delayed until at least March, the league has decided. Fall sports, which were scheduled to be in the spring of 2021 as well, will also be canceled entirely.

“We look forward to the day when intercollegiate athletics — which are such an important part of the fabric of our campus communities — will safely return in a manner and format we all know and appreciate,” the Ivy League Council of Presidents said in a joint statement.

The college men’s and women’s basketball seasons will start later this month, although teams are already having issues. In New York state alone, Iona, Fordham, Seton Hall, UConn, Albany and Monmouth have had to pause team activities because of positive tests within the program.

HOCKEY: NHL Leans Into Pod Format, Regional Realignment for 2021

One of the many sports that spent its summer playing in a bubble environment, the National Hockey League resumed its 2019–2020 season in two Canadian cities and completed its season through the Stanley Cup Final without a single positive test from the 28 teams that competed, a phenomenal achievement given the stretch of time involved from July 25 through September 25.

New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba, left, fights with New York Islanders center Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) in the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Even during the end of the bubble experiment in Toronto and Edmonton, the league was determining how it would be able to organize a 2020–2021 season especially given the transnational travel involved in a typical season with the United States and Canada. Other factors include holding the season in a time of year that is expected to see an increase in COVID-19 cases and how to  maintain player health and safety in a sport that is known for its physicality.

It turns out, one option may be that the NHL’s rivalries are about to get even more familiar than usual.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman this week at the Paley International Council Summit suggested that the league — which has not officially set a date to start the season — may hold it in modified bubble formats with regional divisions to try and cut down on travel and player exposure to outside elements. A bubble for the entire season? No, Bettman said, but a hybrid of sorts.

“You’ll play for 10 to 12 days,” Bettman said in a virtual panel discussion with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. “You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need. It’s not going to be quite as effective as a bubble, but we think we can, if we go this route, minimize the risks to the extent practical and sensible. And so that’s one of the things that we’re talking about.”

The league still targets January 1 as the start date for the season but has already canceled some of its traditional tentpole events such as the Winter Classic and NHL All-Star Weekend. Bettman also admitted that an 82-game season would be unlikely; the NBA has already said that its 2020–2021 season that starts before Christmas will be 72 games instead of 82. The NHL has experience with shortened seasons, having played 48-game seasons in 1994–1995 and 2012–2013 due to labor issues, with teams only playing against other teams in their conference. The Ottawa Sun reported that a potential season may be as few as 48 games but also could be up to 56 games.

The Orange County Register described a plan that would have the NHL season played in four hub cities with the Anaheim Ducks lobbying to be one of the hosts for the Western Conference. One of the realigned divisions would have to be the seven Canadian teams given the closure at the border — anyone entering Canada must quarantine for 14 days, making a schedule near impossible for the NHL.

So if you are a fan of watching the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks or San Jose Sharks play each other, or the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils or New York Islanders, you may get even more of those matchups than usual.

“Obviously, we’re not going to move all seven Canadian franchises south of the 49th Parallel, and so we have to look at alternative ways to play,” Bettman said. “While crossing the U.S.-Canadian border is an issue, we’re also seeing within the United States limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states. It’s again part of having to be flexible. … It may be that we’re better off, particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating, keeping it geographically centric, more divisional based, and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues.”

The NHL’s seven Canadian teams and the NBA’s Toronto Raptors will, because of the rules for traveling in and out of Canada, face the same challenges that MLB and Major League Soccer faced this season. The Toronto Blue Jays had to play their home games this season in Buffalo, New York. The three Canadian teams in MLS played multiple games against each other in Canada before finishing their seasons, playing home games at neutral site. Vancouver was based in Portland, Oregon, and the Montreal Impact based in New Jersey while Toronto FC was in Connecticut.

Wednesday, November 11

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: More Cancellations Pile Up in Power 5

The Southeastern Conference will have more than half of its teams sitting out this weekend after the fourth postponement on the league’s schedule was announced. The Georgia at Missouri game has been postponed due to a combination of positive tests, contact tracing and subsequent quarantining of individuals within the Missouri football program.

Fans sit among cardboard cutouts during the first half of a college football game between Florida and South Carolina on October 3, 2020, in Gainesville, Florida. (AP Photo/John Raoux, Pool)

When the SEC started play this season, it had an off week before its championship game on December 19 to give teams the chance to reschedule postponed games; but because Missouri already has a game scheduled for December 12, there is a chance that the Bulldogs and Tigers will not be able to reschedule their contest although “the rescheduling of games on the remaining SEC football schedule may include December 19 as a playing date,” the league announced on Wednesday.

The Georgia-Missouri game joins Alabama-LSU, Texas A&M-Tennessee and Auburn-Mississippi State has being postponed ahead of this weekend. The league has had so many postponements that CBS, its broadcast partner, will not have a game on Saturday to show once the network’s third-round coverage of The Masters is completed.

Of the SEC’s remaining games, Arkansas will face Florida without its head coach Sam Pittman, who has tested positive for COVID-19 and Mississippi is scheduled to play South Carolina, although Rebels coach Lane Kiffin, when asked if the team had enough healthy players for the weekend, said “I haven’t looked at numbers that way. I want to play. I think it’s more if you don’t want to play that you look at the numbers. We’re excited to play.”

The first Big Ten cancellation of the weekend was also announced as Maryland football will pause all team-related activities due to an elevated number of COVID-19 cases within the program, forcing the cancellation of Saturday’s game against powerhouse Ohio State. Eight players within the program have tested positive for coronavirus in the past seven days.

“There is nothing more important than the health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff,” Maryland Director of Athletics Damon Evans said. “We realize that this news is disappointing to all of the Maryland fans out there who were looking forward to the Terps taking on an outstanding Ohio State team, but the responsible thing for us to do is pause football activities, given the number of positive cases currently in our program.”

Youth, High School Sports at High Risk as Restrictions Increase and Virus Surges

There has been outsized attention on the amount of professional and collegiate sports affected by the COVID-19 pandemic with leagues going into bubbles to finish their seasons, leagues enduring outbreaks to complete seasons and the collegiate landscape marred by outbreaks among teams even before the winter surge that many medical professional predicted began to form.

For many cities and towns throughout the United States, the potential inability to host  youth or high school events also can have a devastating impact on the economy. Those can be state tournaments for any size market, or youth team events that were held throughout the summer with high restrictions that may still be unable to fully open up for fans in the winter.

A Herriman player wears a mask during a high school football game against Davis on August 13, 2020, in Herriman, Utah. Utah was among the states going forward with high school football this fall despite concerns about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that led other states to postpone games. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Throughout the country, states are already putting in new restrictions — or bringing back old ones — that threaten the status of winter sports at the high school level and youth tournaments.

Multiple states in the Northeast have been active already in planning for winter restrictions. In Rhode Island, Governor Gina M. Raimondo had already tightened restrictions including a ban of spectators at youth sports events and the closing of hockey rinks and indoor sport facilities, while out-of-state travel to tournaments has been banned — a move that New Jersey followed suit on Tuesday. After the Boston Globe reported that new infections in the state are tied to youth hockey events, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association approved a recommendation to not conduct any postseason tournaments at the end of the 2020-21 winter season — if there is a winter season at all. The Connecticut Department of Public Health released youth sports guidance that recommends high-risk sports such as football, lacrosse and wrestling avoid indoor and outdoor team practices and in-state games or contests between two or more teams.

In the Midwest, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has implemented new guidelines for youth and adult winter sports that temporarily halts competition in basketball, hockey and wrestling. Iowa’s governor has extended a public health emergency that restricts attendance at youth sports events to two people per athlete.  In Minnesota, state health officials said they have connected more than 3,400 coronavirus cases to sports, including 593 traced to high school athletes and 309 to middle school athletes.

In the South, the Shelby County (Tennessee) Health Department reported that 83 percent of the approximately 500 positive COVID-19 cases from area schools have been traced to sports. And in the West, all high school sports other than the state football playoffs, including winter sports tryouts, will be on hold for at least two weeks, according to the Utah High School Activities Association, after a state health order issued on Sunday night by Governor Gary Herbert.

Whether or not athletic competition contributes to the spread is of debate. A study released in October by the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggested the state’s high school sports have not caused an increase in COVID-19 infections among athletes. But the Aspen Institute talked to multiple medical experts that were skeptical of the findings.

For its part, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered several considerations for how youth sports organizations can protect players, families and beyond. But as the organization also noted, “Each community may need to make adjustments to meet its unique needs and circumstances. Implementation should be guided by what is practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community.”

As it appears, several states have decided that the best way to avoid the potential spread of COVID-19 at youth and high school sporting events is to — for now — not hold them.

Tuesday, November 10

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: LSU-Alabama Postponed As SEC Deals With Multiple Virus Outbreaks

After a weekend in which 10 college games were canceled out of 59 scheduled, this week has already seen multiple games axed — and leagues that do have off weeks figured into their schedules are running out of options just as fast as cases rise throughout the United States.

LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (22) tries to run by Alabama linebacker Terrell Lewis (24) in the first half of a game on November 9, 2019, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

The Southeastern Conference, the most powerful league in college football, is facing a surge in the number of schools affected by COVID-19 with multiple reports indicating that one of its marquee games — LSU against Alabama, matching last year’s national champions against the current No. 1 team in the country — will be postponed because of an outbreak within the Tigers program.

The Athletic reported on Monday that LSU was down to one scholarship quarterback and no tight ends or long snappers; when it comes to LSU and COVID, remember that coach Ed Orgeron said in the preseason that “most of our players have caught it. I think that hopefully they won’t catch it again, and hopefully they’re not out for games.”

The SEC already had to cancel one game for this coming weekend, Auburn at Mississippi State, because of an outbreak of positives on the Bulldogs. The game will be rescheduled for December 12, which means that neither team has any margin of error the rest of the season with the SEC title game scheduled for December 19. The LSU-Alabama game cannot be rescheduled for December 12, because LSU has a previously postponed game against Florida already rescheduled for that date.

A third SEC game for the weekend, and sixth overall for the season, was also affected as Texas A&M, which had to pause all team-related activities on Monday because of “multiple positive COVID-19 tests within the program,” had its game against Tennessee postponed. That game will be rescheduled for December 12.

And then there is Arkansas, the most improved team in the league thanks to new head coach Sam Pittman — who tested positive on Sunday and will be self-isolating while the defensive coordinator, Barry Odom, serves as the Razorbacks’ interim head coach. Arkansas’ game against Florida is still on as scheduled.

For leagues that only recently started, they also deal with the reality that because of a delayed start, there are no open dates for which to try and reschedule games. That became reality for the Pac-12 when it canceled two games, Cal against Washington and Arizona against Utah, before its opening game of the season even kicked off. Stanford was missing three players for its loss against Oregon and Washington State beat Oregon State despite missing 32 players.

Utah’s next scheduled game, at UCLA, was pushed back from November 13 to November 14 but the Utes are still down to a bare bones roster and may not be able to play. Cal’s availability to play its next game is uncertain because while the Pac-12 has consistent testing across the league, every campus has a different process based on local health officials. That means for the Bears, the City of Berkeley has the final say on things.

Not only the Pac-12, but the Mountain West also has no off weeks worked into its shortened schedule and that already has resulted in a no contest after Air Force at Wyoming, scheduled for this Saturday, was canceled after an outbreak on the Academy campus. It is Air Force’s second consecutive missed game after the November 7 game against Army was postponed.

Oh, you say that maybe the winter sports will be able to learn the fall’s lessons? College basketball made sure to stay in the news when it comes to COVID-19 as well. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, one of the biggest names in the sport, announced that he tested positive on Monday and will isolate for 10 days before he can return to coaching the Spartans.

Oh, well you think that by the time spring sports roll around that colleges and universities will have figured something out? One of the FCS conferences planning to play in the fall, the Big South, will have one less participant after the University of North Alabama said that it will not be competing, leaving five teams playing a four-game schedule before the playoffs.

At this rate, you probably can’t count out the number of teams in the fall playing four games, either.

SOCCER: CONCACAF Champions League Heading to Orlando

CONCACAF’s Champions League tournament, which resumes in December with the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship from December 15–22, will be held at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida, home to Major League Soccer’s Orlando City SC and the NWSL’s Orlando Pride.

The quarterfinals will be held December 15–16 followed by the semifinals on December 19 and championship on December 22. Of the eight teams remaining, three are from Liga MX and four are from Major League Soccer along with CD Olimpia of Honduras. The tournament protocols will include a “high-frequency COVID-19 testing regime before and during the competition.”

“The Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League is our flagship club competition and a huge amount of work has gone into ensuring we can safely resume the tournament and crown a regional club champion in 2020,” said CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani. “Orlando’s Exploria Stadium will provide a great host venue for the final seven matches of this competition.”

Monday, November 9

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Notre Dame Students Storm Field After Win, and Social Media Cringes

College football has had issues with COVID-19 delaying and cancelling games all season long, but Saturday was particularly strong with at least 10 games either postponed or called ‘no contest,’ including two games as part of the Pac-12’s debut weekend.

Fans storm the field after Notre Dame defeated the Clemson 47-40 in two overtimes in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in South Bend, Ind. (Matt Cashore/Pool Photo via AP)

The Pac-12 and Big Ten most prominently, but also leagues such as the Mountain West and Mid-American Conference, will be walking a tightrope all season long as they built in no bye weeks into their shortened seasons, making it an open question if a team such as Wisconsin — having missed two games in a row — could go unbeaten but not qualify for the league title game in the Big 10. Cal’s season opener against Washington was canceled and this coming weekend’s game is also in doubt in the Pac-12.

And against the backdrop of that, there has been the unusual setup in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season with Notre Dame, which has long cherished its independence, as a league member for this season only. Because of that, the Fighting Irish were able to host Clemson on Saturday night in a meeting of No. 1 and No. 4 in the country in front of 11,011 fans.

The game itself was an instant classic, with the No. 4 Irish ending the No. 1 Tigers’ 36-game regular season winning streak in double overtime. The game itself was still affected by the coronavirus; Clemson’s star quarterback Trevor Lawrence, missed his second game in a row after testing positive and showing symptoms. But that aside, the game was of such a high quality that fans were able to just enjoy the skill on display.

And then, once the game was over and the Irish won, what normally would be a scene of jubilation was also a scene that made social media cringe as fans stormed the field. Notre Dame’s public-address announcer repeatedly asked fans to leave the field, but many remained for several minutes.

Kelly had told his players before the game that when — not if — the Irish won, they would want to run directly to the locker room to avoid being with the crush of students. Most of his players were able to follow directions, but some did get caught up.

“With COVID being as it is, we’ve got to get off the field and get to the tunnel,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said after the game. “Now I beat ’em all to the tunnel. So that didn’t go over so good, but they reminded me that I did tell them that, so my skills of prognostication were pretty good today.”

The scenes were cringeworthy because Notre Dame’s season was already interrupted by an outbreak on the team in September, forcing a scheduled game against Wake Forest to be rescheduled in December. The school also reported 138 positive tests for COVID-19 on campus between Tuesday through Thursday.

The school’s administration definitely noticed the response on social media and beyond, sending a letter to the students on Sunday afternoon. But after Notre Dame president the Rev. John Jenkins tested positive for COVID-19 in October after he appeared at the White House Rose Garden Ceremony to celebrate the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the stance that the school took had a predictable response.

Friday, November 6

FOOTBALL: NFL Adjusting Rules as Pandemic Continues

In every NFL season, teams have to deal with players missing games. It’s football. It’s not an easy game to play at the highest level.

Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden adjusts his protective mask along the sideline in the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

This year, teams are dealing with players missing games for reasons other than injuries. The COVID-19 protocols enforced by the league have not only made sure that players who have tested positive miss games but also potentially those who come into close contact with a positive player or person away from the team facilities. And as cases spike throughout the country, what at the start of the season — a player testing positive — would send shudders throughout the league is now becoming slowly more accepted. Not un-newsworthy, but accepted with coaching staffs adapting to it just as they would a pulled hamstring.

Five teams alone on Thursday had to announce that they have had a positive test within their facility: Eagles, Chiefs, Texans, Bears and Colts. Thursday night’s game between the Packers and 49ers was played with both teams missing players after positive tests with San Francisco alone having three other players having to sit out because they were considered “high-risk close contacts.” Since Monday, 13 NFL teams have placed 33 players on reserve lists for COVID-19.

Given that it is inevitable for more players to test positive and affect teams, the NFL knows that an outbreak on any team would be near-devastating to the league’s schedule with around half the teams already having their off week. In the latest adjustment to try and mitigate the risk at games, the league issued additional rules for gameday protocols including expanding the sidelines for both teams to between the 20-yard lines for increased social distancing. The league will also require players to wear masks once the game is over before any postgame interaction with an opponent and teams will ask players to wear masks in locker rooms and on the sidelines.

That all said, there is a full schedule of games this weekend planned. Nine teams that host games this weekend will have fans in some quantity, ranging from the limited numbers in Atlanta and — for the first time — Washington, to the now-traditional crowd of up to 25,000 for the Dallas Cowboys. Continuing to be of interest is not just the numbers of fans that teams will allow into the stadiums but whether or not those quantities are all sold; while the Kansas City Chiefs have allowed up to 16,045 fans at home games all season, the team is averaging 13,466 this season. The Jacksonville Jaguars are averaging 15,058 despite the ability to host up to 16,791 fans; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were allowed to host up to 16,000 fans for its October 18 game against the Green Bay Packers but only had 15,540 in attendance. The Buccaneers are expected to allow another 16,000 fans in attendance for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.

Thursday’s Game
Green Bay at San Francisco: No fans allowed

Sunday’s Games
Pittsburgh at Dallas: Approximately 25,000 fans allowed
Houston at Jacksonville: Up to 16,791 fans allowed
Carolina at Kansas City: Up to 16,045 fans allowed
New Orleans at Tampa Bay: Up to 16,000 fans allowed
Baltimore at Indianapolis: Up to 12,500 fans allowed
Chicago at Tennessee: Up to 8,643 fans allowed
Miami at Arizona: Up to 4,200 fans allowed
N.Y. Giants at Washington: A limited number of season-ticket holders will be allowed
Denver at Atlanta: A limited number of fans will be allowed
Detroit at Minnesota: No fans allowed
Seattle at Buffalo: No fans allowed
Las Vegas at L.A. Chargers: No fans allowed

Monday’s Game
New England at N.Y. Jets: No fans allowed

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Pac-12 Calls Off Its Second Game

A day after canceling the Cal-Washington game because of COVID-19 cases, the Pac-12 has announced it will cancel the Arizona at Utah game that was scheduled for Saturday over similar concerns. This is the opening weekend for the Pac-12, which had initially planned to play in the spring but later crafted a seven-game schedule for its member schools.

“This decision was made under the Pac-12’s football game cancellation policy due to Utah not having the minimum number of scholarship players available for the game as a result of a number of positive football student-athlete COVID-19 cases and resulting isolation of additional football student-athletes under contact tracing protocols,” the league said in a statement. “Under conference policy, the game will be declared a no contest.

“The cancellation of this game, following yesterday’s cancellation of the Washington at Cal football game, is of course incredibly disappointing to our student-athletes and our fans. At the same time it is an indication that our health and safety protocols are working in identifying positive cases and contact tracing cases. While all of us want to see our football student-athletes on the field competing, our number one priority must continue to be the health and saety of all those connected to Pac-12 football programs.”

Thursday, November 5

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Pac-12 Readies for Its Delayed Return

Are you ready for some more football?

The college football schedule, which has increased in volume with each passing week, gets its final Power 5 conference back on Saturday as the Pac-12 kicks off an abbreviated seven-game schedule, a few days after the Mid-American Conference and its famous #MACtion hashtag returned to social media with a slate of weekday games.

At least in comparison to the Big Ten, which was racked by criticism during its first announcement of canceling the fall season before reversing field, the Pac-12’s decision when announced in August was almost universally accepted by the league’s coaches and players. But when the league was able to gain access to daily rapid testing for all players and staff members, it accelerated the timetable for a return to play — with the desire to not miss out on a chance to have a team in the College Football Playoff when other Power 5 conferences were going ahead with fall seasons.

The Pac-12’s testing protocols have been laid out by the conference. Along with daily rapid testing there will also be at least one PCR test, considered more reliable, for each player and staff member. Teams must have at least 53 scholarship players to be able to play games; should a game be canceled, for teams to be up for contention to advance to the league championship game, a team must play no less than one fewer conference game than the average number of conference games played by all conference teams.

That policy will come into play immediately because within 48 hours of its season opener, California announced it has a positive test and has undergone contact tracing that led to the cancellation of its game against Washington.

And because in this virus-affected season there are no ideas that can’t be tried to get attention for your team or conference, especially with no fans in the stands for the Pac-12, the league will start its season at 9 a.m. PT with Arizona State visiting USC, one of the Pac-12’s highest-profile teams. The early kickoff is an attempt to try and get more fans watching games on the East Coast and part of the league scheduling the opening weekend in such a way that a fan at home could conceivably watch up to 14 consecutive hours of Pac-12 action.

The season overall has been disrupted on a weekly basis by the COVID-19 pandemic, with teams postponing and canceling games and trying to throw together games on short notice — unique in a sport where games are sometimes scheduled up to a decade in advance. Even teams that have not had games postponed have been affected, most visibly when No. 1-ranked Clemson lost its star quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, last week and nearly were upset by Boston College. Lawrence will remain on the sidelines when the Tigers play at No. 4 Notre Dame in a high-profile Saturday night kickoff.

One ACC game that will not be able to draw attention away from the Pac-12’s opening weekend is Louisville at Virginia — because the game has been postponed to November 14 after the Cardinals paused all team-related football activities due to a heightened quantity of positive COVID-19 tests and accompanying contact tracing measures. The teams were able to accommodate the postponement because of previously scheduled open dates for both schools.

The ACC postponement comes a few days after another Power 5 postponement in the Big Ten with Wisconsin’s game against Purdue. Unlike the Big Ten and Pac-12, the ACC did at least build in extra off weeks in each team’s schedule and spread out conference games so that games can be rescheduled. The Big Ten and Pac-12 did not do that and because of it, Wisconsin’s two canceled games puts it on the edge of not being able to qualify for the conference championships. To be in the Big Ten title game this year a team must play at least six games, which would be Wisconsin’s maximum games played this season as long as it is able to resume play next weekend and go without missing a game the rest of the season.

It’s not just the Power 5 conferences that are trying to make sure that all the games will be played, either. Conference USA rescheduled seven games that have already been postponed because of COVID-19 with all of the games moved to the first two weeks of December. Because of the number of postponed games, the conference title game has already been moved from December 5 to December 18.

Wednesday, November 4

NBA: League on Verge of Pre-Christmas Start Agreement

There was not one person who could argue with the success of the NBA’s bubble environment to close out the elongated 2019–2020 season in Orlando, Florida. By being able to have a modified end to the regular season and then a full postseason, the league was able to salvage a piece of its revenue for the season and most importantly, had no positive tests for COVID-19 throughout the bubble’s existence at the ESPN Disney Wide World of Sports complex, leading to many people joking that the venue may not have been the happiest place on earth, but it was certainly the safest place this summer.

Houston’s James Harden goes up for a shot as Los Angeles’ Alex Caruso defends during the second half of an NBA playoff game on September 10, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

And through a short but thoroughly deserved celebration lap — including a SportsTravel Award received last month during the TEAMS ’20 Virtual from Houston Conference — there was one looming question, which was how the 2020–2021 season would be organized.

That may come to fruition as soon as this week, according to reports in ESPN and The Athletic that the National Basketball Players Association will vote about starting the season on December 22 for a 72-game season that would have the NBA Finals potentially end during its traditional June timeframe, allowing players to also participate in the rescheduled Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The players’ desire was to start in January and have a longer break for those who were in the bubble, tipping off instead on Martin Luther King Day on January 18 — perhaps the second biggest day of the season behind Christmas. But the later start date would mean a shorter season, potentially as few as 60 games, and it would still not finish until August, making NBA player participate in the Olympics an open question.

There would also be the question of lost revenues — between $500 million and $1 billion, ESPN reported — and with such a late start, it would even lead to questions about affecting the start date for a 2021—2022 season. ESPN also reported that to try and offset some of the lost revenue, the league would expand guidelines on sponsorships of sports betting, hard alcohol and casinos.

With anything being planned through the winter and into next year, there is also the specter of whether there will be a suspension of the season for an outbreak, or if the bubble environment would be needed again. While the NBA was able to spend months planning for the Orlando bubble, this offseason including a draft, free agency and preseason camps will be planned and executed in short order.

Regardless, there will be NBA action this winter.

Tuesday, November 3

NFL: Report Indicates League May Expand Playoffs Because of Virus

The need to make sure every contingency is thought of reflects the constant tightrope walk the National Football League is doing each week. There have not been any cancellations but there have been several rescheduled games because of COVID-19 tests, with an outbreak on the Tennessee Titans the most extreme case.

The Las Vegas Raiders game has been moved from Sunday night as a contingency in case it cannot be played. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

But with four bye weeks remaining on the schedule, the league is keeping its options open should there be enough of an outbreak to necessitate a game being postponed — especially as the United States sees cases surging again.

The question then becomes if a game is canceled, what would happen should a team involved be in a playoff race? The answer, ESPN reported, is that the league will implement in swift fashion an expanded 16-team playoff with eight teams from each conference.

The report says the NFL competition committee met Monday and has set a contingency that would have four division champions and four wild-card teams from the AFC and NFC advance to the postseason. It would increase the playoffs an additional two teams from what was going to already be an expanded playoff field of 14 teams this season.

The concerns about having teams miss games because of COVID-19 is real. And on the morning the NFL released a 30-minute video explaining all of its various rules and protocols to protect players and staffers from the coronavirus, there were multiple teams Monday that reported having positive tests including two on the Arizona Cardinals and one on the Baltimore Ravens, Marlon Humphrey, who reported that he tested positive the day after playing for his team against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

One team to watch the next few days also is the Green Bay Packers, who had running back AJ Dillon test positive. Several players, including fellow running back Jamaal Williams, have been described as “close contacts” and must isolate until cleared by the league. That puts the Packers down to two running backs on the active roster ahead of their game on Thursday night against the San Francisco 49ers.

Of note looking back at the weekend is that eight games were played with fans in attendance — but other than the Carolina Panthers’ home game Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons, none were sellouts even with restricted capacity.

While some of the games were close to “sellouts” including Miami and Denver, it is notable that the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns, both of which allowed up to 12,000 fans, instead had crowds of 9,712 and 10,972, respectively. While the Kansas City Chiefs are allowed to have up to 16,700 fans in attendance, only 11,932 attended the team’s win over the New York Jets.

The Philadelphia Eagles were allowed up to 7,500 fans for its Sunday Night win over the Dallas Cowboys but did not release an official number of tickets sold. One of the teams that came closest to selling out its allotment was the Denver Broncos … who, according to local television, had CEO Joe Ellis and General Manager John Elway test positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday morning.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Wisconsin Cancels Second Game

The University of Wisconsin has had to cancel its second game in the shortened Big Ten football season. The Badgers will not play Saturday against Purdue, the school announced on Tuesday, with team-related activities remain paused indefinitely after there are now 15 players and 12 staffers who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Badgers, who went to the Rose Bowl last season, stopped team activities on October 28 and its scheduled game at Nebraska on October 31 was cancelled. Both that game and the Purdue game will not be rescheduled.

A team must play at least six games this season to be eligible for the Big Ten Championship Game. Wisconsin, which won its season opener against Illinois on October 23, has five games scheduled the rest of this season and must play them all to be eligible for the title game.

“I share in the disappointment of our student-athletes and staff,” Wisconsin Athletics Director Barry Alvarez said. “We have seen a level of improvement in our testing numbers, but not enough to give us confidence to resume normal activities and play our game on Saturday. We will continue to test regularly, take the proper health-related precautions and look forward to getting our team back on the field as soon as possible.”

SOCCER: CONCACAF Champions League Set for U.S. December Event

The CONCACAF Champions League, the biggest international club soccer competition in North America, will resume in December at a site to be determined in the United States.

The 2020 CCL was suspended in March at the quarterfinal stage with three of the four matchups at the halfway point of their home-and-home format. For those matches, there will be one game played and the score will be added to the previous first leg; should the aggregate be tied, away goals will be the tiebreaker. If the away goals are tied, the game will go straight to penalty kicks.

The one quarterfinal that did not start, matching LAFC of Major League Soccer and Cruz Azul of Liga MX, will be a single-game knockout match. The quarterfinals will be held December 15–16 before the semifinals on December 19 and the championship on December 22. All the matches will be played without fans in attendance.

“It has been extremely pleasing to see so many leagues across the region get back to playing football again and the time is right for our flagship club tournament, the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, to return with the necessary protocols in place to ensure it is safe for everyone involved,” said CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani.

Monday, November 2

SOCCER: Premier League Plays On During UK Lockdown; USL Final Canceled

One of the first areas in the sports world to return from COVID-19 was European soccer, where leagues resumed before any U.S. professional league under strict protocols that were then copied by many American leagues wanting to avoid a bubble environment and play in home markets.

Manchester United and Arsenal players take part in a minute of silence as a soldier at left lays a wreath during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford in Manchester, England on November 1, 2020. (Shaun Botterill/Pool via AP)

There were even fans in selected stadiums across Germany and France for the past few months, though nowhere near capacity. In England, some lower-level soccer leagues were able to have fans in attendance and plans were underway for the return of fans in some stadiums throughout the Premier League.

But with case numbers surging throughout the world and fears of a second wave well underway throughout Europe, those plans have been put back on the shelf. The  English Premier League has only been allowed to continue through a special dispensation as the United Kingdom enters a new national lockdown through early December that will close non-essential businesses and restrict the movement of people.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admitted that he was pleased to see the sport continue.

“It’s obviously what we want. We proved that we can go on and keep the bubble kind of safe,” he told reporters after his team’s win on Saturday. “We proved that we can do it, and in a lockdown I think it’s important that the people can do things they like to do and watching football is obviously something they like to do. I’m obviously happy we can continue.”

England’s top flight had its 2019–2020 season suspended in March, which lasted almost four months before the remaining fixtures could be completed.

Several other European divisions have moved to act in the face of mounting cases. France’s Ligue 1, which did not finish its 2019-20 season, will continue as will the Bundesliga in Germany, although authorities have issued a new ban on fans attending games.

While the European leagues will go on without fans, Major League Soccer’s regular season concludes November 8 with an unusual way of qualifying for the playoffs — not total points but points per game. While every Eastern Conference team will have played the full 23-game modified schedule, several Western Conference teams will not reach that limit; the Colorado Rapids, which had to deal with an extended COVID outbreak within the team, will finish the season only playing 18 matches.

But at least the MLS playoffs are still on track to start on November 20 with the championship game on December 12. The USL Championship and USL League One did not reach their finales that were scheduled for the past weekend; the League One final between Greenville and Union Omaha was postponed after multiple players from Omaha tested positive for COVID-19, then the scheduled Sunday USL Championship final between Phoenix and Tampa Bay was also canceled after multiple individuals on the Rowdies tested positive for COVID-19.

“First and foremost, we want to applaud these two teams on an incredible season,” said USL President Jake Edwards in a league release. “They deserved the opportunity to play for the USL Championship Final trophy and we are disappointed that we won’t be able to watch them on Sunday night. With that said, we want to thank all of our clubs, our supporters, our players and our staff for all of their time, hard work and energy this season. We’ve grown closer under difficult circumstances and we can’t wait to be back together again soon.”

In the backdrop of rising cases and cancellations, there was one country trying to still see if it can plan for future sellouts. Officials in Japan used a baseball stadium in Yokohama, Japan, for a three-day experiment with half the stands filled on Friday, then a full 32,000 on Saturday and Sunday.

During those events, officials planned to use high-precision cameras, carbon dioxide-monitoring devices and wind-speed measuring machines as part of countermeasures against COVID-19. The stadium will be used as a venue for next year’s rescheduled Olympics, which are to open on July 23, 2021.

“We will report our findings here to the government,” Kiyotaka Eguchi, an official of the Kanagawa prefecture, said Friday. “The information we get here will be reflected in the guidelines, and that will also be used for the next year’s Olympics and professional baseball.”

Friday, October 30

FOOTBALL: NFL Working on Limited Seating for Super Bowl

There really is nothing in American sports like the Super Bowl — part game, part cultural touchstone and part tourism jackpot for destinations that get to host more than a week’s worth of activities with the eyes of the world upon it.

Fans are scattered around the stadium as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Los Angeles Chargers during the second half of an NFL football game on October 4 in Tampa, Florida. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

That was supposed to be Tampa Bay’s showcase in early February, the region’s fourth time to host the game and first since 2009. Holy Cross professor Victor Matheson says the economic impact of hosting a Super Bowl can be up to $130 million — not near the public projections that host cities boast of, but certainly nothing to sneeze about. There are also the ancillary businesses that can get expanded recognition and business and word of mouth that can be a transformational moment.

The 2021 Super Bowl may not be quite that type of moment, though, because … well, 2020.

Despite the statements of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has urged pro sports teams to have capacity crowds at their stadiums, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers limited attendance at the last home game to just under 16,500 fans. While there is always the chance of that capacity to be increased as the season goes on, the chances of having a full house has always seemed bleak; there is also the fact that while the NFL has been able to jump through a lot of hoops to keep the schedule mostly intact, there is nothing to say that the schedule may be severely disrupted between now and February.

So while the Buccaneers’ last home game had 25 percent capacity, it became big news when ESPN reported the NFL had already settled upon the Super Bowl being held with 20 percent capacity, or approximately 13,000 people. The report this week was swiftly denied by the NFL and for many potential reasons. Having an already agreed-upon capacity and attendance count would be news to ticket groups who are still waiting news on their potential allocations (and revenue generated from such allocations) although there were also reports that during a conference call with sponsors, networks and more this week that the league told listeners that all 134 suites will be available, which would be a major development and source of calm for some ticket groups.

As for this weekend’s games, the Detroit Lions are one team that will host people in the stands for the first time this season although it will be limited to 500 family members and friends of players. Of the 13 games including the Thursday night game between Atlanta and Carolina, five of them will not have crowds on hand — one of them being the Monday Night showcase game as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the New York Giants, who placed one of its starting offensive lineman on the reserve/COVID list on Thursday after a positive test that led to eight players and two coaches being told to stay away from the team’s facility. All of the Giants’ starting lineman were told to stay away but could be cleared to return as soon as Friday, akin to what the Raiders dealt with for their offensive line after a positive test last week during preparations for its game which was also against the Buccaneers.

Whether on or off the field, it appears that all things lead to Tampa Bay this week.

Thursday’s Game
Atlanta at Carolina: The Panthers allowed up to 5,240 fans in attendance

Sunday’s Games
L.A. Rams at Miami: The Dolphins are allowing up to 13,000 fans in attendance
N.Y. Jets at Kansas City: The Chiefs are allowing up to 16,700 fans in attendance
Minnesota at Green Bay: The Packers are currently not allowing fans in attendance
Indianapolis at Detroit: The Lions will allow up to 500 friends and family members of players in attendance
Las Vegas at Cleveland: The Browns are allowing up to 12,000 fans in attendance
Tennessee at Cincinnati: The Bengals are allowing up to 12,000 fans in attendance
New England at Buffalo: The Bills are currently not allowing fans in attendance
L.A. Chargers at Denver: The Broncos are allowing up to 5,700 fans in attendance
San Francisco at Seattle: The Seahawks are currently not allowing fans in attendance
New Orleans at Chicago: The Bears are currently not allowing fans in attendance
Dallas at Philadelphia: The Eagles are allowing up to 7,500 fans in attendance

Monday’s Game
Tampa Bay at N.Y. Giants: The Giants are currently not allowing fans in attendance

Thursday, October 29

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: One Month Before Tipoff, Many Teams Don’t Have Schedules

Especially during the chaotic early weeks of the college football season, seeing the NCAA organize a set opening date for college basketball seemed organized, streamlined and without the mess that had been permeating throughout the Power 5 conferences with its rescheduling and returns to play having little coordination.

Villanova forward Saddiq Bey dribbles the ball against Georgetown guard Jagan Mosely in a game on March 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

But as the college basketball season is officially allowed to start in less than a month, there appears to be the regular ol’ chaos that seemingly comes with any major college sporting event. With many programs not having a schedule yet and with many others not even sure if the games they have scheduled will tip off, the amount of work still seems massive — and that’s before you think about the NCAA Tournament’s return in March.

One of the big issues is something that carries over from college football: Leagues, not just the Power 5 but even mid-majors and the traditional small conferences, do not have consistent testing protocols. Add into that the regulations that state and local health officials have for any type of recreational activity and there are number hoops to jump through before you can even put a ball in the hoop.

“If the NCAA is going to put guidelines out, you should have a way that you can mandate it and make sure that everyone does it,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said during Big East Conference virtual media day on Wednesday. “That’s a problem, I think. That’s going to be a problem … You’ve already got two conferences that are not going by the guidelines,” referring to the Big 12 and SEC.

Villanova had to shut down its activities for 14 days because of a positive COVID-19 test within the program, and Marquette is currently in the midst of a 14-day quarantine. The Big East has a conference schedule set … through December 23, only one-quarter of the games it would play. The rest of the schedule has not been released because of the uncertainty of tests and shutdowns within programs because of testing results.

“We are planning to resume conference play after the holidays on December 30, but it’s our intention to hold off a little bit longer in announcing that second part of the schedule just so we can continue to assess the landscape and get ourselves comfortable with the most appropriate scheduling format,” Big East commissioner Val Ackerman said. “[That] will of course hinge on the status of the virus and related factors. Our goal there is to make sure we have safe competition.”

The NCAA’s guidance for college basketball this season is a 14-day pause in activity once somebody within a program tests positive. But because college sports is so diverse, the amount of testing that each school and conference will do is inconsistent. Testing and health regulations is what has caused ESPN Events to cancel 10 early-season tournament events that it had planned to relocate from their traditional sites into the ESPN Disney Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida. Multiple reports indicated that the schools and network had differences over the required health and safety protocols, including the time spent in quarantine a positive test occur and the costs involved. The Athletic reported that several schools who would have been in one of the tournaments had issues over the testing protocols that ESPN was planning on using, which would have been more stringent than the ones they currently utilize on campus per their conference’s guidelines.

To try and get games right away, fans will see mini-tournaments popping up throughout the country — many of them four-team events whether on campus or in a locale where the competing programs are able to handle health and safety protocols in a consistent fashion. The Mohegan Sun in Connecticut is reportedly going to be the site for several of those four-team events, in effect serving as a kickoff venue for the sport under a modified bubble concept, which will only gain traction and attention should it result in strong competition with clean testing results, especially in the light of college football postponements and many other controversies that have come with not having a sealed bubble environment.

The Big East at least, is contemplating having its teams play in a bubble during the second semester as students return to member campuses whether all of them go into one venue or they gather in small regional groups. The league took pains to say that that plan is not on the books for its schedules, but the coaches seem to be open to the idea.

“There’s no doubt: the bubble is the answer,” said Wright. “If you want to get where you are sure that you’re going to get all your games in, the bubble’s the answer [and] the medical experts will agree to that. The challenge for us is … (players) are not employees so to force someone to go into a bubble is shaky. And, if you do it for the men you have to do it for the women, which doubles the cost for everybody.”

Basically, it can be summed up as this: If you thought the college football season has been a rollercoaster so far, you may not have seen anything yet once college basketball tries to play nearly three times as many games during what already is the traditional winter flu season.

HOCKEY: Minor Leagues Make Start Date Decisions

While the National Hockey League is targeting a January 1 start date for its season but remaining deliberate in not making announcements until all the plans are solidified, the two biggest minor leagues that funnel players to the NHL have both made their own determinations on when the puck will drop.

The American Hockey League, the level below the NHL, will have its 2021 season’s “anticipated start date” of February 5, pushed back from the original plan to have a 2020–2021 season that began on December 4. Regardless of when it starts, the AHL will also have to deal with the regulations that would come with cross-border travel into Canada with the league having four of its 31 teams north of the border.

The AHL’s move comes after the ECHL earlier released its planned schedule in a unique format. For 13 teams in the ECHL, the season will be 72 games starting December 11, 2020. The other teams in the league will have a 62-game season that starts on January 15 while the Atlanta Gladiators will take a voluntary suspension for the 2020–2021 season. Under the split-season plan, the league standings will be based on winning percentage and the postseason format will be based on the eligible competing teams in the regular season.

The AHL and ECHL, like every other minor league in the United States, are much more reliant on revenue that comes from ticket sales, local sponsorships and having fans in attendance. While major leagues such as the NHL were able to complete seasons in a controlled bubble environment, the AHL and ECHL cancelled its seasons and did not have its respective playoffs because for many teams, the financial challenges of sustaining play without fans was substantial.

LACROSSE: Indoor League Plans 2021 Season

The National Lacrosse League will target its 35th season to begin on April 9 with team training camps starting in mid-March under strict guidelines and with a mix of virtual and in-person training.

The full schedule has not been released yet as the league will first focus on working with health authorities and local jurisdictions to develop health and safety protocols for the players and fans at games. The league is in the process of building several scenarios which factor in current and long-term restrictions in both the United States and Canada with regard to immigration and facility use.

“We have been continuously working with our teams, Players’ Association, arenas, and health and government officials to prepare to play our 35th season. An April start date will give us sufficient time to have our protocols in place for players, coaches, staff as well as fans,” NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz said. “We are working with all teams to provide the safest environment and an acceptable level of fans in the stands. We understand that current circumstances will dictate whether this plan is achievable, and we will be prepared to remain flexible and pivot as needed. We want to thank all our players, fans and partners who have supported our efforts to stay connected and engaged during this prolonged offseason and are looking forward to returning to play in April.”

The 2019-20 NLL season ended March 12 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Wednesday, October 28

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Wisconsin Cancels Nebraska Game After Outbreak

The Big Ten Conference was the trendsetter among Power 5 leagues in deciding that the fall was too soon for college football. Then, under a storm of criticism, the league reversed its decision and said that thanks to rapid testing, it would be able to play a conference-only schedule and return months ahead of schedule.

But when it made that return-to-play announcement, given the time to gear up for games and get a minimum number of practices in, the league was left with the decision to go with no off weeks between last weekend’s season openers and the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis in mid-December. Given the amount of cancellations in college football already this season — let alone the schedule reshuffling that the NFL has seen — outside observers, if not those within the league, knew that there was going to be a lot of tightrope walking for teams.

And Wednesday, the University of Wisconsin football team fell off the tightrope. The Badgers will pause all team-related activities for at least seven days after six players — including its star quarterback and backup quarterback — and six staff members, including head coach Paul Chryst, tested positive over the past five days.

“This morning I received the news that I had tested positive via a PCR test I took yesterday,” Chryst said in a statement released by the university. “I informed my staff and the team this morning and am currently isolating at home. I had not been experiencing any symptoms and feel good as of this morning. I am disappointed for our players and coaching staff who put so much into preparing to play each week. But the safety of everyone in our program has to be our top priority and I support the decision made to pause our team activities.”

As a result, the No. 9 Badgers game against Nebraska on Saturday has been canceled. The Big Ten’s policy this season is that a team must pause activities if the program has a positivity threshold higher than 5 percent; the preliminary estimates have Wisconsin’s at 8 percent.

Beyond the seven-day pause and game being canceled, any positive tests for the Badgers — or any other conference team — would be a multi-week gap in the depth chart. Big Ten policy requires any player who tests positive for COVID-19 to miss at least 21 days and undergo cardiac screening before being cleared to return. Even with one game being canceled already, that would leave the six players out for at least two more games.

Before Wisconsin’s announcement, there had been a total of 36 games postponed or canceled out of 251 scheduled so far in college football, including this coming Saturday’s game for No. 19 Marshall.

BASEBALL: Dodgers Win Title, But Face Postgame Controversy

It was supposed to be a joyous moment for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and for Major League Baseball. The Dodgers streamed into a big dogpile to celebrate their first World Series title in more than three decades after beating the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 on Tuesday night at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. MLB was able to crown a champion to end a shortened season that contained plenty of harsh words leading to the modified Opening Day, then multiple COVID outbreaks on teams before getting into a groove that had it go 58 consecutive days without a positive test.

After the game, that all was jumbled into a cloud of confusion and controversy as MLB’s postseason bubble was breached and the Dodgers’ postgame celebration left many on social media cringing given what had been revealed on TV right after the final pitch — Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner had tested positive for COVID-19, which is why he left the game in the eighth inning.

From that point on, there were a mess of questions that did not have easy answers. The test for Turner was from yesterday and came up inconclusive, but the test he took before the game had not been processed when the game started — why would that be for any player? If the Dodgers or MLB knew that Turner’s test from the day before was inconclusive, why was he not pulled from the team out of caution?

And why, after the game was over, was Turner allowed back onto the field to celebrate with his teammates and even sit in the front row of a team photo with no mask on? And if the players were told, why did they continue to celebrate with their families on the field with many of them not wearing masks?

“A superspreader event on live TV. Welcome to 2020,” a general manager texted ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

There is no denying as well the size of the bullet that Major League Baseball, uh, dodged with the Dodgers’ win. Should the Rays have won and forced a Game 7, would it have played the following night as scheduled?

“It’s a bittersweet night for us,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “We’re glad to be done. I do think it’s a great accomplishment for our players to get the season completed, but obviously, we’re concerned when any of your players test positive.”

Major League Baseball took a harsher stand in the hours after the celebration, releasing a statement that read in part “While a desire to celebrate is understandable, Turner’s decision to leave isolation and enter the field was wrong and put everyone he came in contact with at risk. When MLB Security raised the matter of being on the field with Turner, he emphatically refused to comply” and announcing that it would be conducting an investigation into the circumstances regarding his return to the field for the celebration.

Given the amount of questions raised after the celebration — there is no word yet on if the Dodgers must remain in their hotels in Arlington until they have all been given cleared by health authorities — it also brings to mind Turner’s role in trying to enforce safety protocols for his teammates earlier in the season to prevent any positive tests from coming into the clubhouse.

Two weeks into the MLB season after outbreaks on the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, there was serious debate within the game as to whether the season would have to be immediately shut down. MLB continued on and eventually fewer games were postponed. Turner then sent a note to all of his teammates, made available to the media, that included team-only guidelines including “All players will wear face coverings in the dugout” and “Stressed 6 feet of distancing and face coverings in the bullpen where guys may have to sit in the stands to ensure space.”

Tuesday, October 27

GOLF: PGA Tour Ready to Welcome Back Fans

One of the sports that can easily lead itself to social distancing among fans at its events, the PGA Tour has still remained very slow in bringing back spectators. The two majors held in the United States so far, the PGA Championship and U.S. Open, were both held without fans on the course, although some by the Winged Foot Golf Club in New York were able to get great views.

But as the PGA Tour continues its season, like many outdoor leagues the idea of having fans come back in limited numbers has continued to gather steam. And this week in the Bermuda Championship, fans will be on the course in “a limited number of general admission spectators per day” at Port Royal Golf Course in Southampton.

The Champions Tour and LPGA Tour have had fans in limited quantities at events already, but this would be the first time for the PGA Tour since the pandemic began in the spring. The event that follows the Bermuda Championship, the Houston Open, has said it would allow fans as well at what will be the final event before a unique Masters held in November instead of the spring — that event will not have fans, or patrons in Masters-speak, at the course.

The idea of having fans at the course has been welcomed by many but there was one notable comment from Phil Mickelson, who last week said “I don’t like the risk that having that happen the week before the Masters. I just feel like the week before the Masters, like that’s a big tournament we have and I just don’t want to have any risk heading in there.”

Mickelson turned 50 this year and as such has the chance to use those events to practice for majors. Having won twice on the Champions Tour this year, Mickelson could compete at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix instead of the PGA event in Houston before heading to Augusta, Georgia. Mickelson has not announced what he will do but he did soften his original comments, saying to the Golf Channel about fans in Houston, “That’s not a deciding factor. I’m sure the Tour will do a great job of making it safe.”

Monday, October 26

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Bowl Season Slimmed Down

One of the most iconic bowl games of the college football postseason, known for some of the wildest endings in the sport’s history, will go dark this season as the number of bowl games not being held this year is starting to slowly climb.

The SDCCU Holiday Bowl announced recently that for the first time since 1978, it will not be played. Between the financial considerations given to not having a capacity crowd on hand for the game as well as ancillary events during the bowl week, the decision was not an easy one but had to be made. The San Diego State University’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management has said the game’s annual average economic impact for the region the past decade is $30.96 million.

“This absolutely kills me,” said Mark Neville, executive director of the Holiday Bowl. “If our game got canceled in December, now what? In the worst case scenario, what if we have Florida State and Washington in our game and they get into town and five kids on Florida State’s team test positive. Then what?”

The Holiday Bowl has hosted a Pac-12 team every year since 1998; this year, a Pac-12 team would have faced off against an ACC team for the first time. The other obstacle for the Holiday Bowl was where in San Diego it would have been played since SDCCU Stadium has been closed; the San Diego State football team will be playing the next two seasons at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, while a new on-campus stadium is built.

The Holiday Bowl becomes the fifth postseason game to go dark this season, joining established games such as the Bahamas Bowl, Hawaii Bowl and Redbox Bowl. The inaugural Fenway Bowl, scheduled for December between teams from the ACC and Athletic American Conference, will not be played with the inaugural edition scheduled for 2021 instead at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.

Where that leaves the rest of college football’s bowl season is uncertain. While having nearly every FBS program back in action clearly helps with those bowls that have established tie-ins, there also is the fact that many games do not have official dates yet. Another unique part of this college football season is that the requirement for a minimum number of wins has been waived this season, leading to the potential of having one- or two-win teams that would still draw a large regional crowd available to bowl games should they choose.

Friday, October 23

FOOTBALL: NFL Once Again Readjusts Weekend Schedule

The National Football League has been able to handle organizing this season so far during the coronavirus pandemic. Yes, there have been postponed games and rapid rescheduling of multiple games. But to that point, there have not been any games canceled.

And yet the league is living on a knife’s edge each week. Not only does each team have to react should any players test positive, but there is also the contact tracing protocols the league and union have agreed upon that can make the preparation each week for games difficult, as the Las Vegas Raiders have learned this week.

After offensive tackle Trent Brown was put on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the Raiders had to put their other four starting offensive lineman plus safety Johnathan Abram on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Abram and the offensive line group must quarantine for five days in addition to their last day of contact. Because the last day of contact for the players was Monday, there remains the possibility that all the Raiders would be cleared on Sunday morning and allowed to play.

NFL rules this season say teams must have at least eight offensive linemen on the game day roster; with contact tracing underway, the Raiders only have five linemen on the active roster during practice this week.

Under the NFL’s tracing protocols, every player, coach and staff member must wear a proximity device to record distance between devices and time in close contact inside team facilities, during practice and games and during travel. The league will define close contact as being within six feet of someone for about 15 minutes or direct physical contact during practices, games or travel.

Given that there remains a slight chance that the Raiders would not be able to play on Sunday, the NFL has moved Las Vegas’ game — scheduled for Sunday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — to Sunday afternoon and put a different game in the prime time lineup, Seattle at Arizona, “out of an abundance of caution to ensure that a game would be available for fans on Sunday Night Football.”

The Arizona Cardinals in the rescheduled Sunday night game will have up to 1,200 fans, one of two teams that will be able to have fans in attendance for the first time. The New Orleans Saints, who almost left the Superdome to have fans in attendance at LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, will instead stay in town and host up to 3,000 fans against the Carolina Panthers.

While California’s statewide restrictions have allowed for the chance to have fans at sporting events, Los Angeles County — home of SoFi Stadium and the L.A. Rams and L.A. Chargers — have not met the health and safety benchmarks to host fans. Santa Clara County health officials said that fans will still not be allowed to go to San Francisco 49ers games even though the country technically could allow a restricted number of fans in the stands.

Here is a look at which games will have fans this weekend:

Thursday’s Game
N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia: Up to 7,500 fans were allowed

Sunday’s Games
Dallas at Washington: No fans will be in the stadium
Buffalo at N.Y. Jets: No fans will be in the stadium
Carolina at New Orleans: Up to 3,000 fans will be allowed
Green Bay at Houston: Up to 13,000 fans will be allowed
Cleveland at Cincinnati: Up to 12,000 fans will be allowed
Pittsburgh at Tennessee: Up to 8,000-plus fans will be allowed
Detroit at Atlanta: A limited number of fans will be allowed
Tampa Bay at Las Vegas: No fans will be in the stadium
San Francisco at New England: No fans will be in the stadium
Jacksonville at L.A. Chargers: No fans will be in the stadium
Kansas City at Denver: Up to 5,700 fans will be allowed
Seattle at Arizona: Up to 1,200 fans will be allowed

Monday’s Game
Chicago at L.A. Rams: No fans will be in the stadium

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Army-Navy Game to Move from Philadelphia to West Point

The Army-Navy football game, an event typically filled with spectacle and a sold-out crowd at an NFL stadium, will move back to where it all began—West Point—in an effort to reduce the event’s size during the pandemic. Army Director of Athletics Mike Buddie and Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk announced today that the 121st playing of the Army-Navy Game presented by USAA will be played December 12.

Limits on the size of outdoor events in Pennsylvania prevented the entire Corps of Cadets and Brigade of Midshipmen to attend the event, which was planned for Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. As the designated home team in 2020, Army will host at its historic Michie Stadium.

“We want to thank the city of Philadelphia, the Eagles and all involved in the planning for their efforts to navigate this historic game in the current COVID-19 climate,” said Buddie. “We are excited about this historic opportunity to host Navy and the Brigade inside the gates of West Point for the first time since 1943.”

It marks the first time the Army-Navy Game has been played at a home site since World War II when Annapolis hosted the 1942 game. West Point hosted in 1943. The two schools also rotated hosting the first four games of the series from 1890-1893.

Thursday, October 22

HOCKEY: NHL Cancels Winter Classic, All-Star Weekend for 2021

The National Hockey League, still deciding how to proceed with the coming season including when the campaign would begin, has announced the postponements of the 2021 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic scheduled for Minneapolis and 2021 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend scheduled for Sunrise, Florida.

The NHL Winter Classic would have had the St. Louis Blues traveling to face the Minnesota Wild, while the Florida Panthers were going to host the All-Star Weekend. Both events have been postponed due to the ongoing uncertainty resulting from the coronavirus, but the NHL said it does intend to return to both Minnesota and Florida in the future.

Importantly, the league says the announcement does not impact the joint declaration by the NHL and National Hockey League Players’ Association that they are targeting on or around January 1 as the start date for the upcoming NHL season.

“Fan participation, both in arenas and stadiums as well as in the ancillary venues and events that we stage around the Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend, is integral to the success of our signature events,” said NHL Senior Executive Vice President & Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer. “Because of the uncertainty as to when we will be able to welcome our fans back to our games, we felt that the prudent decision at this time was to postpone these celebrations until 2022 when our fans should be able to enjoy and celebrate these tentpole events in-person, as they were always intended. We are also considering several new and creative events that will allow our fans to engage with our games and teams during this upcoming season.”

OLYMPIC SPORTS: USA Wrestling Pulls Out of 2020 Worlds, Citing Virus Risk

For all potential Olympic athletes, the year started with trying to make sure that every single moment was calibrated for the exact day that they would be in competition at the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games in Tokyo. Then COVID-19 happened, and athletes had to adjust and reset themselves with an eye toward 2021.

That means shuffling schedules to a never-before-seen extent and for one national governing body, that means giving up one of the prime international chances to test themselves against the rest of the world.

USA Wrestling has announced that it will not send a team to compete at the 2020 Senior World Wrestling Championships set for Belgrade, Serbia, from December 12-20. The decision was reached by the NGB’s Executive Committee, which acts on behalf of the Board of Directors between Board meetings and unanimously approved a proposal not to participate in the Senior World Championships due to health and safety issues.

“The health and safety of U.S. athletes, coaches and staff is always the No. 1 concern for USA Wrestling. After reviewing updated medical, scientific and government data, and providing an opportunity for athlete and stakeholder input, the Executive Committee concluded that it would not be in the best interest of all involved to organize a delegation to travel to and participate in the Senior World Championships in Serbia,” USA Wrestling President Bruce Baumgartner said.

U.S. athletes will not be able to participate independently at the event. It is not the first time that the U.S. has skipped a world event; USA Wrestling made a similar decision in 2002 when it missed the Senior World Freestyle Championships in Tehran, Iran, after the NGB received “specific and credible information from an official source that the safety of the U.S. delegation could not be guaranteed if a USA Wrestling delegation attended.”

Before its final decision, USA Wrestling held a series of discussions including two meetings of the Executive Committee, plus one of the USA Wrestling Athlete Advisory Committee meeting. A survey was sent to 117 athletes on whether athletes would attend or not attend under a variety of different possible conditions. Two of USA Wrestling’s special subcommittees, its COVID-19 Advisory Committee and its COVID-19 Public Relations and Messaging Committee, also held meetings on the topic.

The U.S. State Department’s Travel Advisory for Serbia is at Level 3 out of four levels, with a notation to “reconsider travel to Serbia due to COVID-19.”

“My heart breaks for our athletes, as nobody is more affected by this decision than they are,” said Veronica Carlson, Executive Committee member and chairperson of the USA Wrestling Athlete Advisory Committee. “In the same breath, abstaining from the 2020 World Championships is the right decision. I am proud that the athlete voice was solicited and considered through every step of this process. In choosing to make this decision now, versus delaying it, the athletes have time to recover and refocus on what is most important — the 2021 Olympic Games.”

Wednesday, October 21

Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, was ready this spring to be the newest crown jewel for Major League Baseball, a stadium that has a lower overall capacity for the Texas Rangers but with every bit of customer activation that one would possibly expect.

The venue was home to the start of the World Series on Tuesday night — the eighth time in MLB history that a stadium hosted the Fall Classic in its inaugural season — but not because of the Rangers. Instead, a restricted number of fans, 11,500 overall, watched the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays, whose players and families are being housed in a protective bubble from COVID-19, play in Game 1 in the spotlight event of Major League Baseball’s most unusual season.

Even getting to this point was not easy for MLB. The league and players union had bitter negotiations throughout the spring and into early summer before a shortened season even began. Within weeks of the rescheduled Opening Day on July 23, the Miami Marlins had a sustained outbreak of coronavirus — followed by an outbreak on the St. Louis Cardinals, although only two of the 45 MLB games postponed for COVID-related reasons were not eventually made up.

Even this season’s games were organized differently. There were no fans for all 898 games, which MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said is a major reason that MLB’s teams sustained a combined $3 billion in losses this season. Doubleheaders were seven innings apiece instead of the traditional nine innings. Extra-inning games saw each team’s at-bat start with a runner on second, a decision many traditionalists decried. While the rule was obstinately to speed up games, the average time of a nine-inning game this year was a record 3 hours, 7 minutes, 46 seconds.

Manfred, however, told The Associated Press that he hopes to keep the extra-inning rule as well as an expanded playoff field. This year’s postseason, with the final three rounds being held in a bubble format, was expanded to 16 teams from its regular 10, although future expansion will be a matter for negotiations between Manfred and players union leader Tony Clark.

And after a postseason in which the NLCS and World Series was held with a restricted number of fans in Arlington, the ability to have people in attendance next season will be crucial for MLB.

“We understand what happens with fans is going to be a product of what happens with the virus, what decisions public health authorities make in terms of mass gatherings,” Manfred told the AP. “It is a huge issue for us in terms of the economics of the game. The losses that I referred to earlier were basically in stone when we started the season because we knew about 40% of our revenue is gate-related and we knew we weren’t going to have it.”

Those will be discussions for later, although not too much later once the World Series does end. Seeking its elusive first title since 1988, the Dodgers won Game 1 behind a dominant start from Clayton Kershaw. And for the 50th day in a row, Major League Baseball was able to hold an event without a positive test. This season, that may just be enough to celebrate.

Tuesday, October 20

TENNIS: No Canceling Wimbledon in 2021, Club Says

Through all the focus — deservedly so — as professional, collegiate, amateur and youth sports in the United States have taken varied ways to return to action during this year while trying to minimize the risks of the coronavirus, one thing that may not have been as front and center were the myriad difficulties for professional tours that are worldwide.

There was the risk of virus outbreaks on the tours, for one thing. Then there was travel restrictions throughout the world based upon what country was making the decisions. Whether it was quarantine periods, testing or bubbles, worldwide events have had a particularly hard time of things.

One sport that has tried to put together as much of a worldwide schedule as possible is the WTA and ATP tennis tours. After a summer resumption of play in the United States with a tightened bubble doubleheader event in New York City capped by a U.S. Open without fans, the tour then quickly transitioned to clay court events in Europe with the French Open recently completed to cap the Grand Slam season.

But the grandest slam of all, Wimbledon, was noticeably absent. One of the biggest early events in the world to become canceled, the All England Lawn Tennis Club got perhaps as much attention for the fact that it had purchased pandemic insurance years ago for April’s announcement of the event’s cancellation itself, its first since World War II.

The AELTC made its first statement recently about next year, which is already facing queries given the rise of cases in the United Kingdom: Wimbledon will be held in 2021 — even if it has to adopt the same policy as the U.S. Open did this summer and have the event without fans.

“Staging the championships in 2021 is our number one priority and we are actively engaged in scenario planning in order to deliver on that priority,” Chief Executive Sally Bolton said, adding that organizers are planning on a series of contingencies that also do include the chance of having fans in some quantity.

While Wimbledon was canceled, each of the Grand Slams this year were held in less-than-ideal circumstances. The Australian Open was held as scheduled in the spring but during a period of horrible wildfires in the country. The U.S. Open was held during its scheduled dates with no fans while the French Open, typically held in May in Paris, was instead held in late September with a limited amount of fans on hand.

Monday, October 19

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Big Ten Already Walking Schedule Tightrope

The Big Ten Conference, which had postponed its football season temporarily to the spring before a hasty rework saw it schedule a compressed fall schedule, is already seeing the difficulties that may occur with attempting to play eight games in eight weeks.

Purdue Coach Jeff Brohm revealed that he has tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday. Brohm is undergoing a PCR test to confirm the results of the test as his team is scheduled to start its season on October 24 against Iowa. While Big Ten athletes who test positive are required to be held out for 21 days, coaches follow CDC guidelines that call for 10 days of isolation.

Unlike other Power 5 Conferences, the Big Ten does not have an extra week for the schedule worked into its plan ahead of the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis should there be any games that are canceled because of a COVID-19 outbreak within the team or staff. Of the three Power 5 Conferences that have already started its seasons — the Big 12, ACC and SEC — each has had at least two games moved around because of team outbreaks, showcasing the difficulty that the Big Ten will have ahead. The last of the Power 5 Conferences to kick off, the Pac-12, has a seven-game conference schedule that starts in the first week of November.

Notable coaches known to have tested positive for COVID-19 include Florida’s Dan Mullen, Florida State’s Mike Norvell, Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin and Kansas’ Les Miles. Alabama’s Nick Saban was cleared to coach the Crimson Tide on Saturday, three days after a false positive test.

Friday, October 16

NFL: League Could Get Through Weekend Without Postponements

After two dramatic weeks filled with postponements, reshuffled schedules and a full-fledged outbreak within one of its teams, the National Football League is on the verge of having its first weekend without a late postponement or cancellation in three weeks.

The schedule itself is not what was planned back in the offseason — there is a special Monday doubleheader and several games on the scheduled were shifted around a week ago. But overall, the league is moving forward without disruption even while some teams have had dodgy moments.

Drama ensued on Friday at two AFC team facilities, as the Indianapolis Colts shut down its complex after hearing four members of the organization had tested positive — before returning a negative test on Friday morning. The Atlanta Falcons had closed its facility on Thursday after a positive test but that was reportedly to an assistant coach and not a player.

One team that did have to close its facility for all of Friday and cancel practice was the New England Patriots, who reportedly had another player test positive. The team was awaiting the results of a second test to confirm the positive ahead of Sunday’s schedule game against the Denver Broncos. Both teams have already have their off weeks and should any additional positives be recorded, that would force the NFL to face a difficult decision with its scheduling.

Friday’s positive test for the Patriots comes the day after quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, most notably, practiced for the first time after being taken off the reserve/COVID-19 list. Newton’s positive test had forced the delay of New England’s game against Kansas City from Sunday, October 5 to the following day while Gilmore’s positive test came as the team was on an off week.

One team that has not had to deal with a positive test this week, the Arizona Cardinals, announced it will have 1,200 fans for its October 25 home game against the Seattle Seahawks. The Cardinals will be the 16th out of 32 NFL teams to have some level of attendance at home games this season. The 1,200 fans will be less than two percent of State Farm Stadium’s capacity. The Chargers, Rams, 49ers, Seahawks, Raiders, Packers, Bears, Vikings, Lions, Bills, Jets, Giants, Patriots, Saints, Washington and Ravens are the teams that have yet to play in front of a home crowd, although the Vikings have been allowed to have up to 250 family members in attendance for Sunday’s game against the Falcons.

Week 6 NFL Schedule

Sunday’s Games
Detroit at Jacksonville: Up to 16,791 fans will be in attendance
N.Y. Jets at Miami: Up to 13,000 fans will be in attendance
Cincinnati at Indianapolis: Up to 12,500 fans will be in attendance
Green Bay at Tampa Bay: Up to 10,000 fans will be in attendance
Houston at Tennessee: Up to 8,643 fans will be in attendance
Baltimore at Philadelphia: Up 7,500 people will be allowed in the stadium
Cleveland at Pittsburgh: Up 7,500 people will be allowed in the stadium
Chicago at Carolina: Up to 5,240 fans will be in attendance
Atlanta at Minnesota: Up to 250 family members of players will be in attendance
L.A. Rams at San Francisco: No fans until further notice
Denver at New England: No fans until further notice
Washington at N.Y. Giants: No fans until further notice
Monday’s Games
Arizona at Dallas: Close to 25,000 fans will be in attendance
Kansas City at Buffalo: No fans until further notice

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Alabama Coach’s Diagnosis May Be False Positive

News that rocked the Southeastern Conference on Wednesday was reversed on Friday as the University of Alabama announced that coach Nick Saban tested negative for COVID-19 and may be able to be on the sidelines Saturday night when the No. 2-ranked Tide host No. 3 Georgia in what will be the biggest college football game of the season so far.

The negative test was on Thursday afternoon and makes it possible that the positive test on Wednesday was a false positive. Alabama Head Athletic Trainer Jeff Allen said Saban was evaluated by a team physician on Friday and remains asymptomatic. If Saban is tested again on Friday afternoon and it comes up negative, he would be allowed to return to full activity.

The news that Saban had tested positive briefly gave rise to the issue of if the Alabama-Georgia game would be postponed; while the game as of now is going full steam ahead, two SEC games scheduled for this weekend were already postponed earlier in the week, including a big tilt between Florida and defending national champions LSU. With outbreaks going on at Florida, Vanderbilt — necessitating the postponement of its game against Missouri — along with positive tests at Mississippi, it makes college football cross a threshold it was hoping to avoid: Every conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision has had at least one game postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus.

The postponements shuffled schedules around for several SEC schools on Friday as the league continues to deal with the virus. Several of the league’s coaches have come under criticism for not correctly wearing facial coverings — if at all — and the league’s commissioner, Greg Sankey, reported told schools that each member would face cumulative penalties of up to $1 million for violations of sideline protocols when it comes to wearing masks.

Thursday, October 15

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEC Rocked by Postponement, Nick Saban’s COVID Diagnosis

Through the first few chaotic weeks of college football, with multiple non-conference games being postponed and cancelled and schedules being reworked on a regular basis, lying in wait was the Southeastern Conference.

At the time, the majority of popular opinion was the SEC played it correctly. The league did not make an early decision to not play and then have to deal with the fallout of a reversal of that decision, such as the Big Ten and Pac-12. It also decided it would only play conference games, which looked like smart once schools from the ACC and Big 12 had outbreaks in early September.

But now the league that often brags “it just means more” is facing the reality that COVID doesn’t care if the game does, in fact, mean more. The biggest game to date this season, No. 2-ranked Alabama hosting No. 3 Georgia in a Saturday prime-time kickoff, is hanging in the balance after Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban revealed on Wednesday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus and is self-isolating.

“I can do absolutely everything here,” Saban said from his home during a remote press conference. “I’ll have the same exact routine. … I didn’t leave the country or anything and we have this technology.”

Alabama Athletic Director Greg Byrne also tested positive, according to the school. Alabama, which started testing its players on a daily basis last month, will continue to test everybody within the football program on Thursday.

Alabama team physicians Jimmy Robinson and Jeff Allen said the school would follow the SEC’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force Protocol for testing asymptomatic positives, which both Saban and Byrne are. CDC guidelines say those with positive tests must isolate for 10 days and contact tracing requires a 14-day quarantine.

Another traditional SEC heavyweight clash, LSU at Florida, was postponed on Wednesday and will be scheduled for December 12 instead. Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin said the Gators, who paused practices on Tuesday, have 21 positives on the team.

Stricklin said the school suspects the team’s trip to play Texas A&M last weekend is the flashpoint for the outbreak — a game that, after the Gators lost, saw the biggest news made in the postgame when Florida Coach Dan Mullen said he wanted to see 100% capacity at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the then-scheduled LSU game. To no one’s surprise, Mullen backtracked on those comments on Wednesday.

CDC guidelines say those with positive tests must isolate for 10 days and contact tracing requires a 14-day quarantine. Those guidelines could put Florida’s game on October 24 against Missouri in jeopardy, although Stricklin said it was too soon to tell.

“Obviously we’ll be in communication with the Southeastern Conference and probably get Missouri, obviously as our next opponent, to kind of keep them abreast of what we’re seeing,” Stricklin said. “We’ll continue as I said our regular testing protocol for those who aren’t in quarantine, and hopefully we don’t have any more positives and we’re able to get on the other side of this and then we can get everyone back in a situation where you can go compete again.”

Florida-LSU is the second SEC game this week that has been postponed, joining Missouri against Vanderbilt. Commodores Coach Derek Mason said on Wednesday that his team has around “high 40s” of available scholarship players.

And even SEC schools with games not postponed are dealing with outbreaks. Mississippi Coach Lane Kiffin, whose team played Alabama last week, said they are dealing with a COVID-19 issue in the team and while he would not give exact numbers, admitted “we are hurting numbers wise.” Mississippi is scheduled to play Arkansas on Saturday.

Wednesday, October 14

NFL: Saints Want to Play at LSU if New Orleans Mayor Says No to Fans

There are 15 teams in the National Football League allowing fans, with more than 8,000 on hand for Tuesday night’s game between the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans — delayed because of an outbreak of COVID-19 within the Titans franchise that delayed the game.

Of the other NFL teams yet to play in front of home fans, one in particular has tried multiple times to get approval from local authorities. And after the latest rejection, the New Orleans Saints went public to suggest they would leave the city to find a venue where they can have in-person attendance.

Saints spokesman Greg Bensel said the team has talked about playing at Tiger Stadium on the campus of LSU, about 80 miles away from the Superdome. The Tigers are allowed by local authorities to have up to 25 percent capacity for in-person attendance — approximately 25,580 — and are experienced in hosting the Saints, having four games there in 2005 when the team was displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

“Our game operations staff is meeting with LSU officials [Tuesday] to discuss potentially hosting future Saints home games at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge,” Bensel said. “LSU has been gracious and enthusiastic regarding hosting our future games and we very much appreciate their partnership. We have also discussed the possibility of moving our home games to LSU with the NFL and they are aware of our exploring this option. Obviously, our overwhelming preference is to play our games in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with partial fan attendance but there has been no indication from the city on when, or if, this might be approved.”

The Saints’ next home game is October 25. New Orleans mayor LaToya Cantrell released her own statement, saying “while the Saints’ request for a special exception to the city’s COVID-19 guidelines remains under consideration, allowing 20K people in an indoor space presents significant public health concerns. At present, no NFL stadium in the country with a fixed-roof facility is allowing such an exception. We will continue to monitor the public health data, but cannot set an artificial timeline for how and when conditions may allow for the kind of special exemption being requested.”

One team this weekend which will have fans for the first time is the Philadelphia Eagles, who received permission from the state of Pennsylvania to have up to 7,500 people on hand which includes players, coaches, team and stadium personnel, media and fans.

While nearly half the teams in the league are allowed to have fans at games as it stands, that does not mean the allotments are being sold out. While the Dallas Cowboys are averaging just under 24,000 per game, the team’s total number of available tickets sold has not been public. And for every other team in the league hosting fans, none are averaging ‘sellouts’ — the Pittsburgh Steelers had fans in the stands for last weekend against the Eagles and said they would be selling 5,500 tickets. Only 4,708 attended.

Fan attendance will continue to be one of the hottest issues within the NFL this season in addition to player health protocols, especially in the light of the past two weeks’ worth of schedule reshuffling that has seen multiple games moved around. While NFL officials did not rule out the idea of adding an extra week to the regular season, the idea of a playoff bubble does not have much traction at this point.

“We don’t feel that is the safest course of action for us,” NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills said, while league executive Troy Vincent pointed to the emotional toll players from the NHL and NBA pointedly admitted to dealing with while in those respective leagues’ long-term bubbles to complete the seasons — both of which were achieved, it must be said, without any positive tests.

One thing the league has decided to do away with is the Pro Bowl, announcing that instead it will “will work closely with the NFLPA and other partners, to create a variety of engaging activities to replace the Pro Bowl game this season.” That will give the 2022 Pro Bowl to Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas instead of 2021; it also allows the league to utilize an extra week at the end of the regular season should that be needed for a series of postponed games.

Tuesday, October 13

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Florida Coach Wants 90,000 At Swamp on Saturday

Only those with a distinct bias against the University of Florida would not call the football team’s home stadium, The Swamp, one of the hardest places for a road team to win in the country. Set in a sinkhole, the venue has had sound levels measured as high as 115 decibels during games.

The Gators’ home opener against South Carolina did not come close to that type of noise. Restricted in its attendance to 17,000 by health and safety protocols, the team drew an announced 15,120 on October 3 against the Gamecocks.

So Florida coach Dan Mullen’s comments after his team’s loss this past Saturday at Texas A&M drew a mixture of shock and horror, saying — based off permission given by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to sports venues — he wanted to pack The Swamp to capacity on October 19 when the Gators host defending national champion LSU.

In fact, when Mullen first made the comments, he was explicitly asked as a follow-up if he was being serious and realized what he was saying.

“Absolutely I want to see 90,000 at The Swamp,” Mullen said. “The section behind our bench [today], I didn’t see an empty seat. It was packed; the entire student section; must have been 50,000 people behind our bench going crazy. Hopefully, that will create a home-field advantage for us next week because we’ve passed a law in our state that allows us to do that.”

(For accuracy’s sake, the Aggies announced a crowd of 24,709, under its allowable capacity of 25,683 this fall.)

Mullen’s boss, Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin, within hours of his coach’s postgame press conference told the Gainesville Sun and ESPN, “We continue to follow UF Health and campus safety guidelines.” And Mullen clarified Monday he had not talked with Stricklin about the attendance allowed for the LSU game.

Then on Tuesday came what some would call a Karma-enforced twist throughout the Gators program.

Mullen’s comments led to a series of predictable jokes as well about the SEC’s mantra of ‘it just means more.’ But that does not mean games will go off as planned. Vanderbilt’s game at Missouri scheduled for October 19 has been postponed until December 12 because the Commodores will not be able to suit up the minimum 53 players.

It is the first postponed game in the Southeastern Conference, which this year is only playing conference games to try and mitigate breakouts among teams. The Commodores only had 56 players active in a 41-7 rout to South Carolina; NCAA guidelines say a player who tests positive must sit for a minimum of 10 days and be symptom-free for three days prior to returning.

The SEC’s announcement was followed by another Power 5 cancellation as Baylor’s game against Oklahoma State, scheduled for October 19, will also be postponed to December 12. The move was made after the Bears had to pause activities last week — and Baylor Athletic Director Mack Rhoades then admitted there are 28 cases of COVID-19 among players and 14 cases among football staff members.

Rhoades, talking with SicEm365 Radio on Monday, said the outbreak may be linked to the team’s October 3 game at West Virginia and a false negative test that allowed an infected individual to travel.

The Big 12 is the same as the SEC in that a team must have 53 active players for a game to be played, including walk-on players. This is third time a game involving Baylor has been affected, including a September 12 season opener against Louisiana Tech and a September 19 game against Houston.

The two high-profile postponements brought college football’s difficulties in pulling off a season in the COVID-19 era back to light. While the National Football League has taken most of the headlines for the amount of schedule shuffling linked to positive COVID-19 tests on multiple teams, somewhat lost the past week was that college football’s schedule went off almost completely as planned with only two postponements — one of them included Florida Atlantic, whose coach confirmed that his team has 18 players and nine staffers currently dealing with the coronavirus.

Monday, October 12

NBA: As Lakers Win Title, League Celebrates Bubble Success

As the buzzer sounded and LeBron James celebrated with the rest of his Los Angeles Lakers teammates after winning the franchise’s 17th NBA championship, there was plenty of reason for the NBA’s front office and executive team to celebrate as well.

One of the league’s most ambitious projects, the ESPN Disney Wide World of Sports Bubble, was able to finish an abbreviated finish to the regular season as well as the full playoffs without a single positive test of COVID-19, the same achievement as the National Hockey League for the two most high-profile sports to have suspended their seasons in March.

“The pride of the sense that we’ve accomplished this against many obstacles,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said, “and at a time also when I think people needed to see this.”

While other leagues obviously had to suspend operations or delay their seasons, both the NHL and NBA made the calls to suspend play as the end of the regular season loomed before the postseason. And the NBA decided to restart its season after several months away, it also did so with a few innovations and tweaks to its typical format.

The 22 teams invited to the bubble — nine from the Eastern Conference and 13 from the West — were all either having already clinched a playoff spot or in the hunt for one. After an eight-game sprint to the finish, the NBA set up a play-in series that was activated in the West, with the Portland Trail Blazers beating the Memphis Grizzlies to earn the eighth seed in a play-in game. The postseason remained the same, with best-of-seven series for each round of the playoffs and no expanded postseason fields.

What cost the NBA a reported $150 million in the bubble resulted in strict protocols that famously included only using a deck of playing cards once before they were thrown away and no doubles ping-pong events so that social distancing was enforced. The league took up space in three hotels on the Disney campus and had additional housing for staff and referees, hiring chefs and having barbers as well. Once the conference semifinal rounds started, players were allowed to bring a limited number of family members into the bubble — but only after testing protocols and quarantine periods were satisfied.

“I’m most proud that we collectively came together as a community and pulled this off,” said Silver before Game 1 between the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers. “By that I mean all of the stakeholders. The players, the team governors, 30 teams — not just 22 teams — the support we received from our fans.”

What happens next for the NBA is to be determined. The league will not start its 2020–2021 season in its traditional fall date for obvious reasons. There was talk about a big Christmas Day debut for next season, although Silver and the players association seem to be leaning more toward January for a start date. Not just when the next season would start but also under what protocols — another bubble has received a tepid response from players given the time away from family, but the chances of having indoor events at this point still looks to be extremely uncertain.

Those discussions have already started and will continue on another day. Sunday night and Monday morning, however, was a time to reflect for the league on what it was able to accomplish.

Sunday, October 11

NFL: The League Reshuffles Its Schedule

Like a game of whack-a-mole, the National Football League is taking each week and throwing games into new days and time slots to try and make sure that it stays on track in spite of an outbreak among the Tennessee Titans that refuses to dissipate — as well as two positive tests to star players on the New England Patriots.

In all, the schedule adjustments released on Sunday affect nine teams — New England, Tennessee, Denver, Buffalo, Kansas City, Miami, the Los Angeles Chargers, New York Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars — leading many to half-jokingly suggest that the league’s schedule maker will end the season as the Most Valuable Player award winner.

Denver’s game at New England,  scheduled for Sunday and then moved to Monday night, will be played next Sunday afternoon. Kansas City’s game at Buffalo has been moved from Thursday night to Sunday, October 19 while the Bills’ game at the Titans scheduled for this coming Tuesday night remains on schedule.

Other changes:

  • Jets at Chargers moves from Week 6 to Week 11.
  • Jaguars at Chargers moves from Week 8 to Week 7.
  • Chargers at Broncos moves from Week 11 to Week 8.
  • Chargers at Dolphins moves from Week 7 to Week 10.
  • Dolphins at Broncos moves from Week 6 to Week 11.

Sunday’s Games

Las Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs: Up to 16,000 fans will be allowed
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans: Up to 13,300 fans will be allowed
Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland Browns: Up to 12,000 fans will be allowed
Philadelphia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers: Up to 5,500 fans will be allowed
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons: A “limited capacity” of fans will be allowed
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys: A “limited capacity” of fans will be allowed
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens: Immediate family members will be allowed
Arizona Cardinals at New York Jets: No fans until further notice
Los Angeles Rams at Washington Football Team: No fans until further notice
Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers: No fans until further notice
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks: No fans until further notice

Monday’s Games

Los Angeles Chargers at New Orleans Saints: New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell denied the Saints’ request for up to 18,000 fans.

Tuesday’s Game

Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans: Up to 8,500 fans will be allowed

MLS: Three Games Postponed Because of COVID

Major League Soccer has postponed three matches in the space of 24 hours amid an escalating number of positive coronavirus tests throughout the league, including the fourth consecutive match for the Colorado Rapids.

MLS originally postponed the match between the Rapids and the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday after a Rapids player tested positive for the coronavirus, then added Sunday’s Columbus match against Orlando City and the FC Dallas-Minnesota United match to the list.

Twelve Colorado staff members and five players have tested positive since September 24. Matches against Sporting Kansas City, the Portland Timbers and LAFC have already been postponed. The Rapids must now try to fit in 10 matches by the scheduled end of the regular season on November 8.

The Crew match was postponed following two confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Columbus staff, and Dallas-Minnesota was delayed after two confirmed positive cases among Minnesota’s player pool.

Thursday, October 8

NFL: More Positive Tests on Titans Puts Another Game at Risk

The NFL’s Chief Medical Officer left the door ajar for further steps to stop the spread of COVID-19 — including a suspension of the season — after more positive tests on the Tennessee Titans were revealed days after Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to teams detailing punishments for breaking protocols that include the possibility of games being forfeited.

Dr. Allen Sills, NFL Chief Medical Officer, said “nothing is off the table” in an NFL Network interview on Wednesday after the latest positives on the Titans — bringing the total up to 21 positive tests since September 24, including 11 players — as well as a positive test confirmed by Patriots defensive back Stephon Gilmore. Thursday morning brought reports of more positives on the Titans, increasing the odds that Sunday’s scheduled game against the Buffalo Bills may not happen as well.

The Patriots’ game this past weekend against the Kansas City Chiefs was postponed by one day to Monday night after New England quarterback Cam Newton reportedly tested positive. Tennessee’s game against Pittsburgh was postponed until later in the season.

The NFL was universally praised after having three weeks of the season go off without a disruption. But the league and NFL Players Association on Wednesday announced the COVID-19 monitoring testing results for September 20 – October 3 which showed that in that time span, there have been 13 player positives and 19 staff personnel positives.

“In the nine weeks since the beginning of training camp, we have had a number of isolated, new positive cases of COVID among players and other personnel across nearly two-thirds of NFL clubs and one outbreak among the Tennessee Titans,” said Sills in a release. “We have said all along that we expect positive cases. As long as the virus is endemic in our communities, we will see new cases among our teams. Risk mitigation, not elimination, is the key.”

Further reports indicate several Titans players broke protocols put in place by the league and players association and held unofficial practices at a school in Nashville after being told not to engage in any in-person activities. Yahoo Sports reported it could lead to penalties being levied against the organization that were “not a matter of if, but when and how severe.”

According to the Yahoo report, Goodell on Monday sent a memo to teams that “protocol violations that result in virus spread requiring adjustments to the schedule or otherwise impacting other teams will result in additional financial and competitive discipline, including the adjustment or loss of draft choices or even the forfeit of a game.”

All the while, teams are going ahead with plans to have fans in attendance. The policies have varied: the Pittsburgh Steelers will have up to 5,500 fans on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, the first time that the team has had fans in the stands. Two teams have announced home capacities for the rest of the season with the Denver Broncos hosting 5,700 fans and the Cleveland Browns hosting 12,000 fans. But there are teams holding off on attendance such as the Green Bay Packers, who said it will continue holding games without fans for now.

There is also the question of teams playing in front of restricted capacities not selling out their allotment. While the Dallas Cowboys have averaged 25,021 fans at its two home games, the Houston Texans are allowed up to 13,300 fans but last weekend only drew 12,102. The Kansas City Chiefs have been able to hold up to 16,000 fans this season but are averaging 14,312.

Then there is the case of the Florida teams given that Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday said the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins can have capacity crowds going forward. None of the teams said they would do so; the Dolphins explicitly said it would remain at its cap of 13,000, which has not been reached at either of its home games so far this season. The Jaguars said they would allow up to 17,000 fans but through two games are averaging 15,331; the Buccaneers have drawn an average of 6,383 through two games.

Wednesday, October 7

MLS: More Positives on Colorado Rapids Postpones Another Game

Right before the MLS is Back Tournament started in Orlando, Florida, Major League Soccer forced a quick decision on two teams that had outbreaks within their teams. And before group-play did get underway, the league sent FC Dallas and Nashville SC home.

The league, which after those teams were withdrawn were able to get through the rest of the bubble tournament without any positives, are now dealing with an outbreak on another team — this time the Colorado Rapids, which had another staffer test positive today and had its game scheduled for tonight at home against LAFC postponed.

The postponement is the third in a row for the Rapids, which have had four players and 12 staffers test positive in the past two weeks.The Rapids last played on September 23 when they beat San Jose 5-0 and since have had games against Portland and Kansas City already postponed before the LAFC decision.

Colorado, sitting in seventh place in the Western Conference which will have eight teams advance to the playoffs, has less than a month to play 10 matches to finish its 23-game regular-season schedule by MLS Decision Day on November 8. Its next scheduled game is Saturday at home against the Los Angeles Galaxy.

NHL: 2021 Season May Start on New Year’s Day

The 2020-21 NHL season will be, essentially, a 2021 NHL season with the league and players’ association looking at a target opening day of January 1, 2021. A four-year extension of the NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement that was ratified July 10 a tenative start date of December 1 but with obvious qualifiers about the spread of COVID-19 have led to the mulled delay in a start.

“We really haven’t focused precisely on what we’re going to be doing next season,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday on the NHL Network. “I think it’s fairly clear that while December 1 has always been a notional date, we’re focused on the fact that we’re really looking now at January 1 to start the season up. Our hope is to have a full season, full regular season and to have fans in the building, but there are a lot of things that have to transpire, many of which if not most of which are beyond our control before we can finalize our plans.”

The NHL paused the 2019-20 season March 12 before action resumed August 1 in a bubble format with Eastern Conference games and playoffs being held in Toronto and the Western Conference being held in Edmonton. Both conference finals were held in Edmonton before the Stanley Cup Final, won by the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games over the Dallas Stars. In the 65 days after teams entered Toronto and Edmonton on July 26, there were 33,174 tests administered to team personnel with zero positives for COVID-19.”The key was clearly the collaboration and cooperation we got from everybody, starting with the players and the players’ association, all of our clubs and particularly the owners in the NHL,”  Bettman said. “We all had to work together if we were going to make this a reality, and it’s something that we and the players very much wanted to do. The players wanted to complete the season they started, but most importantly, we heard from our fans that they wanted us to complete the season as well, and that’s what it was all about.”

Tuesday, October 6

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEC Teams Face Criticism for Medical Protocols

As the National Football League maintains and continually reinforces its strict protocols for wearing facial coverings for coaches on the sidelines and among fans in the stands, college football is trying — and in some high-profile instances, failing — to do the same.

Days after Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey sent a memo to league schools reminding coaches and players to wear masks while on the sideline during games and threatening “additional action” if they do not follow the conference’s COVID-19 protocols, one of the league’s schools said they would no longer require a CDC wellness check before attending games and another promised they would try to do better after several social media posts indicated a failure in fan protocols.

At defending national champions LSU, where attendance is restricted to a maximum of 25,580, the team’s season opener had an announced attendance of 21,124 in a loss to Mississippi State. But for upcoming home games, the school has announced that a medical wellness check will not be required for fans “to reduce lines and wait times at gate entry points.”

LSU athletics said they “encourage fans to conduct a self-assessment before heading to the game to check for COVID-19 symptoms” but also announced that it will resume selling alcohol and will open all concession stands in the south lower section at Tiger Stadium.

The school did try to emphasize that masks are required in seating areas after admitting “a large percentage of fans removed their masks” once seated.

The same look went viral multiple times on social media as the University of Georgia hosted Auburn in the weekend’s marquee game on the schedule. While the Bulldogs won handily, what was discussed just as much was the conduct of the announced crowd of 20,504 — below the school’s cap of 23,180 for this season.

Georgia Senior Deputy Athletic Director Josh Brooks told local media that more staffing and better enforcement in the lower north sections would be enforced to remind fans to stay in their assigned areas while students will be funneled to two other areas in the stadium.

Social media was alive with images of fans not wearing masks from the ESPN broadcast. While the SEC’s fan health and safety fan guidelines include “face coverings (over the nose and mouth) shall be required as a condition of all guest ingress, egress, and movement throughout the stadium,” because that policy does not extend to those in seating areas, face coverings are not required for those in their seats by Georgia.

Brooks said not requiring face covering “is a decision we made that we feel comfortable with.”

Monday, October 5

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Two More Bowl Games Canceled by Pandemic

The college football bowl season, some have said in the past few years, is bloated beyond recognition with nearly four dozen events across the United States and beyond and giving teams that do not deserve a postseason opportunity the chance to have one more game.

Whether or not those naysayers continue to believe that will be interesting this college football postseason as at least three bowl games will not be held because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Redbox Bowl, which previously announced it would not be held this season in Santa Clara, California, was joined over the weekend by the Hawaii Bowl and Bahamas Bowls.

[How College Football Bowl Season May Be Radically Different This Year]

One difference between the announcement over the weekend about the Hawaii and Bahamas Bowls is that because of cross-border travel to the Bahamas, as well as Hawaii’s rules for incoming visitors, there are too many questions to be answered in a short period of time between when bowls make their selections and teams begin to prepare. Even in the best of circumstances, teams sometimes do not arrive at a bowl destination until a week or less before kickoff.

The Hawaii and Bahamas Bowls are owned and operated by ESPN Events. College basketball tournaments traditionally held in Hawaii and the Bahamas have also been canceled for this season.

“We are disappointed that we aren’t able to stage events at these premier destinations this year,” said Pete Derzis, ESPN senior vice president of college sports programming and ESPN Events. “We are committed to bringing both games back in 2021, and we thank our conference partners, sponsors and the local communities for their ongoing support and understanding.”

There are 39 bowl games currently on the schedule for 2020; unlike in past years, this year teams will not have to win a minimum number of games to be bowl eligible.

The Bahamas Bowl matchup this year was set to be Conference USA vs Mid-American Conference teams. The Hawaii Bowl was set to host a team from the Mountain West and a C-USA team.

Saturday, October 3

NFL: Marquee Patriots-Chiefs Game Delayed After Positive Tests

One of the marquee early-season games for the National Football League scheduled for this weekend, the New England Patriots against the Kansas City Chiefs, has been postponed from Sunday afternoon after one player apiece on both teams have tested positive for COVID-19.

As a result of the positive tests, the NFL said Sunday’s scheduled game will be played either Monday or Tuesday. Multiple reports indicate that the positive from the Chiefs roster came from a backup quarterback on the team’s practice squad; reports also said that the Patriots player who is positive is quarterback Cam Newton, although the Patriots did not confirm that.

“Late last night, we received notice that a Patriots player tested positive for COVID-19. The player immediately entered self-quarantine,” the Patriots said in a statement Saturday. “Several additional players, coaches and staff who have been in close contact with the player received point of care tests this morning and all were negative for COVID-19.”

It is the second game scheduled for this weekend that has been postponed because of positive tests on a team after the scheduled for Sunday between Tennessee and Pittsburgh was postponed because of a COVID-19 outbreak among the Titans.

That game will be played on October 25, the league announced on Thursday. Multiple reports predicted the NFL would make what was the easiest potential adjustment to the schedule to fit the game back in by moving the Steelers’ scheduled Week 7 game against the Baltimore Ravens back one week, then rescheduling the Titans-Steelers game for Week 7 when Tennessee was already scheduled to be off.

The number of positive tests on the Titans increased on Saturday as ESPN reported there are now eight on the team’s roster who have COVID-19 in addition to eight staffers.

The Minnesota Vikings, who played the Titans last weekend, have had no positive results in testing. Their facility was reopened on Thursday.

In the wake of the virus spreading throughout the Titans organization, along with multiple members of the Las Vegas Raiders going to an indoor charity event without wearing facial coverings, the NFL has sent to each of its teams a memo detailing even more enhanced protocols for franchises to follow through with. Among them are two daily tests, including a point-of-care test that returns faster results. All players and coaches must also be wearing PPE and facial coverings on the practice field and gloves must be worn by every player except quarterbacks on their throwing hand. All meetings between teams and even positional breakdowns must be done virtually and there will be a prohibition against team or player gatherings away from the team facility.

Friday, October 2

SOCCER: MLS Postpones Second Rapids Game

The NFL was the first pro league on Thursday to announce a postponement due to COVID-19, followed by Major League Soccer later in the day. MLS, which had to postpone last week’s game for the Colorado Rapids against Sporting Kansas City after multiple players and staffers tested positive for Colorado, will also postpone the Rapids’ scheduled game on Saturday at the Portland Timbers.

The Athletic reported that two players and nine staffers on Colorado have tested positive for COVID-19 since last Thursday. MLS said that Saturday’s game will be rescheduled for November 4, a few days before the end of the regular season currently scheduled for November 8.

The Rapids closed their training facility and have not trained since September 24, when the first cases of COVID were confirmed.  All players and staff with confirmed cases have entered self-isolation; those who have continued to receive negative results have remained in self-quarantine while following MLS health and safety protocols.

Between the postponements of games against Sporting KC and now Portland, Colorado — should it be allowed to play its next game as scheduled on October 7 — would have to play 10 games in 33 days to fulfill its regular-season schedule. The Rapids are also in the midst of a Western Conference playoff race; the team is in fifth place but only three points ahead of ninth-place Houston.

The postponed games involving Colorado are the first that MLS has had to move because of COVID-19 since it returned to playing matches in home markets. Both FC Dallas and Nashville SC had a run of positive tests ahead of the MLS is Back tournament that ultimately forced both teams to withdraw from the tournament in July that was held at a bubble environment at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida.

Thursday, October 1

BASEBALL: MLB Planning Fans for NLCS, World Series in Arlington

Having gone the entire season — such as it has been — without fans in attendance, Major League Baseball will have up to 11,500 fans in attendance at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, when the new home of the Texas Rangers hosts the National League Championship Series and World Series later this month.

The ballpark will have 10,550 fans spread throughout the ballpark with another 950 given suite seating; the total fans in attendance will be just under 30% of the total seating available at the stadium. Tickets are priced at $40-250 for the National League Championship Series and $75-450 for the World Series.

The National League Championship Series begins October 12 with the World Series starting on October 20 — the first time in baseball history that the Series will be held at a neutral site. But then again, this MLB season has seen a lot of firsts — from an abbreviated 60-game season to seven-inning doubleheaders, with extra-inning games seeing a runner placed at second to start each at-bat and now, after an expanded first round of the playoffs, having the rest of the postseason played at neutral sites with the American League going to National League ballparks in Los Angeles and San Diego while the NL goes to AL ballparks in Houston and Arlington.

Among the fan protocols that will be enforced at Globe Life Field is tickets in the seating bowl will be sold in groups of four, with no seats sold within 20 feet of where a player would be located either on the field, dugout or bullpen. Masks will be mandatory for fans except when eating or drinking at their seats and hand sanitizing stations will be placed throughout the venue. No bags will also be permitted except for medical reasons or diaper bags for infants or young children.

Wednesday, September 30

NFL: League Deals with Fallout After First Postponed Game

The National Football League is dealing with its first outbreak of COVID-19 on a team as a series of positive tests on the Tennessee Titans have forced the league to postpone its game scheduled for Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“The Steelers-Titans game, originally scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, will be rescheduled to allow additional time for further daily COVID-19 testing and to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel. Details on the new game date and time on either Monday or Tuesday will be announced as soon as possible,” the league said in a short statement.

The postponement follows positive tests among the Titans from four players and five team personnel members this week, forcing a closure of the team’s facilities until Saturday.

ESPN reported that the Minnesota Vikings, who played the Titans on Sunday, had no positive results in their latest round of testing. The Vikings’ facilities were closed on Tuesday ahead of the team’s game on Sunday at the Houston Texans, who were scheduled for that game to have fans in their stadium for the first time this season.

The postponement of a game this season comes on the heels of what were almost three full weeks of clean tests throughout the league, which has been diligent as well about coaches who were not wearing facial coverings on the sidelines with multiple fines already issued. The league continued its warnings to teams for failure to comply with pre-approved protocols on Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 29

ANALYSIS: As NHL Completes Virus-Free Bubble, NFL and MLS Deal With Team Outbreaks

One of the broader debates about professional sports restarting in the COVID-19 era has been which is the best showcase to do it. While there have been leagues that have gone into the bubble to keep the threat of an outbreak away, others have tried to play in-market matches and do daily testing in the hopes of controlling spreads.

That dichotomy may not have been on a broader display than in the past 24 hours, in which the National Hockey League crowned its Stanley Cup champion in the Tampa Bay Lightning and simultaneously celebrated as a league the fact that its entire restart, held in bubble environments located in Toronto and Edmonton, did not have a single positive case over the course of months of action.

The numbers from the NHL were staggering: 130 games in 59 days and during the time that players entered the bubbles in Canada on July 26, the league conducted 33,174 tests without any cases of COVID-19.

“We did what we set out to do,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said after handing the Cup to the Lightning.

And on Tuesday morning, after three weeks of being able to have no interruptions during its schedule, the National Football League is now dealing with its first outbreak of multiple positives among one team. The league has confirmed that at least nine members between the active roster and team staff of the Tennessee Titans have tested positive in the past four days, which overlaps with the team’s game this past Sunday at the Minnesota Vikings.

As the league deals with its first outbreak on a team, two more franchises — Houston and Tampa Bay — announced plans to have fans on site for games this coming Sunday. The Texans announced that up to 13,300 fans will be allowed for the team’s game, scheduled against the Vikings, while the Buccaneers will have a limited number of season-ticket holders on hand against the San Diego Chargers with the goal of having up to 25% capacity for its October 18 home game, announced the Tampa Sports Authority.

Should those teams continue ahead with their plans, that would make 13 out of the league’s 32 teams either planning to this week have fans for the first time or having already had fans at home games. Only the Dallas Cowboys have had more than 16,000 fans on site for a game this season, allowing in 21,708 to its home game against the Atlanta Falcons on September 13.

While the Vikings have closed their team facility until further test results are revealed, the Titans have closed their practice facility until Saturday at the earliest — one day before the team is scheduled to play against the Pittsburgh Steelers. NFL Network has reported that the team is preparing to play the game at this point.

The NFL is — as of this moment — not planning to adjust its schedule for the weekend, but one pro sports league had to cancel a game this previous weekend: Major League Soccer postponed the game between Colorado and Sporting Kansas City after two players and 10 staff members of the Rapids tested positive for COVID-19. Colorado’s next game is scheduled to be October 3 against the Portland Timbers and start a stretch of five games for the team in a 15-day period; the status of that game is uncertain.

Monday, September 28

ANALYSIS: Fans Starting To Be Welcomed Back at Venues

Fans are slowly starting to come back to sports throughout the United States — in limited quantities.

In the NFL and Major League Soccer, pro leagues that have had teams play in front of fans, the biggest crowd has been 21,708 for the Dallas Cowboys’ home opener against the Atlanta Falcons. Of the eight NFL teams that have allowed fans into home games so far, only Dallas has had more than 16,000. Of the MLS teams that have allowed fans, none of them have allowed more than 5,000. In college football, only eight of the teams playing this season currently will allow 20,000 or more to attend.

The trends are similar throughout European sports as well. The French Open, which started on Sunday, was planning on having 5,000 spectators per day before government leaders said the tournament must be in line with the same measures other businesses have in place to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19, dropping the maximum spectators each day at Roland Garros to 1,000. That number is only the latest downsizing of a projected crowd — the French Tennis Federation in July said that it planned to have 20,000 fans per day, then revised it down to 11,500 at the start of September, then 5,000 two weeks before the tournament before the current number.

The maximum of 1,000 also is enforced at Ligue 1 soccer games in France plans from the league’s original plans for 5,000. Serie A in Italy also is allowed 1,000 for games and that is 1,000 more than will be allowed at English soccer games around the country, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson delayed the planned return of fans to sport — scheduled for October 1 — indefinitely after a rise in COVID-19 infection rates. Spain’s La Liga also has decided to close off fans from games with plans for 30% capacity maximums enforced put on hold.

Then there is the Bundesliga in Germany, which has allowed crowds of 20% of stadium capacity with the caveat that clubs must get health and safety permission from their federal states first for the seats to be filled. That has led to 9,300 fans attending Borussia Dortmund’s season opener while games at clubs such as Bayern Munich remain off-limits to fans. For now, at least.

Friday, September 25

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Pac-12 Completes Power 5 Return to Play

There have been some historic comebacks in college football, but maybe nothing like what the sport overall has experienced from early August until now.

The Pac-12 Conference and Mountain West Conference both announced on Thursday that it would be changing its plans and having football seasons this fall instead of the spring, with the Mountain West starting an eight-game conference season on October 24 and the Pac-12 holding a seven-game conference season starting November 6.

The Pac-12’s season will include each team playing five divisional games plus one cross-division game before the conference championship game on December 18 – with the remaining teams not in the title game having a bonus cross-division game. The league also announced that winter sports would be allowed to begin before January 1, another reversal of an earlier decision and allowing its men’s and women’s basketball teams to participate in early-season tournaments.

The decision to resume competitions, the Pac-12 said, was based on updated Medical Advisory Committee recommendations.

“From the beginning of this crisis, our focus has been on following the science, data and counsel of our public health and infectious disease experts,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.  “Our agreement with Quidel to provide daily rapid-results testing has been a game-changer in enabling us to move forward with confidence that we can create a safe environment for our student-athletes while giving them the opportunity to pursue their dreams. At the same time, we will continue to monitor health conditions and data and be ready to adjust as required in the name of the health of all.”

It would be remiss to also note the financial incentives for playing this fall. While a Pac-12 team hasn’t made the College Football Playoff since Washington at the end of the 2016 season, there was a $66 million base payout to each of the Power 5 conferences last year; ESPN reported that the league will not be ineligible for a payout this year even with a shorter schedule than its other Power 5 cohorts.

The Pac-12 and Big Ten Conferences in August were the two Power 5 leagues that struck out on their own, announcing a postponement for football with the indication at the time that a spring season would be scheduled. Both conferences in their respective return to fall season have cited the availability of rapid daily testing to member schools.

Still, it was not that simple. While the Big Ten announced last week that it would have a fall season, the Pac-12’s initial stance was to point out that government restrictions in California and Oregon prevented six of the league’s schools from holding practices. But within 24 hours, governors from both states indicated that it was not the case and that schools would start preparing for a shortened season.

The Mountain West’s announcement — “subject to approval from state, county and local officials” the league said — indicated that the 8-game season will end with a championship game on December 19. As it stands, the only FBS conference that will still be having a spring season is the Mid-American Conference along with independent schools Connecticut, Old Dominion and New Mexico State. Reportedly, the MAC is working on an abbreviated season similar to what the MWC and Pac-12 will be doing.

If so, that would make November almost like a normal month in a college football season … should there be no outbreaks throughout each conference, which has been an issue. After all, the University of Houston’s scheduled game for Saturday against North Texas was canceled on Tuesday — marking the fifth consecutive week an attempt for the Cougars to open the season has been delayed.

Thursday, September 24

PRO SPORTS: NBA, NHL Caution Next Season Likely To Be Delayed

Of the bubbles that have existed and are existing in the sports world, two of the more ambitious ones are the NBA’s in Orlando, Florida, and the NHL’s in Canada, first in two sites and now with the Stanley Cup Final in Edmonton.

Being able to finish their regular season — albeit in a shortened fashion in the bubbles — before going to the postseason with new formats to match what has been a unique year was the goal for both leagues. Both of them have had the longest stretches of bubbles for a pro league.

Both leagues also are already preparing fans and everyone associated with the NBA and NHL for the idea that if you thought the 2019–2020 season was unusual, there still is no guarantee that anything about a future 2020–2021 season will be normal.

That was reinforced by the commissioners of both leagues over the past week, with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver saying on CNN that his guess is the league will not start until after January 1 and NHL Comissioner Gary Bettman refusing to guarantee that his league wouldn’t be delayed as well.

For the NBA’s part, conversation has always ranged about having the league start on Christmas Day, which has traditionally been one of the biggest days of the regular season. The chance to start later than usual and after the NFL’s regular season is almost fully complete was anticipated by many fans.

But Christmas Day may still be too soon, Silver told Bob Costas during a CNN interview. The NBA has delayed the date of the 2020 draft to November 18 ahead of the league and players’ union having to negotiate amendments to the collective bargaining agreement and agree on a salary cap and luxury tax thresholds for the next season.

While a standard season would remain 82 games and full postseason, Silver said roughly 40% of the league’s annual revenues — projected once at as much as $8 billion — is tied to having fans at games.

“There’s still a lot that we need to learn in terms of rapid testing, for example,” Silver said. “Would that be a means of getting fans into our buildings? Will there be other protections?”

But when the season will start is as up in the air for the NHL as the NBA, with Bettman saying on Saturday ahead of the start of the Stanley Cup Final between Tampa Bay and Dallas that “there’s still too much we don’t know” about next season.

“Nobody can tell me whether or not the border between Canada and the United States will be open by a certain date,” Bettman said. “Nobody can tell me what the state of COVID-19 is going to be; nobody can tell us whether our arenas will have either socially distanced or fully occupied buildings.”

The NHL’s bubble has had zero positives out of more than 30,000 COVID-19 tests between action in Toronto and Edmonton. Given the restriction on cross-border travel, there also may be the potential for a one-season realignment that would include an all-Canadian division.

“If there’s an option to consider it, believe me, we’ll consider it,” Bettman said.

Sounds about right for the NBA, NHL or any sports organization this year and into 2021.

Wednesday, September 23

NFL: Fans Start Being Allowed Back at Stadiums

The National Football League has gotten through the first two weeks of the season with flying colors, including a clean round of COVID-19 testing among players this past weekend. It has been universally regarded as a near-perfect start for the league and even those who doubted the league’s viability to have games in a pandemic have been impressed, especially compared to the stop-start nature of college football.

One thing that the NFL has also been doing is having fans in a few stadiums so far, although that number looks to be rising. With the Atlanta Falcons’ announcement that it plans to have 500 fans in attendance for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears, that would make 11 out of the league’s 32 teams with plans to have fans so far this season.

“We are thrilled to invite fans of both the Falcons and Atlanta United back to Mercedes-Benz Stadium,” says Steve Cannon, chief executive officer of AMB Sports and Entertainment. “Having fans watch from alternative locations was a difficult, but important decision. It’s been challenging for both teams to play without fans, but their well-being as well as the safety of our associates and fans was paramount.”

[Podcast: The NFL’s Peter O’Reilly on how the league pulled off its virtual draft]

The Falcons’ announcement on Tuesday comes on the same day that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said large outdoor venues in the state could allow up to seven percent capacity beginning October 2. Under that announcement, the Carolina Panthers would be allowed to have around 5,000 fans for its home games starting October 4 against the Arizona Cardinals.

Six teams — Dallas, Cleveland, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Miami and Jacksonville — have had a restricted number of fans at games so far this season. The numbers have varied from 2,500 at the Colts’ game this past Sunday against Minnesota, which works out to four percent of capacity, to the Browns having 10% capacity at its stadium.

The Dolphins have had 20% capacity while the Chiefs were at 22% for its home opener, and both the Jaguars and Cowboys allowed 25% capacity at its home openers.

Along with the six teams that have had fans already and the Falcons and Panthers’ plans, the other three teams scheduled to have fans in attendance are the Denver Broncos, who will have 7.5% capacity for its game Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; the Tennessee Titans, which on October 4 against the Pittsburgh Steelers will be allowed to fill 10% capacity of its venue, or approximately 6,900 fans; and the Cincinnati Bengals have been given allowance by the state of Ohio to have up to 6,000 fans for its home games in October.

While two of the three NFL teams in Florida have had fans already at games, the one that has not is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — not only the new home of Tom Brady, but the host in February for the Super Bowl. The Buccaneers announced before the season that it would not have fans for at least the first two home games and the NFL admitted that the potential of having a fan-less Super Bowl is one they have to prepare for.

“Our hope is going to be to fill this stadium with fans,” said Jonathan Barker, head of live events and production for the NFL, to the Tampa Bay Times. “That’s our hope. But the smart thing to do is to prepare just in case. If we find ourselves on February 7 where we’re in different scenario, we’re going to just make sure we’re ready for that.”

Tuesday, September 22

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Cancellations Continue as Mountain West May Return

What looked around Labor Day weekend to be a slimmed down version of a college football season may now, in what can only be considered an unlikely outcome, almost an entirely full season.

The report Monday from Yahoo Sports that the Mountain West Conference is on the verge of announcing its return to play this fall is the latest in a series of reversals that could see almost all of the Football Bowl Subdivision playing this season.

According to the report, the Mountain West’s athletic directors could vote this week on a return to play schedule with an eight-game season that starts October 24 and would end on December 19 with the league championship game, which would be the day before the College Football Playoff field is scheduled to be announced.

Should the MW move become official, the eyes of college football’s world will turn to the Mid-American Conference, which has reportedly been considering an eight-game season, as well as the Pac-12 Conference, which has had conversations about a return to play for several weeks but may not be able to start its season until Halloween.

Even the University of Massachusetts, an independent program, is getting back into the fall season. The Minutemen said Monday they will be working on a “competitive multi-contest schedule” in a season in which games are thrown together with sometimes less than two weeks’ notice.

The issue with throwing together games on short notice, as this season has shown, is they also can be canceled on short notice. The scheduled game between Baylor and Houston on September 19 was canceled the day before — the fourth consecutive weekend that a prospective season opener for both teams was nixed.

It was only the latest in a series of games that have been postponed as teams undergo regular testing that reveals outbreaks within their programs. Memphis, which started the season with a home win on September 5, has not played since after multiple players tested positive in the wake of its victory. The Tigers have already canceled its scheduled game for September 25 against UTSA following a cancellation against Purdue and postponement against Houston; as is befitting this season, as Memphis announced a cancellation this week, it also announced in the same release that it has added a game on November 21 against Stephen F. Austin.

Memphis’ outbreak came after a non-conference game; among the Power 5 Conferences, only the ACC and Big 12 allowed schools to have non-conference games and now that they are into conference play, the ACC is having to move games around — the latest being announced on Tuesday afternoon as Notre Dame, having had seven players test positive this week, was forced to postpone its game scheduled for September 26 against Wake Forest.

Virginia Tech is scheduled to open its season on September 26 against North Carolina State, but Hokies’ coach Justin Fuente has admitted “we will not have a full roster. I hope we’re able to play” depending on the number of available health players. The game between the teams is only on September 26 because its original date of September 12 came too early for the Wolfpack, who had to pause their preseason because of an outbreak. Virginia Tech, meanwhile, would have opened its season on September 19 before its game against Virginia got postponed to December after a number of positives on the Hokies’ program forced a four-day pause in football activities.

Confused? Welcome to college football.

SOCCER: U.S. National Team Matches Postponed

U.S. Soccer has decided to forgo playing matches for the men’s national team during the FIFA window in October. The men’s national team last played on February 1 in Carson, California, in a 1-0 friendly win over Costa Rica.

“After extensive conversations about holding a Men’s National Team camp in October, we ultimately determined the unique challenges created by COVID-19 as it relates to hosting international opponents and getting our players together wouldn’t allow us to move forward,” said U.S. Men’s National Team General Manager Brian McBride. “We appreciate the incredible amount of work our staff did and the discussions we had with Major League Soccer to try and address concerns and find solutions. While we won’t have the team together in this upcoming window, we are making considerable progress for November.”

Friendlies against Netherlands and Wales were postponed in March, along with the CONCACAF Nations League Final Four in June in Texas and the start of 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying in September.

“Both players and staff are disappointed not to be able to get back on the field for the National Team and continue the progress we have made as a group,” said Coach Gregg Berhalter. “While COVID-19 continues to create challenges for us, we are confident we can find a way forward in the near future that will provide an opportunity to play matches in preparation for the important competitions next year.”

Monday, September 21

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Tournament Reshuffling Already Underway

As soon as the college basketball season’s start date was officially set, the question would be what would happen to the number of early-season tournaments.

The events are a perfect chance for teams to play multiple games in a short time span and many of the events are held in warm-weather locales that enjoy an added boost of economic impact from each tournament, whether three days or more. And with the added need for health and safety protocols for teams that would most likely be traveling long distances, how the schedules would end up has been one of the biggest rapid-reaction moves for markets.

For some, the shuffle has already started. And for some destinations, the projected boost of economic impact will be lost.

One of the biggest early-season tournaments, the Maui Invitational, will be held in Asheville, North Carolina, instead with a change of location of about 4,500 miles. Even without fans, the new location will be a boost for two of the tournament’s teams — North Carolina and Davidson. The other teams in the event are Alabama, Indiana, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV with all teams, tournament staff and media in a bubble environment.

“We couldn’t be more excited and deeply honored to bring the Maui Jim Maui Invitational here to Asheville,” said Demp Bradford, president of the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission. “Asheville’s ability to host this top-level sporting event is a testament to state and local partnerships built on a track record of welcoming and supporting national, and international, competitive events to Buncombe County.”

While Maui is the first tournament to officially announce where its new site will be, there is expected to be a large reshuffling in the coming weeks, if not days, about several other events, particularly those run by ESPN Events. Multiple reports suggest all if not most ESPN-owned events would move to the Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida, home of the ongoing NBA bubble.

One event already announced that it will be moved to a new site is the Myrtle Beach Invitational, made on Friday by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. The event, scheduled for November 19-22, is hosted at Coastal Carolina University and has an estimated economic impact of $2 million.

“The impact this event has on our shoulder season is significant and a prime reason we initially brought the event to Myrtle Beach in 2018,” said Jonathan Paris, executive director of sports tourism for Visit Myrtle Beach. “In a typical year, the event had more than 1,600 total room nights contracted over five nights, not including our out of town fans, which are harder to track specifically. In addition to the hotel impact, our restaurants and attractions felt the impact of the teams and fans in the area. However, all sporting events in 2020 have been limited in terms of fans and overall capacity, so we would not have expected that same level of impact from the traveling fans this year.”

For other events, the wait is ongoing — everything from the Battle4Atlantis, which may end up in South Dakota but is at risk because one of its committed schools, Duke University, could try to form its own bubble event at a different site. But the general assumption throughout college basketball is that if there is an early-season tournament for teams to be a part of, almost assuredly it will end up in Orlando, given the market’s ability to host events in a secure environment.

But while Orlando has had the most exposure in hosting bubble events, the protocols that it has set forth are seeking to be replicated by schools and other markets. While nothing is official, the University of Louisville is looking to host one; so is Indianapolis with backing from the Indiana Sports Corp.

Bubble already is part of the lexicon for college basketball, especially in March. But this year, anybody that hosts a tournament will certainly hope that their bubble does not burst.

BASKETBALL: WNBA Playoff Game Postponed After Inconclusive Tests

The WNBA playoff schedule will be undergoing adjustments as while Game 1 of one semifinal series was being held on Sunday afternoon, the other semifinal Game 1 between Seattle and Minnesota was postponed after inconclusive COVID-19 test results for players from the Storm.

“Players with inconclusive results have undergone additional testing today and are currently in isolation,” the league said in a statement. “The new date for Game 1 will be communicated as developments warrant.”

No games in the regular season ‘Wubble’ at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, were postponed because of test results. There were three instances of players getting inconclusive results and having to sit out a game before having a negative test.

“Especially if there’s multiple players on a team, we really can’t take a chance to expose the bubble to any kind of community spread,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert told ESPN. “We need to get more data to see if we have an issue.”

Friday, September 18

MOTORSPORTS: Indy Motor Speedway Prepares for First 2020 Spectators

For the first time this year, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway intends to have fans in the stands at the IndyCar Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators will be allowed in the grandstands each day of of the race, which will be staged October 1–4. The limits are set by the Marion County Public Health Department.

The venue, which can hold more than 300,000 people has held races, including the Indy 500, during the pandemic but has yet to be given the OK for spectators. Fans at the race will be limited to two zones, with 5,000 spectators in each.

Among the rules planned or guests:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the emergency medical and ambulance company, will be the presenting sponsor of what will be IndyCar’s penultimate race of the season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Thursday, September 17

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NCAA Approves Start Date

The spotlight event every year for college basketball is the NCAA Tournament. It is why March Madness is part of the regular lexicon each spring, where bracket challenges pop up in offices and production during the first few days of the event sees some businesses drop in production because of the constant possibilities of watching a top seed get upset by a mid-major.

But the 2020 NCAA Tournament, scheduled to culminate in Atlanta, was canceled within a week of its scheduled start because of COVID-19. Teams and players, and their respective fan bases, could not even celebrate a Selection Sunday. And as the pandemic has continued almost nearly unabated throughout the country, it would be natural to wonder what would happen to the 2020–2021 college basketball season.

Wonder no more. The NCAA Division I Council announced that while the upcoming season’s start will be delayed approximately two weeks until November 25, it will take place with a firm set of guidelines for competition.

“The new season start date near the Thanksgiving holiday provides the optimal opportunity to successfully launch the basketball season,” NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said. “It is a grand compromise of sorts and a unified approach that focuses on the health and safety of student-athletes competing towards the 2021 Division I basketball championships.”

That the college basketball season has a firm start date with schedules and competition rules approved approximately two months before the new start to the season stands in stark contrast to how college football’s season has turned into a daily docu-drama with the Big Ten announcing this week it will start play in October, more than a month behind every other conference playing this season and very little cohesive strategy being shown.

The council will not allow exhibitions or scrimmages for teams until the first day of competition. Full preseason practices can begin Oct. 14, with 30 practices permitted.

The maximum number of games a men’s team can play will be up to 25 games and the minimum games required for NCAA championship selection will be decreased to 13 games. Both the men’s and women’s basketball committees recommend a minimum of four nonconference games; women’s teams can schedule 23 games, plus one multiple-team event, or 25 games without an event.

One outstanding issue about the November 25 starting date will be what happens to many early-season tournaments that have been scheduled to start before Thanksgiving. Multiple reports between ESPN and CBS Sports have detailed that for tournaments scheduled before the new start date would be turned into bubble events, including the possibility of as many as eight scheduled tournaments being held simultaneously in Orlando, Florida, at the same site where the NBA bubble is currently ongoing at the ESPN Disney Wide World of Sports.

With most college campuses closed in December and early January, there also is a six-week window for the college basketball season to get underway without widespread campus outbreaks for programs to contend with.

And while the big news was about the start date in November, there is this important point: The NCAA is still planning for March Madness to proceed as scheduled.

Wednesday, September 16

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Big Ten Reverses Course, Will Play in Fall

Remember what was said days ago about this college football season being unlike any other? How each week would be a rollercoaster with games being canceled and schedules usually made a decade or more in advance being flipped around on a weekly basis as teams deal with COVID-19 outbreaks?

Step right up, Big Ten Conference, and welcome to the fall sports season … after saying there would be no football until the spring.

The first of the Power 5 Conferences to announce that it would not play fall sports has reversed course, announcing that football will begin on the weekend of October 23–24. The decision, following weeks of coaches and players applying pressure on the league’s university leaders via social media, comes as the conference’s leadership officially says the decision was made thanks to the ability to secure daily antigen testing for all athletes, coaches, trainers and individuals on the field for practices and games.

[What will the college football bowl season look like?]

“Our focus with the Task Force over the last six weeks was to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes. Our goal has always been to return to competition so all student-athletes can realize their dream of competing in the sports they love,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. “We are incredibly grateful for the collaborative work that our Return to Competition Task Force have accomplished to ensure the health, safety and wellness of student-athletes, coaches and administrators.”

Each team will attempt to play eight games in eight weeks before the league championship game on Dec. 19, one day before the College Football Playoff committee makes its selections. Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour has said that games will not have fans in attendance.

[What will college football towns do without fans in town this season?]

All 14 Big Ten teams will attempt to play but the chances of the season being held without interruption are to be determined. Wisconsin last week announced a two-week pause for all football activities because of an outbreak on campus; Maryland, which paused activities September 3, resumed practices late last week.

Seven conferences in the FBS are playing this fall — the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, American Athletic Conference, Conference USA and Sun Belt. Most teams have started their season while the SEC will have a league-only season starting September 26.

Along with daily testing, Big Ten athletes who test positive for COVID-19 will have to sit out for at least 21 days and have a series of comprehensive cardiac tests performed including a cardiac MRI. Any team with a positivity rate of more than 5 percent must stop practice and competition for at least seven days.

“Everyone associated with the Big Ten should be very proud of the groundbreaking steps that are now being taken to better protect the health and safety of the student-athletes and surrounding communities,” Dr. Jim Borchers, head team physician at Ohio State and co-chair of the return to competition task force’s medical subcommittee, said in a prepared statement. “The data we are going to collect from testing and the cardiac registry will provide major contributions for all 14 Big Ten institutions as they study COVID-19 and attempt to mitigate the spread of the disease among wider communities.”

Borchers and Warren would not say where the daily testing is coming from or what the price of daily testing will be to the schools or the conference other than Warren saying all fall sports athletes will have the daily testing available to them. The league said that a plan for other fall sports would be announced shortly.

Borchers said the Big Ten’s testing plan is similar to the Pac-12’s previously announced plan for daily testing thanks to an agreement with Quidel Corporation, with equipment in place at Pac-12 schools by the end of the month. The Pac-12 is the only Power 5 Conference not playing this fall and half of the league’s schools are not allowed to have practices due to local health regulations. Catastrophic wildfires in Oregon and California have also damaged air quality throughout the Western United States.

“At this time, our universities in California and Oregon do not have approval from state or local public health officials to start contact practice,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said Wednesday in a statement. “We are hopeful that our new daily testing capability can help satisfy public health official approvals in California and Oregon to begin contact practice and competition. We are equally closely monitoring the devastating fires and air quality in our region at this time. We are eager for our student-athletes to have the opportunity to play this season, as soon as it can be done safely and in accordance with public health authority approvals.”

But the Big Ten’s announcement, predictably, increased the pressure on governors in California and Oregon — and with immediate results, which in this rapidly developing season could lead to the Pac-12 starting its season much earlier than first expected. And within 12 hours of Scott’s first comments, another statement soon was released.

And while the Mid-American Conference has stayed steadfast that it would focus on having a season held during the spring, one of the other conferences that currently is not in action — the Mountain West — may also be gearing up toward a fast resolution for the fall.

Of course they would. Because in this college football season, the action on the field is surpassed by the drama off it … so far, at least.

GOLF: LPGA Asian Events Canceled

The LPGA Tour called off all four events of its Asia swing scheduled for South Korea in October and Japan in November, citing quarantine requirements with crossing country borders. Tournaments in China and Taiwan had already been called off.

The tour instead added a second LPGA Drive On Championship scheduled for October 22–25 on the Great Waters Course in Greensboro, Georgia.

“We greatly appreciate the efforts by our partners at BMW and Toto to try to host their events this season and we look forward to returning to Korea and Japan in 2021,” LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said. “Since we unfortunately cannot travel to Asia, we felt it was very important to add another competitive opportunity for our players.”

Tuesday, September 15

BASEBALL: MLB Playoffs Going To Bubble Concept

Major League Baseball shortened its season by more than half during negotiations that drew heavy criticism from fans about the nature of how they dragged out. Once the season started, the league had multiple teams within the first few weeks deal with COVID-19 outbreaks that at one stretch had the league going more than three weeks with having at least one game per day canceled because of the virus. 

While there have been sporadic cancellations since, MLB has been able to continue toward the end of its season with much fewer interruptions. Notably, the season has been held without fans but done without teams entering a bubble atmosphere like many of the other professional leagues that resumed play during the summer. 

And as the playoffs loom with an expanded field of more than a dozen teams, Major League Baseball is prepared to … have fans for games held in a bubble. 

A deal has been agreed to between the league and players union for the postseason bubble concept., with the playoffs held at stadiums in Southern California and Texas. The World Series would be held at MLB’s newest ballpark, Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, home of the Texas Rangers.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was part of an online event hosted by Hofstra University’s business school on Monday evening and said the expectation is the final three rounds of the postseason will be held in a bubble and that the league championship series, plus the World Series, could have fans. 

“I’m hopeful that the World Series and the LCS we will have limited fan capacity,” Manfred reportedly said. “I think it’s important for us to start back down the road. Obviously it’ll be limited numbers, socially distanced, protection provided for the fans in terms of temperature checks and the like. Kind of the pods like you saw in some of the NFL games. We’ll probably use that same theory. But I do think it’s important as we look forward to 2021 to get back to the idea that live sports, they’re generally outdoors, at least our games. And it’s something that we can get back to.”

The postseason plan, as reported by ESPN, would involve the wild-card series being held at home ballparks with the top four seeds in both the American and National Leagues hosting all of the games in the series. From there, the NLDS and ALDS would be split between stadiums in Houston, Arlington, San Diego and Los Angeles. The ALCS would be in San Diego and the NLCS would be in Arlington, which would then host the World Series with a start date of October 20.

“Again, I hope for the postseason, we’ll have some limited fan presence in ballparks,” Manfred said during the webinar. “I think it would be a good thing just in terms of getting people used to the idea being back in the ballpark, and again, I think the trick in terms of what’s going to happen next year, it’s dependent on the virus. The virus controls and it’s ‘Do you have a vaccine? Are we still seeing spikes?’ That’s going to drive what local governments are going to allow us to do.”

Monday, September 14

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: COVID Positives Shuffle Schedules

Every week leading up to games and since the games have kicked off, one phrase has been repeated when it comes to college football: You’ll see things you never thought you would see before.

That has proven true through just two weeks of play, with multiple games canceled or postponed because of outbreaks of COVID-19 on teams and games that traditionally would be scheduled years in advance now being set up less than two weeks in advance.

The past weekend had a little bit of everything in college football — on the field, three Sun Belt Conference teams beat teams from the Big 12 Conference among the games that were played. Of the Power 5 conferences that are in action this fall, the ACC and Big 12 were the ones that started the season over the weekend, while the SEC will not start until September 26.

Two teams that found a quick fix for open dates are Baylor and Houston, former Southwest Conference rivals that have not played since 1995 — until they both found themselves available for a game on September 19. The reason: Both teams were scheduled to play opponents that had to cancel because of outbreaks.

Baylor was scheduled to play this past weekend before Louisiana Tech canceled its game after a COVID-19 outbreak affected dozens of players. The Bears were already scheduled to be off on September 19 — and Houston’s scheduled game on that date against Memphis has already been canceled after an outbreak on the Tigers.

While those two former rivals will meet again, two rivals in the ACC had to postpone its game to a later date. Virginia Tech and Virginia, scheduled to play September 19, will instead be held on a date to be determined after Virginia Tech had to pause football practices for four days because of COVID-19. According to a document Virginia Tech released related to the postponement, at least eight of the 15 ACC football teams need to move forward with games in order for the season to continue.

After his team was able to play its season opener and beat Missouri State easily, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley admitted that the game had been jeopardy of being postponed or canceled because of the Sooners’ COVID-19 cases.

The stands at the Oklahoma game also was seen with many fans not wearing masks, which was stadium policy. Oklahoma Athletics Director Joe Castiglione told the student newspaper that “too many individuals fell short of expectations.” The publication said while precautions included stickers on seats saying “Please leave this seat vacant” to avoid clusters of people, fans in certain areas of the stands refused to wear masks or socially distance.

And one other game between two newly ranked teams in The Associated Press Top 25, BYU against Army, has also been postponed ahead of its scheduled September 19 kickoff in New York. BYU announced that a “small number of positive COVID-19 test results” had occurred in the program; the teams said they will try to play at a later date. BYU also agreed to a spur-of-the-moment game against Louisiana Tech, hosting the game at LaVell Edwards Stadium on October 2.

Meanwhile, Rice will not start its season until October 24 after a spread of COVID-19 on campus and among the team. The Owls’ scheduled games on September 12 against Army, September 19 against LSU and September 26 against Lamar have been canceled; scheduled games on September 3 against Houston, October 3 against Marshall and October 10 against UAB have been postponed with the possibility of the games being rescheduled during open dates that may develop as the season goes along.

After all, every week in college football is an adventure.

Thursday, September 10

RODEO: Wrangler National Finals Leave Las Vegas for Texas

The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is moving to Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers, in Arlington, Texas, so that the event can have have fans in attendance from December 3–12, 2020. The NFR has been held in Las Vegas the past 35 years.

“We are so pleased to be at this amazing stadium for the most celebrated event on the rodeo calendar,” said George Taylor, chief executive officer of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. “We are committed to delivering a spectacular event for our fans and we are thrilled to be in Texas for it.”

The NFR was born in Texas and the first three years of the event were held at the Dallas State Fairgrounds beginning in 1959. The event has been staged at the Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV in Las Vegas since 1985. That venue is not available for live entertainment with fans this year due to coronavirus restrictions in Nevada.

In a survey this summer, rodeo fans said they wanted an NFR venue that would accommodate fans and the PRCA began looking for an alternate venue, leading to a partnership between the PRCA and Globe Life Field, the cities of Arlington and Fort Worth, the Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau, Visit Fort Worth, and the Sports Commissions of both Arlington and Fort Worth.

Seats will be sold in groups of four with separation between groups. Contact-limiting measures such as mobile tickets will be implemented. There will also be metal detector screenings and a no bag policy at entries on performance nights. Safety measures will include a mask requirement at all times while inside Globe Life Field and there will be additional hand washing and sanitizing stations throughout the building.  Nearby Fort Worth will play host to the Wrangler NFR 2020 experience, as the annual PRCA Convention in addition to the Cowboy Christmas.

“We are honored that the PRCA selected Globe Life Field to host the 2020 Wrangler Nationals Final Rodeo and are thrilled to be a small part of bringing this world-class event back to Texas,” said Neil Leibman, chief operating officer of the Texas Rangers.

Wednesday, September 9

NFL: More Teams Planning Slow Reopening to Fans

Slowly, the National Football League seems to be preparing for the return of limited numbers of fans to games this season.

The Denver Broncos became the latest team to announce that it will have fans later in the season, starting September 27 when it hosts the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Broncos will allow 7.5 % capacity to attend, which works out to 5,700 fans. Seats will be sold in ‘pods’ of up to six tickets and sections will be separated into small groups with a designated entry, concession and restroom area for each section.

[Podcast: The NFL’s Peter O’Reilly on how the league pulled off its virtual draft]

The Broncos are the latest team to announce a slow integration of fans back into stadiums, although the majority of NFL teams will be closed venues for at least the first two weeks.

Only five teams — Cleveland, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Miami and Jacksonville — have definitively said it will have fans when the season begins. The Browns will have just under 7,000 starting with its September 17 home opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, while the Chiefs will have up to 16,000 fans, the Colts up to 10,500 fans, the Jaguars 17,000 fans and the Dolphins will have 13,000 fans starting with the first home games of the season.

The Dallas Cowboys are the lone NFL team to have not released detailed plans for fans. The team has previously said it expects to have fans in attendance, which would make six out of the league’s 32 teams having fans from the beginning.

Of the 26 teams that have said they will not have fans at the beginning, two — Las Vegas and Washington — have said it will be closed off for fans for the entire season. The New York Jets, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, Chicago and Baltimore have all said that fans will not be in attendance “until further notice.”

That leaves 17 teams that will not have fans for at least the home opener, although each of those teams have not ruled out future attendance. Some have already gotten plans underway, with the Cincinnati Bengals given allowance by the state of Ohio to have up to 6,000 fans for its home games in October. The New Orleans Saints hope to have up to 25% capacity for a September 27 home game.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: More Big 12 Nonconference Games Postponed

The Big 12 Conference, one of the few to continue with nonconference play this season, has had three games scheduled for Saturday postponed.

The kickoff between Louisiana Tech at Baylor was officially postponed, joining previous decisions for games between Tulsa and Oklahoma State and SMU against TCU. Louisiana Tech had 38 players test positive for COVID-19 in the wake of Hurricane Laura, a source told Yahoo Sports.

Rice University has had to shuffle its schedule around with three games disrupted because of “current conditions related to the infection rate in Houston and the need for highly reliable and very rapid testing results in the competitive athletics context forced a delay in a decision to move forward.” The Owls said a final decision on the start of practice “will be made later in September” and it will work with Conference USA on any adjustments.

Nine scheduled FBS games have disrupted by positive COVID-19 tests among programs.

Tuesday, September 8

OLYMPICS: No Chance of Another Postponement, Says IOC Vice President

International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates said that the rescheduled Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo will go ahead in 2021 regardless of the coronavirus pandemic, calling them the “Games that conquered COVID.”

“It will take place with or without COVID. The Games will start on July 23 next year,” said Coates, who heads the International Olympic Committee’s Coordination Commission for the Tokyo Games. “The Games were going to be, their theme, the Reconstruction Games after the devastation of the tsunami,” referring to a 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. “Now very much these will be the Games that conquered COVID, the light at the end of the tunnel.”

2020 Olympic Summer Games CEO Toshiro Muro said earlier that a COVID-19 vaccine is not a requirement to host the rescheduled games and that the organizers would like to have the Games with spectators on hand. Japan’s borders are still largely closed to foreign visitors, which fuels speculation about whether the Games are feasible.

“Their job now is to look at all the different counter-measures that will be required for the Games to take place,” said Coates of the organizers. “Some countries will have it (COVID-19) under control, some won’t. We’ll have athletes therefore coming from places where it’s under control and some where it is not. There’s 206 teams… so there’s a massive task being undertaken on the Japanese side.”

TENNIS: French Open Caps Attendance

Attendance for the French Open in September will be capped at 11,500 per day as tournament organizers prepare for the Grand Slam to be held in the fall for the first time ever.

The French Tennis Federation will essentially split the Roland Garros grounds into three sites with a show court and surrounding outside courts in each segment. Capacity at the Philippe Chatrier and Suzanne Lenglen sites will be limited to 5,000, while the Simonne Mathieu site is capped at 1,500.

Spectators will be able to access the area of the stadium shown on their ticket and can watch matches on all of the courts within their site. At the show courts, one seat will be left empty on every row and between every group of ticket-holders, which will be limited to a maximum of four people. Fans over the age of 11 will be required to wear masks or face coverings at all times.

Traditionally held in the spring, this year’s French Open will start September 21. The French federation previously planned for up to 60 percent capacity (20,000 fans) per day before changing its expectations.

Friday, September 4

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NCAA Committee Recommends Eight-Game Spring Season

The movement toward a spring football season for those conferences that have postponed play in the fall continued to gain steam, with the Pac-12 heralding a breakthrough for daily COVID-19 testing and the NCAA Football Oversight Committee making recommendations for a spring model of eight games.

The Football Oversight Committee’s recommendations include 15 practices in 29 days and an eight-game season that must end by April 17. ESPN reported that any conferences that postponed their season because of the coronavirus pandemic but decide to resume playing games earlier than next spring will not be able to use the 15-practice model.

The Division I Council is expected to vote on the recommendations for football as well as a reported delayed start date for college basketball’s season at its September 16 meeting.

The news from the NCAA came on the same day that the Pac-12 announced it will be able to test athletes for COVID-19 on a daily basis thanks to a partnership with Quidel, which will send its Sofia 2 testing machines and tests to each of the Pac-12’s athletic departments by the end of September.

“This is a major step toward the safe resumption of Pac-12 sport competitions,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. “The availability of a reliable test that can be administered daily, with almost immediate results, addresses one of the key concerns that was expressed by our medical advisory committee, as well as by student-athletes, coaches and others.”

The announcement was met with immediate questions about whether the conference will attempt to start football before January 1 as well as other sports and reverse its previous decision. Scott said the league will evaluate options to resume competition before January 1 but pointed out that six of the league’s schools, four in California and two in Oregon, do not have permission from local and state health authorities to hold full contact practice.

AUTO RACING: Talladega to Have Fans in October

Talladega Superspeedway will allow a reduced number of fans to attend its October 4 Cup Series playoff race, having hosted fans during a regular season race in June. Fans will not be allowed in frontstretch seating for the Xfinity and Truck Series doubleheader on October 3 and its garage experience will be closed. Some tracks have allowed a limited number of fans in recent weeks with Daytona having an estimated 20,000 fans last weekend.

Thursday, September 3

NCAA: Entire Staff to Face Minimum Three-Week Furloughs

The NCAA intends to furlough all employees at its Indianapolis headquarters for a minimum of three weeks, according to a memo obtained by the Associated Press.

The cost-saving move is expected to impact about 600 employees, some of whom will be furloughed for up to eight weeks depending on their position and “seasonal timing of their duties.”

The NCAA, which derives the majority of its revenue from the Division I Men’s College Basketball Championship that was canceled in 2020, has been among the hardest hit of sports organizations. The AP reports that the memo from NCAA President Mark Emmert was sent to 1,200 association member schools and that the furloughs will not affect senior executives, who have already taken 10 percent or 20 percent pay cuts.

The furloughs are expected to begin September 21.

“We are committed to supporting our member schools and conferences and student-athletes in every way possible, and yet I expect that some of our services to membership may be limited or delayed during this period furloughs,” Emmert wrote. “I ask for your patience as we all strive to weather these difficult times together.”

HORSE RACING: No Fans Allowed at Preakness

The 145th annual Preakness Stakes, scheduled for October 3 at Pimlico Race Course, will be held without fans in attendance

Only essential racing personnel and horsemen will be permitted on-site on race day. Existing ticket holders who have purchased tickets will have the option to either transfer their tickets to next year’s Preakness or to apply for a full refund.

The Stronach Group owns Pimlico and in a statement, Chairman and President Belinda Stronach said, “While we had hoped to be able to welcome fans as we have for the past 145 years, the health and safety of our guests, horsemen, riders, team members and the community at large is, and will always be, our top priority.”

Wednesday, September 2

NFL: No Blanket Policy for Fans in Stands

The National Football League will not have a blanket policy about having fans in stadiums this season, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said during a media call, saying “we want to invite our fans in” but only if teams are following the health and safety protocols set by local and state health authorities.

With some teams deciding to allow fans, there was criticism from Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott about not having a cohesive league policy. Goodell said “we do not believe it is” a competitive advantage for some teams to have fans in the stadiums but others may not this season.

The NFL is working on a policy for artificial crowd noise to be used at stadiums for those who will not have fans, NFL Executive Vice President Troy Vincent said during the conference call. Vincent said the league has a curated audio track but details such as the maximum decibel level allowed have not been determined.

The league has been doing daily testing of staff and players during training camp. It said the most recent round of testing from August 21–29 revealed four positive tests from players and six from team personnel among a total of 8,739 players and personnel. In all, there have been 16 positive tests since training camp’s start on August 12.

NHL: Bubble Remains Clean During Playoffs

The National Hockey League said that during its most recent round of COVID-19 testing, it had no positives among the over 2,800 tests conduced.

The round of testing was the fifth in the NHL’s Phase 4 of its Return to Play Protocols. The Stanley Cup playoffs are in the conference semifinal stage with a Western Conference bubble in Edmonton and Eastern Conference bubble in Toronto. The Eastern Conference finals will see both teams traveling to Edmonton to have both that series and the Stanley Cup Final held in its bubble.

Tuesday, September 1

BASEBALL: Oakland Series Canceled After Positive Test

A series between the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners in Seattle has been postponed through Wednesday out of an abundance of caution to allow for continued testing and contact tracing after the A’s announced on Sunday that a member of the organization tested positive for COVID-19.

Oakland conducted testing and contact tracing for its traveling party in line with MLB protocols and it will continue to self-isolate in Houston with recommended safety precautions in place.

Houston’s game on Tuesday night against the Texas Rangers will be held as scheduled after an off day on Monday; the Astros were scheduled to play the A’s on Sunday before that game was postponed as well.

Monday, August 31

TENNIS: U.S. Open Brings Fans Virtually to Arthur Ashe Stadium

The U.S. Open, which started on Monday with no fans in attendance, will use a series of virtual experiences to bring fans into Arthur Ashe Stadium during the Grand Slam, giving fans unparalleled access.

Among the activations will be the US Open Fan Cam powered by American Express, with fans able to record their cheers and encouragement for players and then submit those cheers to the US Open through its mobile app. Fan cheers will be shown on the new LED screens that will surround Arthur Ashe Stadium and card members will get exclusive access to ask a player a question that could be incorporated into an on-court post-match interview.

The USTA also has set up virtual player boxes for those who play at Ashe Stadium to invite guests to be part of the experience through the LED boards in Arthur Ashe Stadium with live interaction during select moments such as changeovers.

When no fans in attendance, the USTA has worked with ESPN and IBM to bring authentic crowd sounds into the presentation of matches. Fans also can win an Official US Open At-Home Suite including a player towel, hat, can of balls and Grey Goose Honey Deuce cup along with a US Open program and tournament guide.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Iowa State to Have 25,000 Fans at Opener

Iowa State’s athletic department released a letter to its fans saying that it plans to have 25,000 fans for its football home opener on September 12 against Louisiana, and it could allow all season-ticket holders into Jack Trice Stadium for its home game against Oklahoma on October 3.

“However, if we determine that mitigation measures were not followed adequately at the first game, we will have no fans at future games beginning with Oklahoma,” said Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard. The Cyclones published how it plans to seat fans at the stadium, as well as a plan for how fans will be expected to arrive and act at the games.

Thursday, August 27

ENDURANCE SPORTS: USA Triathlon Reschedules 2020 Age Group Draft-Legal Nationals

The 2020 USA Triathlon Age Group Draft-Legal National Championships, initially scheduled for November 14 in Tempe, Arizona, have been rescheduled to April 2021. As a result, the event will be held as a world qualifier rather than a national championship.

Tempe will still host the event, which originally was to include Arizona State Sun Devil Draft-Legal Classic, in conjunction with the Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championships. Due to continued limits on mass gatherings in the region, those events cannot be rescheduled in 2020. Last month, the 2020 women’s college triathlon season was also canceled.

The rescheduled age group draft-legal event will be held April 9, 2021. Plans call for the 2021 USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championships to be staged with the event as well.

“While we will miss the chance to gather the nation’s fastest amateur draft-legal athletes in Tempe this fall, USA Triathlon is grateful for the support of ASU and the city of Tempe in finding a solution for a rescheduled world qualifying event in spring 2021,” said Brian D’Amico, director of events at USA Triathlon. “We look forward to returning to Tempe Town Lake in April for an action-packed weekend of multisport at the age-group and collegiate levels.”

COLLEGE SPORTS: SEC Sets Up Non-Football Fall Schedules

The Southeastern Conference will have fall sports — and in sports other than football, they will also have spring competitions to be determined after the NCAA sets up a format for those postseason championships.

The SEC will have cross country, women’s soccer and volleyball for all 14 member schools in the fall and “SEC soccer and volleyball teams will participate in spring competition as well, with details of formats contingent on final decisions by the NCAA to conduct spring championships in those sports,” the league said.

The soccer season will be an eight-match season with only conference play before the league tournament with every school competing from November 13–22 in Orange Beach, Alabama. The volleyball season will be the same format with eight matches over a six-week period; there was no mention of a postseason tournament in that sport. Cross country teams will be allowed to have either two or three competitions before the league meet on October 30 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Wednesday, August 26

COLLEGE SPORTS: AAC Changes Fall Scheduling

The American Athletic Conference announced has postponed all competition and conference championships in men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball until spring 2021 with a decision about cross country not yet determined. The decision was approved by the conference’s athletic directors after the NCAA Division I Board of Directors’ confirmation that fall championships would move to the spring.

“We remain committed to providing our student-athletes a quality experience and competing at the highest level of intercollegiate athletics,” said American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco. “We were prepared to conduct competition in the fall in men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball, but moving to the spring was in the best interest of our student-athletes as it will align our schedules to allow our teams to compete for national championships.”

The American Athletic Conference earlier announced that it will allow its football members to play eight conference games on their originally scheduled dates and nonconference games may be played at the discretion of the individual schools, with the understanding that opponents will strictly adhere to protocols and standards for testing, pregame, in-game and postgame operations set by The American’s Medical Advisory Group.

Tuesday, August 25

NFL: 26 Teams Going Fanless in September

With the regular season scheduled to kick off in just over two weeks, 26 of the National Football League’s 32 teams will do so without fans in attendance.

The San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals all announced that they will have no fans for their home games — at least through the end of September in the case of the Vikings and Bengals, and potentially further for the three teams in California.

The Chargers and Rams, who will share the new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, said they will have games without fans “until further notice.” But the teams both said “should conditions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic significantly improve – and State guidance evolve – to the point we believe fans can safely attend games at SoFi Stadium, we will communicate the news at that time.”

The Rams are scheduled to host the Dallas Cowboys on September 13 with the Chargers hosting the Cincinnati Bengals on September 20 and Carolina Panthers on September 27. San Francisco is scheduled to kick off on September 13 against the Arizona Cardinals while the Vikings have home games against Green Bay on September 13 and Tennessee on September 27. The Bengals will host the Chargers on September 13.

One coach, Sean McDermott of the Buffalo Bills, said he is not happy how some teams will have fans after the Miami Dolphins announced their decision to have up to 13,000 fans in attendance.

“I think it’s honestly ridiculous that there will be on the surface what appears to be a playing field that’s like that, inconsistently across the league with the different away stadiums,” McDermott said.

The Dolphins’ announcement came before the NFL announced its results from a round of COVID-19 testing throughout the league. From August 12–20, the league had 58,397 tests administered to players and personnel with zero positive tests among players and six among personnel.

“When we started the process back in March of exploring what a socially distanced stadium could look like, we made the health and safety of everyone the first priority, knowing that if we felt that we couldn’t make it safe, we simply wouldn’t have fans,” Dolphins Vice Chairman and CEO Tom Garfinkel said in a statement. “We’re happy that our elected officials recognize the attention to detail and diligence that we’ve put into creating a safe environment, and that they made the decision to move forward with a 13,000-capacity stadium at this time.”

SOCCER: NWSL Announces Fall Series Schedule

The National Women’s Soccer League will resume its 2020 season on September 5 with the league playing 18 matches over a seven-week period with three pods of three teams apiece following this summer’s earlier Challenge Cup in Sandy, Utah.

There will be a televised NWSL Game of the Week on CBS every Saturday in September and on CBS Sports Network three Saturdays in October, a reflection of how the two national broadcasts from the Challenge Cup received record-breaking ratings.

[Podcast: NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird on How to Stage a Tournament During a Pandemic]

Teams within each pod will play one another to enable the league to minimize travel. OL Reign, Portland and Utah will be in the West pod with Chicago, Sky Blue and Washington in a Northeast pod. North Carolina, Houston and Orlando will be in the South pod.

The full format and schedule will be released in the next week. The NWSL’s return-to-play protocols reflect best practices developed and implemented during the Challenge Cup. League protocols have been updated to reflect the reality of home-market matches and regional travel and will influence all league and club actions outside the field of play.

AUTO RACING: Formula One Finalizes 2020 Schedule, Including Turkey Return

Formula One will have a 17-race schedule after adding four more races to its program for the 2020 season, including a race for the first time in nine years in Turkey, with the season scheduled to finish in mid-December.

The four races added include Turkey’s Istanbul Park on November 15, then races in Bahrain on November 29 and December 6 before the December 13 season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, the latest finish to a season for Formula One since 1963.

The series will have its seventh race of 2020 this weekend in Belgium. The 17 races overall are the fewest in a season since 2009; the 2020 schedule was to have 22 events including the traditional U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.

Monday, August 24

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Louisville Plans 30 Percent Capacity

The University of Louisville will allow 30 percent of capacity at 60,800-seat Cardinal Stadium to be filled for football this season, with social distancing for the 18,000 allowed inside the gates and the season scheduled to start September 12 against Western Kentucky.

Safety measures will be in place including temperature checks at the entrances, face coverings required, physical distancing within the stadium as well as parking lots for tailgating and restrictions in some stadium areas among the plans.  All ticketing for the season will be digital.

To allow all season ticket holders the opportunity to attend games with the limited capacity, the school will be reaching out to all fans with information reflecting their individual status and options. Season ticket holders will be given the opportunity to select their seat location from physically distanced sets of seats in priority point order.

Friday, August 21

Horse Racing: Kentucky Derby To Race Without Fans

Churchill Downs Incorporated announced that it will run the 146th Kentucky Derby on September 5 without fans.

“The Kentucky Derby is a time-honored American tradition which has always been about bringing people together,” the track said in a statement. “However, the health and safety of our team, fans and participants is our highest concern. Churchill Downs has worked diligently over the last several months to plan a safe Derby with a limited number of spectators in attendance. We were confident in that plan but dedicated to remaining flexible using the best and most reliable information available. With the current significant increases in COVID-19 cases in Louisville as well as across the region, we needed to again revisit our planning.”

The decision to run without fans includes Kentucky Oaks on Friday, September 4 and all live racing at Churchill Downs Racetrack for Derby week (September 1-5). Only essential personnel and participants will be permitted on the property. Churchill Downs previously was targeting fewer than 23,000 fans for the Oaks and Derby.

“The virus is still aggressively spreading in Kentucky and the White House has announced that Jefferson County and the City of Louisville are in a ‘red zone’ based on increases in cases,” Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said. “I applaud Churchill Downs for continuing to monitor the virus and for making the right and responsible decision.”

COLLEGE SPORTS: NCAA Working on Fall Championships Move to Spring

Division I will work toward hosting scaled back fall championships in the spring, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors have determined— but board members said the fall championships should be played in the spring only if they can be conducted safely and in accordance with federal, state and local health guidelines.

“We want to provide opportunities for student-athletes whenever possible,” said Acting Board Chair Denise Trauth, president of Texas State. “We understand it will be complicated and different, and we’re not certain how it will look. But we believe it’s important to try to give students that championship experience.”

Additionally, all fall sport student-athletes will receive both an additional year of eligibility and an additional year in which to complete it through a blanket waiver.

BASEBALL: Subway Series Postponed After Positive Test on Mets

Typically one of the more highly-anticipated series in Major League Baseball’s regular season, the Subway Series between the New York Mets and New York Yankees has been postponed after two members of the Mets organization tested positive earlier in the week.

“Out of an abundance of caution and to allow for additional testing and contact tracing to be performed within the New York Mets’ organization, the games between the Mets and New York Yankees at Citi Field on Saturday, August 22nd and Sunday, August 23rd have been postponed,” MLB said in a statement.

The postponement of the series comes after MLB and the players union announced that through the end of Thursday, then had in the latest round of COVID testing had 12,485 samples taken with seven positives — three players and four staff members.

As of Saturday, 37 games impacting 13 teams had been postponed due to COVID-19 cases. Outbreaks on the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals led to extended periods of inactivity for both teams; the Cardinals had a 17-day break at one point and when their schedule was reset after the outbreak, it had them scheduled for only 58 games — two short of this season’s maximum. The Cardinals are scheduled to play 32 games in September, highlighted by seven doubleheaders, which this year will be seven innings in both games instead of the traditional nine.

Thursday, August 20

SKIING: North American Stops on FIS World Cup Tour Canceled

The 2020-2021 Audi FIS Alpine World Cup season will not be conducted in North America after the international ski federation canceled a two-week stretch that usually takes place in the United States and Canada in November and December.

For the women’s circuit, the move impacts the giant slalom and slalom event that had been planned in Killington, Vermont, November 28­­–29, and the speed week in Lake Louise, Canada, December 1–6. On the men’s side, the move eliminates a speed weekend in Lake Louise November 25–29, as well as speed and tech events in Vail/Beaver Creek, Colorado, December 1–6.

The World Cup is expected to return to those locations for the 2021–2022 season.

“The desire and motivation to hold these races as scheduled for all parties was strong,” said Markus Waldner, FIS men’s chief race director. “The training set-up and races in USA and Canada are very much appreciated by the teams. But ultimately, the unique logistics and situation for the early-season alpine races has current travel restrictions and corresponding quarantine regulations in both directions, which led to this joint decision.”

ULTIMATE: USA Ultimate Cancels Previously Postponed 2020 Championship Events

USA Ultimate has canceled its previously postponed championship event in 2020, including the Beach Championships, the Division I and Division III College Championships, the Masters Championships and the Youth Club Championships.

“Despite earlier plans to host these tournaments later this year, and with the health, safety and well-being of our members and the ultimate community our top priority, it is clear that conditions have not yet improved enough to move forward with the planning and execution of these national-level events,” the national governing body said in a statement.

USA Ultimate said it would focus its attention in 2020 to exploring, encouraging and supporting local, state and regional low-risk playing opportunities that can be organized under terms of its return-to-play guidelines and CDC direction.

Wednesday, August 19

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Big Ten Details Pathway to Cancellation

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren wrote an open letter to the conference community that the league posted on Twitter in an attempt to give more detail into the league’s decision to cancel fall sports last week, a decision that coaches and parents of football players throughout the conference have questioned.

“We understand the disappointment and questions surrounding the timing of our decision to postpone fall sports, especially in light of releasing a football schedule only six days prior to that decision,” Warren’s letter read in part. “From the beginning, we consistently communicated our commitment to cautiously proceed one day at a time with the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes at the center of our decision-making process. That is why we took simultaneous paths in releasing the football schedule, while also diligently monitoring the spread of the virus, testing, and medical concerns as student-athletes were transitioning to full-contact practice.”

Shortly after the Big Ten’s decision, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields started a petition to reverse the decision. Parents of players from schools including Ohio State and Iowa have written letters asking for more details into the decision-making process while Penn State coach James Franklin on Wednesday morning said “I have an issue with the process and I’ve got an issue with the timing. It was challenging to keep getting up in front of my team and getting up in front of my parents and not having answers to their questions.”

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEC Announces Fan Health and Safety Guidelines

The Southeastern Conference has released guidelines for schools in the expectation that they will be having fans at games this season — although the league was careful to say that the rules are “pending future decisions related to the allowance of fans to attend games as the Conference continues to monitor developments around the COVID-19 virus.”

Among the SEC’s guidelines for all stadiums is that face coverings over the nose and mouth must be worn throughout the stadium. There will be barriers installed at points of sale for food and beverage with concessions staffers wearing masks and all tickets will be digitally scanned. The full list of stadium guidelines can be viewed here.

When it comes to fan attendance, the league says “institutions shall determine the number of guests permitted to attend in accordance with applicable state and local guidelines, policies and/or regulations.” With that in mind, several SEC schools have started to inform season-ticket holders and boosters of the respective plans to have fans in attendance at games as the league’s start is scheduled for September 26.

Georgia will have up to 25 percent of total capacity — 23,186 fans total — with only single-game tickets available and season-ticket holders’ statuses unchanged for the future. Tickets for the Bulldogs’ home games will be $150 per game, split between the $75 ticket price and a $75 contribution requirement. Alabama would start at 20 percent capacity for Bryant-Denny Stadium while Missouri and Tennessee would seat 25 percent of capacity; Texas A&M plans to have 30 percent of capacity full for games.

“These fan guidelines have been adopted by the 14 member schools of the Southeastern Conference as baseline recommendations for the campus management of fan health and safety,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “Although local and state guidelines will determine if and how many fans can attend games, these guidelines provide conference-wide expectations for protection of guests who are able to attend our games.”

Tuesday, August 18

TENNIS: USTA Ready to Begin Two New York Tournaments

The USTA has recorded one positive result out of 1,400 tests as the governing body prepares to organize the Western & Southern Open and the U.S. Open in New York. The positive test was of a non-player who was among the 1,000 people in the USTA’s top tier of individuals in a controlled environment that largely has all parties staying in two hotels on Long Island when they are not playing.

USTA officials said they are confident in their controlled environment for players, which is designed to limit their off-site activities at the events, which will both be staged at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

[Podcast: Carlos Silva on how World Team Tennis held its season with fans in attendance]

“There’s no question the staging for the Western & Southern Open and the U.S. Open will take on new dimensions without fans on-site,” said Stacey Allaster, U.S. Open tournament director. “Together with ESPN and our international broadcasters, millions of fans in more than 200 countries will have the opportunity to be inspired by what I believe are the most amazing athletes to compete in sport at the highest of levels. As we progress, 26 days to go, everything is based on this comprehensive plan to mitigate risk for all.”

The USTA has had to make some adjustments in its initial plans, which called for players to be quarantined at the TWA Hotel at New York’s JFK International Airport. The new plan has players in two Long Island hotels, including the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale next to the Nassau Coliseum.

“We have transformed that property, together with our partners, to create an exceptional experience of activities,” Allaster said. “We call it the Manhattan Project. You can’t go to Manhattan but we’ll bring Manhattan to you. There’s a gym, a recovery room, an arcade room, a gaming room, a golf simulator, a sports simulator, this massive outdoor lounge, food trucks every night. It’s a good vibe.”

Monday, August 17

COLLEGE SPORTS: NCAA Releases Statement On Basketball Preparations

As college sports in the fall has turned into a mishmash of some conferences playing as scheduled and others canceling sports with an eye toward spring, one overarching question is what will happen to college basketball — and an answer may come within a month’s time.

NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt released a statement on Monday saying “by mid-September, we will provide direction about whether the season and practice start on time or a short-term delay is necessitated by the ongoing pandemic” as the NCAA Division I Council will listen to recommendations from the Men’s and Women’s Basketball Oversight Committees.

“We recognize that we are living and operating in an uncertain time and it is likely that mid-September will be just the first milestone for many important decisions pertaining to the regular season and the NCAA basketball championships,” Gavitt’s statement read. “While circumstances may warrant flexibility resulting in a different and perhaps imperfect season, the ultimate goal is to safely provide student-athletes and teams with a great college basketball experience.”

The NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments were canceled in March as the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread throughout the country. NCAA President Mark Emmert said last week that using the “bubble” concept for the 2021 NCAA Tournaments could be possible.

“Starting with 64 teams is tough. Thirty-two, OK, maybe that’s a manageable number. Sixteen, certainly manageable. But you’ve got to figure out those logistics,” Emmert said in an interview on the NCAA’s website. “There’s doubtlessly ways to make that work.”

Emmert also said the NCAA’s preference would be to keep the men’s and women’s tournaments as scheduled in 2021.

“Men’s and women’s basketball, we’ve got to do what we need to do to support those athletes and those timelines,” Emmert said. “We’re talking, of course, with our media partners pretty constantly now about what flexibility they would have and we would have. We’d love nothing more than to hold the current dates constant, and that may well be doable.”

FOOTBALL: Canadian Football League Cancels Season

The Canadian Football League is shifting its focus to 2021 after deciding not to play a shortened season in the fall, deciding that it cannot play without fans in the stands since that is its major source of revenue.

The season was to be played in Winnipeg as the hub city with players living in a protected “bubble” consisting of the gameday stadium, practice fields and hotels. But the league also consistently said the plan would require some meaningful federal government support — which was denied — among other factors.

“Even with additional support, our owners and community-held teams would have had to endure significant financial losses to play in 2020,” Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said. “Without it, the losses would be so large that they would really hamper our ability to bounce back strongly next year and beyond. The most important thing is the future of our league.”

SOCCER: U.S. Open Cup Canceled

U.S. Soccer’s Open Cup Committee has been forced to cancel the 2020 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the first time it has not been held in 106 years. The Open Cup previously faced an interruption during the pandemic of 1918-1920 when the tournament was known as the National Challenge Cup.

The traditional winner of the U.S. Open Cup has come from Major League Soccer, which will play in home markets after the completion of the MLS Is Back Tournament, with some markets making plans to have fans at games.

The first in-market game was August 16, when FC Dallas hosted Nashville SC. FC Dallas will allow up to 5,110 fans at Toyota Stadium for its home games with masks mandatory for those in attendance. Real Salt Lake will allow up to 5,000 fans to attend and Sporting Kansas City will allow for 2,500 fans to be at its home games.

Due to Yankee Stadium being unavailable, New York City FC will play games at Red Bull Arena, the home of rivals New York Red Bulls. Another issue is the league’s three Canadian teams in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver; those teams play each other twice before possibly having a U.S. base for the rest of the season due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada.

Friday August 14

COLLEGIATE SPORTS: NCAA President Says No Fall Championships

The NCAA will not conduct any of its fall championships, a move that impacts 22 sports as well as the FCS football championship. In a video posted to Twitter, NCAA President Mark Emmert said the fact that less than 50 percent of schools will be competing in those sports met a threshold to cancel the championship events. The decision does not include major college football, which is organized separately from the NCAA.

“The board of governors also established if you don’t have half of the schools playing a sport, you can’t have a legitimate championship,” Emmert said in a video posted on the NCAA’s Twitter feed. “We can’t in any Division I NCAA championship sport now — which is everything other than FBS football that goes on in the fall. Sadly, tragically, that’s going to be the case this fall, full stop.”

Emmert said the NCAA will turn its attention to winter and spring sports that lost their championships last season in the hopes those athletes can still compete for a title this coming season. But there may be changes ahead for how those events are conducted. Emmert said options include shrinking bracket sizes, hosting events at pre-determined sites and creating bubble or “semi-bubble” concepts for sports such as volleyball and soccer.

“There’s a way to do it,” Emmert said. “Will it be normal? Of course not. We’ll be playing fall sports in the spring. Will it create other conflicts and challenges? Of course. But is it doable? Yeah. It is doable.”

The official announcement came after the Ohio Valley Conference made plans to postpone its fall sports schedule, becoming the 13th FCS conference to announce that it won’t conduct fall sports as scheduled.

Football Bowl Subdivision play is a different conversation. Of the Power 5 leagues, the Big Ten and Pac-12 have cancelled play for the fall while the ACC, SEC and Big 12 are still going forward with plans to play. Several non-Power 5 leagues including Conference USA, the American Athletic Conference and Sun Belt are still scheduled to play along with BYU, an independent football program.

Thursday, August 13

COLLEGIATE SPORTS: Big Sky, WAC, Southland Postpone Fall Sports

Three more collegiate conferences have announced they will postpone the fall season in sports: The Big Sky Conference, the WAC and the Southland Conference.

For the Big Sky, the move postpones all competition for fall sports to spring 2021. This decision affects men’s and women’s cross country, soccer and volleyball, which all stage championships, as well as the non-championship sports of men’s and women’s golf, softball, and men’s and women’s tennis. The conference had previously moved the football season to the spring.

“While I am confident that our conference is making the right decision for the health and safety of our student-athletes, it breaks my heart knowing how disappointing this will be to all of them who were eagerly anticipating the opportunity to compete this fall,” Commissioner Tom Wistrcill said. “Our efforts in the conference office now will focus on doing everything within our power to make their spring season the best that it possibly can be, which includes advocating for their NCAA championships to be held then.”

For the WAC, the move suspends all fall championship and non-championship athletics competition through the end of 2020. The conference’s fall conference championship sports affected are men’s and women’s cross country, volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer. The move also affects the non-championship portion of the schedule for men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s golf, baseball, and softball.

In the Southland Conference, sports postponed to the spring are football, volleyball, women’s soccer and cross country. The conference’s 13 member presidents also authorized planning for spring semester championship events for volleyball, soccer and cross country.

“The Board concluded that an entire fall sports season is not likely, and that a postponement to spring can provide the important opportunities our teams annually seek,” Southland Conference Commissioner Tom Burnett said. “While disappointed that we won’t be playing these sports in the Southland’s 58th year of fall competition, we look forward to a unique spring season of athletics that also includes NCAA postseason opportunities.”

Wednesday, August 12

GOLF: Masters to Be Held Without Patrons (Or Fans)

The Masters, one of the most venerable sporting events in the world that is traditionally held in early April but this year will take place in November, will do so without fans, Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley announced.

“Since our initial announcement to postpone the 2020 Masters, we have remained committed to a rescheduled Tournament in November while continually examining how best to host a global sporting event amid this pandemic,” said Ridley. “Throughout this process, we have consulted with health officials and a variety of subject matter experts. Ultimately, we determined that the potential risks of welcoming patrons and guests to our grounds in November are simply too significant to overcome.”

[Case Study: How the PGA Tour’s aggressive COVID-19 testing has kept events going]

All 2020 ticket holders will be guaranteed the same tickets for the 2021 Masters. The tournament was only postponed on the Monday before the event in April was scheduled to begin, with a rescheduled event set in the hopes of having fans — or patrons in Masters-speak — on the grounds.

The PGA Tour is in its 10th week of action after the pandemic shut down the sport for 13 weeks. The PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, won by Collin Morikawa on Sunday, was played without spectators while September’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot will not have fans and the British Open canceled its 2020 event.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Big 12 Plans To Play, Releases Schedule

The Big 12 Conference, seen as a linchpin for the Power 5 college football landscape, released a revised 2020 schedule after agreeing the night before to proceed with plans for fall sports. The decision came late on a day where the Big Ten and Pac-12 both canceled fall sports and many saw a Big 12 decision as the last gasp to keep college football on the fall sports landscape; should the Big 12 had decided to cancel, it was believed that the ACC and SEC would likely follow.

“The virus continues to evolve and medical professionals are learning more with each passing week,” said Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby. “Opinions vary regarding the best path forward, as we’ve seen throughout higher education and our society overall, but we are comfortable in our institutions’ ability to provide a structured training environment, rigorous testing and surveillance, hospital quality sanitation and mitigation practices that optimize the health and safety of our student-athletes.”

Big 12 members have committed to enhanced COVID-19 testing that includes three tests per week in football, volleyball and soccer. Non-conference football opponents must also adhere to COVID-19 testing protocols that conform to Big 12 standards during the week leading up to competition. The Big 12 will have nine conference games this season and allow each member to play one non-conference game as well but it must be completed before September 26.

As the Power 5 Conferences continue to shift and adapt to the landscape, several other conferences are also trying to wrap around a new reality. The Big South joined a lengthening list of those who will not have fall sports with the intent to play in the spring — with a twist. The league will allow its football teams to play up to four non-conference games this fall at their discretion; some of the league’s football programs would likely be looking to fill in for FBS teams that now have holes in a schedule and want to fill them with willing opponents while also allowing the Big South teams to try and get potential revenue as a buy game.

The latest Division I conference to cancel fall sports is the Big East, which said it will look at a future date to determine if men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, volleyball and field hockey can be played in the spring. The decision was made in consultation with the league’s COVID-19 Task Force. Decisions on winter and spring sports schedules will be made at a later time.

Tuesday, August 11

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Big Ten and Pac-12 Conferences Cancel College Football

The Big Ten Conference became the first Power 5 conference to cancel fall sports in what could be the first in a series of dominos that would put the entire Football Bowl Subdivision season in peril, followed shortly after by the Pac-12 Conference, which announced that it may play football in the spring but otherwise will hold off all sports until January 1, 2021.

“In making its decision, which was based on multiple factors, the Big Ten Conference relied on the medical advice and counsel of the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee,” the league said in a statement, adding that they will evaluate the option of having fall sports season held in the spring of 2021. It also noted that a decision on winter and spring sports will not be made until a later date.

“All of the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors understand the importance of this decision, and the disappointment it will create for our student-athletes, the coaches, support staff and all of our fans,” said Michael H. Schill, president of the University of Oregon in announcing the Pac-12’s decision. “Ultimately, our decision was guided by science and a deep commitment to the health and welfare of student-athletes. We certainly hope that the Pac-12 will be able to return to competition in the New Year.”

The Big Ten had only last week released a 10-game, conference-only schedule with play starting on Labor Day weekend. The Pac-12 had planned a conference-only schedule that was to start September 26.

“The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said. “As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.”

Coaches Jim Harbaugh of Michigan, Ryan Day of Ohio State and James Franklin of Penn State were among those on Monday who tweeted support for a season to be held along with dozens of players from throughout the conference. Nebraska coach Scott Frost said the league would still play this fall if they did not have a Big Ten schedule, adding “I think we’re prepared to look at any and all options.” U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, wrote to Big Ten Conference presidents and chancellors urging them not to cancel the season.

No football in the Big Ten this season would be a devastating blow to several local economies, including markets such as Lincoln, Nebraska; State College, Pennsylvania; and Ann Arbor, Michigan. The conference has some of the biggest fan bases in the country; rivalries such as Ohio State vs. Michigan are among the fiercest in all of sports and many of its other matchups have a long history such as Wisconsin vs. Minnesota, which has been played annually since 1905.

The Pac-12, while not in College Football Playoff contention in recent years, still maintains multiple national brands between USC, UCLA and Oregon. The rivalry between Stanford and Cal-Berkeley has been played every year since 1945, and the rivalry between Oregon and Oregon State has been played continuously since 1945. The LA rivalry between USC and UCLA will not be played for the first time since 1935.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott noted while the Conference’s plan to keep student-athletes safe was working in accordance with the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee guidelines and state and local government orders, the situation was becoming more challenging: “Unlike professional sports, college sports cannot operate in a bubble,” he said. “Our athletic programs are a part of broader campuses in communities where in many cases the prevalence of COVID-19 is significant.  We will continue to monitor the situation and when conditions change we will be ready to explore all options to play the impacted sports in the new calendar year.”

The decision by the Big Ten and Pac-12 also increases the attention and scrutiny over what the other Power 5 conferences — the ACC, SEC and Big 12 — will do.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement, “I look forward to learning more about the factors that led the Big Ten and Pac-12 leadership to take these actions today. I remain comfortable with the thorough and deliberate approach that the SEC and our 14 members are taking to support a healthy environment for our student-athletes. We will continue to further refine our policies and protocols for a safe return to sports as we monitor developments around COVID-19 in a continued effort to support, educate and care for our student-athletes every day.”

“We are pleased with the protocols being administrated on our 15 campuses,” the ACC said in its own statement. “We will continue to follow our process that has been in place for months and has served us well. We understand the need to stay flexible and be prepared to adjust as medical information and the landscape evolves.”

The Big Ten and Pac-12’s decisions come one day after the Mountain West Conference canceled its football season, the second conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision to do so after the Mid-American Conference announced its cancellation on Saturday. The Mountain West said it will “explore the feasibility of rescheduling fall sports competition, including the possibility of those sports competing in the spring, and develop options for consideration.”

The Mountain West is home to Boise State, one of the sport’s mid-major powerhouses, and traditionally is known as one of the best non-Power 5 leagues in the FBS. Along with the MW and MAC, individual programs such as the University of Massachusetts, University of Connecticut and Old Dominion University individually have canceled play.

The NCAA Division II and Division III fall championships have been canceled and the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs were also canceled after leagues comprising of more than half of the level’s programs announced it would not play in the fall; a spring FCS season has not yet been publicly ruled out.

Monday, August 10

HOCKEY: Hall of Fame Induction Delayed

The Hockey Hall of Fame announced that the 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Weekend/Celebration has been postponed until further notice. Rescheduling plans will be addressed when the Hall’s Board of Directors meet October 29. The Induction Celebration for Marian Hossa, Jarome Iginla, Kevin Lowe, Kim St-Pierre, Doug Wilson and Ken Holland was scheduled for November 16 in Toronto.

NASCAR: Fans Expected at Darlington Raceway

Darlington Raceway in South Carolina has gotten state approval to have fans in the stands when it runs NASCAR’s Southern 500 next month.

The state’s Commerce Department gave the track “Too Tough To Tame” an exemption to have up to 8,000 fans in the stands. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said he was limiting venues to 250 people or 50% of capacity, whichever was less. Venues such as Darlington that get exemptions must require wearing masks or face coverings as a condition of entry.

Darlington was the first track to host NASCAR racing last May with two races in a three-day period after missing more than two months due to COVID-19. The September 6 race will be the first of NASCAR’s 10-event playoffs and mark Darlington’s first season with three Cup Series races.

ESPORTS: DreamHack Events Postponed for Remainder of 2020

Gaming festival organizer DreamHack has postponed the remainder of its live events planned for 2020, including a show scheduled for Atlanta from November 13–15. Other shows affected were scheduled for Rotterdam, The Netherlands, Hyderabad, India; and Madrid.

“We have never had to postpone events like this before,” said DreamHack co-CEO Marcus Lindmark, “but these are extraordinary times, and the safety of our attendees and staff has never been more important than now.”

DreamHack earlier postponed events in Dallas and Montreal to 2021. The new dates for the postponed events will be revealed at a later date.

Friday, August 7

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FCS Playoffs Shelved for Fall; Spring Play Still Possible

The Football Championship Subdivision playoffs will not be held in the fall after the latest in a series of conference decisions to postpone the season has resulted in the lower half of Division I college football falling short of a NCAA mandate to hold a postseason event.

The NCAA’s recent mandate that playoffs would require 50% of eligible teams participate in a regular season was triggered after both the Big Sky Conference, home to some of the most competitive programs in the FCS, announced it will move its season to the spring. The Pioneer League also decided not to have football in the fall.

“The health and safety of our students is our top priority, and ultimately that concern guided our decision-making process over the past few months as we explored every option regarding the 2020 football season,” said Andy Feinstein, president of the University of Northern Colorado and chair of the Big Sky Presidents’ Council. “We recognize just how meaningful these opportunities are to the student-athletes, coaches, and staff throughout our conference, and empathize that they won’t be able to compete this fall for a Big Sky championship. We are eager to provide our football programs with that opportunity in the spring when it’s hopefully safer to be able to do so.”

Of the 13 FCS football conferences, eight have announced they will not have fall seasons: the CAA, Ivy League, MEAC, NEC, Patriot League and SWAC in addition to the Big Sky and Pioneer League. The Big South, Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley, Southern and Southland conferences have not yet announced plans.

The FCS playoffs have been held annually since 1978 and was expanded to 24 teams in 2013. If all of FCS shift their seasons to the spring, a playoff would still be possible later in the year.

“We will now shift our attention to doing everything within our power to provide our football student-athletes and coaches with a conference schedule and a championship (playoff) opportunity in the spring,” Big Sky Commissioner Tom Wistrcill said. “We already have begun actively engaging our fellow FCS conferences and the NCAA to join us then for what will be a unique opportunity to return to competition and compete for an FCS championship.”

HOCKEY: ECHL Delays Start to 2020–2021 Season

The ECHL will open its 72-game schedule on a delayed basis with opening puck drops on December 4. The season was scheduled to start October 16; the league’s 2019–2020 season was suspended due to COVID-19 and never completed.

“We are eager to return to hockey, but at this time we believe this decision is prudent for the safety of our Players, Employees and Fans,” said ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin. “The ECHL and our Board of Governors are focused on the 2020-21 Season and remain optimistic for the safe reopening of our venues across the continent.”

GOLF: LPGA Event in New Jersey Going Fan-Less

The ShopRite Classic, a longtime stop on the LPGA Tour held in New Jersey, will be competed without fans. The tournament, previously scheduled in May and then rescheduled to July 31, will now be held starting September 28 in Galloway, New Jersey. The tournament will be expanded to 72 holes from 54.

“I cannot thank our partners at ShopRite, Acer and Eiger enough for their support as we navigate through these unique times,” said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan.“While this year’s tournament will certainly be different without the great fan support on-site, I hope all of our local fans will tune into Golf Channel to watch their favorite players and we can’t wait until we can all be together again.”

Wednesday, August 5

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Connecticut Becomes First FBS Program to Cancel Football Season

The University of Connecticut became the first Football Bowl Subdivision program to cancel its season, with Athletic Director David Benedict saying “safety challenges created by COVID-19 place our football student-athletes at an unacceptable level of risk.”

The program had left the American Athletic Conference in June and was planning on playing in the fall as an independent. But with many other leagues going to conference-only play, the Huskies were left with only five games before the decision to cancel. The school said in its statement that no student-athletes have tested positive for the coronavirus since early July.

“We engaged and listened to the concerns of our football student-athletes and feel this is the best decision for their health, safety, and well-being,” Huskies Coach Randy Edsall said in the news release. “Our team is united in this approach and we will use this time to further player development within the program and gear ourselves to the 2021 season.”

The Huskies finished 2-10 last season and are 6-30 in the past three seasons combined. The school is required to pay the ACC an exit fee of $17 million by 2026 after leaving to re-join the Big East in all sports other than football, men’s and women’s ice hockey and rowing.

COLLEGE SPORTS: Division II and Division III Vote to Cancel Fall Championships; Division I Plans Unclear

NCAA Division III championships in fall sports for 2020-21 are canceled as part of a broader announcement by the governing body allowing each conference and division to make their own plans for championship events.

“With the health and safety of the division’s student-athletes, coaches, athletics administrators and communities as its priority, the Division III Presidents Council made the decision Wednesday to cancel the championships due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related administrative and financial challenges,” the statement read. Nearly every Division III athletic conference had already decided to cancel or postpone fall competition, making it a relatively easy decision.

“Looking at the health and safety challenges we face this fall during this unprecedented time, we had to make this tough decision to cancel championships for fall sports this academic year in the best interest of our student-athlete and member institutions,” said Tori Murden McClure, chair of the Presidents Council and president at Spalding. “Our Championships Committee reviewed the financial and logistical ramifications if Division III fall sports championships were conducted in the spring and found it was logistically untenable and financially prohibitive. Our Management Council reached the same conclusion. Moving forward, we will try to maximize the championships experience for our winter and spring sport student-athletes, who unfortunately were short-changed last academic year.”

Shortly after the Division III announcement, Division II’s Presidents Council made the same decision. As of Wednesday, 11 of the 23 Division II conferences had announced they will not compete during the fall.

“After reviewing and discussing the Board of Governors’ directives, the Division II Presidents Council made the difficult decision that holding fall championships in any capacity was not a viable or fiscally responsible option for Division II,” said Sandra Jordan, chancellor of South Carolina Aiken and chair of the council. “This decision was discussed very thoroughly and I assure you, it was not made lightly. It is important to note that fall student-athletes will be given eligibility-related flexibility to allow them championship opportunities in the future. As we move forward, we will continue to focus on providing the best championships experience for our winter and spring student-athletes who were not afforded those opportunities at the beginning of this pandemic.”

The NCAA Board of Governors before the Division III announcement released a list of requirements for any fall championship to be held, including no championship if 50 percent or more of the eligible teams in a division cancel their fall season.

Division I must determine by Aug. 21 whether its respective fall sports seasons and NCAA championships should occur this year. Among other guidelines, the Board of Governors said the NCAA will establish a phone number and email for college athletes, parents or others to report alleged failures in adhering to medical protocols, and that any athlete who decides to opt out of the season can do so without losing their scholarship. Member schools must also cover COVID-19 related medical expenses for athletes to prevent out-of-pocket expenses.

ENDURANCE SPORTS: USA Paratriathlon Nationals Canceled

USA Triathlon has canceled the Toyota USA Paratriathlon National Championships, which were initially scheduled to take place July 18 in Long Beach, California, as part of the Legacy Triathlon. When Legacy Triathlon event weekend was canceled, Paratriathlon Nationals were rescheduled to take place as part of the Ron Jon Cocoa Beach Triathlon hosted by Smooth Running on Sept. 20 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. The Ron Jon Cocoa Beach Triathlon will continue as a local USA Triathlon-sanctioned event for age-group athletes including a triathlon, duathlon and relay division as well as the USA Triathlon Southeast Paratriathlon Regional Championships.

Tuesday, August 4

AUTO RACING: Indianapolis 500 To Be Held Without Fans

One of the biggest sporting events in the world will be held without spectators as the Indianapolis 500, which was rescheduled from Memorial Day Weekend to August 23 in the hopes of being able to allow fans, announced that it will instead be held without spectators at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Track officials had released a plan for social distancing throughout the complex to allow for 25 percent of capacity to attend and earlier vowed it would cancel the event rather than hold it without fans. The Indianapolis 500 will run for the 104th time this month and traditionally draws over 257,000 fans each year.

“This tough decision was made following careful consideration and extensive consultation with state and city leadership,” the track said in a statement. “As dedicated as we were to running the race this year with 25 percent attendance at our large outdoor facility, even with meaningful and careful precautions implemented by the city and state, the COVID-19 trends in Marion County and Indiana have worsened. Since our June 26 announcement, the number of cases in Marion County has tripled while the positivity rate has doubled. We said from the beginning of the pandemic we would put the health and safety of our community first, and while hosting spectators at a limited capacity with our robust plan in place was appropriate in late June, it is not the right path forward based on the current environment.”

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Big 12 Conference Adopts 9+1 Football Schedule

The Big 12 Conference became the latest of the Power 5 conferences to adjust its football schedules, announcing it will play nine conference games and have one non-conference home game for each school.

The start of conference play will be announced at a later date, with some schools planning on having a non-conference game as soon as late-August. The adjusted schedule also allows for the Big 12 Championship game to be moved to as late as December 19, which is in line with what other Power 5 conferences have scheduled.

“I would like to salute the work of our university presidents and chancellors, athletics directors, coaches, medical advisors and administrators who have worked tirelessly and collaboratively during these extraordinary times,” said Commissioner Bob Bowlsby. “We believe this change provides the best opportunity going forward.  However, we will undoubtedly need to be flexible as we progress through the season in order to combat the challenges that lie ahead.”

The Big 12 and ACC will be the only Power 5 conferences to allow for a non-conference game. The SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 will be going conference only with their football schedules.

Monday, August 3

CYCLING: Colorado Classic Publishes COVID Mitigation Plan

After canceling its event due to increased concerns around a spike in new COVID-19 cases nationwide, the Colorado Classic has published its COVID-19 Mitigation Plan in the hope it will offer assistance to other event organizers, teams and riders as the sport continues to grapple with the pandemic.

The Classic is a professional women’s cycling race that was scheduled for four destinations across the state. In its place, organizers launched the #WeRide for Women fundraiser and virtual ride, which is intended to financially support the teams that would have competed. Earlier this year, organizers had proposed staging the August race but eliminating crowd gatherings. But new COVID-19 cases in Colorado and other restrictions made even the competition difficult to move forward.

“We spent months recognizing and researching the key elements for a successful COVID mitigation plan applicable to a professional cycling event,” said Lucy Diaz, chief executive officer of RPM Events Group LLC. “It was a very collaborative process that included medical professionals, bio labs, state, county and city health officials and cycling industry professionals. We studied the protocols that were being put into place in our surrounding communities and what was being proposed in other professional sports.”

The plan was developed in concert with current Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment guidelines and integrates policy and protocol as established by the cycling governing bodies of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and USA Cycling. The plan takes into account the Colorado Classic’s first step toward a safe racing environment, which was the creation of a “Made for TV Streaming” model. This format eliminated crowd gathering opportunities and amplified their innovative live streaming model instead.

TRIATHLON: 2020 USA Triathlon Off-Road Nationals Canceled

USA Triathlon has canceled its Off-Road National Championships scheduled for May 16, then rescheduled for September 13, at Wawayanda State Park in Hewitt, New Jersey. The 2021 event will return to Hewitt on May 15. The 2021 event will serve as a qualifier for both the 2021 and 2022 ITU Age Group Cross Triathlon World Championships, which will be held in Almere-Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Townsville, Australia, respectively.

“Unfortunately, current COVID-19 restrictions in New Jersey eliminate the possibility of drawing a national field for this event,” said Brian D’Amico, director of events at USA Triathlon. “While it is always disappointing to cancel a national championship, we are confident this is the only feasible decision that is fair to all athletes.”

Athletes who were registered for the 2020 event have the option to participate in one of the age-group races at the Way Over Yonder Off-Road Triathlon & Duathlon, which is still scheduled for September 13, provided they can abide by New Jersey’s COVID-19 restrictions. They will also receive a special 30% off discount code toward the 2021 race.

Saturday, August 1

AUTO RACING: IndyCar Postpones Race Weekend in Ohio

The IndyCar Series and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course agreed to postpone The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio scheduled for August 7–9 until a date to be determined in September or October. The decision was made through communication with local health officials given the current environment.

“Our team continues to work with all of our partners and our local government to identify a date later this year when we can host The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio,” IndyCar said in a statement. “We appreciate the patience and understanding of our fans as we navigate this postponement.”

Friday, July 31

COLLEGE SPORTS: Pac-12 to Play Football Championship on Campus

The Pac-12 Conference has announced more details about its fall plans for football teams to play conference-only games. As part of the season that will begin September 26 for member schools, the Pac-12 Football Championship Game will be played December 18 or 19 with a home-hosted model.

The move will take the game away from Las Vegas, which was set to host the competition for the first time at Allegiant Stadium. In announcing the move, the Pac-12 said the game will be staged in 2021 in Las Vegas after consultation with the stadium, the Las Vegas Raiders, the Las Vegas CVA and MGM Resorts International.

The conference also announced a conference-only season for other sports, including men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s cross country.

Thursday, July 30

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEC Establishes Conference-Only Football Start Date

The Southeastern Conference will go to conference-only for a football schedule this fall with games starting September 26 “to allow its universities to focus on the healthy return of their campus communities and the gradual re-introduction of athletics,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey has announced.

The league will have a 10-game season with the SEC Championship Game held at its traditional site in Atlanta on December 19. The schedule will include one open date for each school with no games on December 12 as well.

Traditional SEC-ACC matchups such as South Carolina vs. Clemson, Kentucky vs. Louisville, Florida vs. Florida State and Georgia vs. Georgia Tech will be disrupted by the decision.

“This new plan for a football schedule is consistent with the educational goals of our universities to allow for the safe and orderly return to campus of their student populations and to provide a healthy learning environment during these unique circumstances presented by the COVID-19 virus,” Sankey said. “This new schedule supports the safety measures that are being taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities.”

A revised schedule for the 2020 SEC football season will be announced at a later date. The league’s other fall sports were earlier postponed through at least August 31 and start dates and schedules for those teams will also be announced at a later date.

HOCKEY: AHL Pushes 2020-21 Season Start to December

The American Hockey League has announced a revised start date for the 2020-21 season of December 4, 2020 as approved by the league’s Board of Governors. The league said in a statement that “the AHL will continue to work with its member clubs to monitor developments and local guidelines in all 31 league cities. Further details regarding the 2020-21 American Hockey League schedule are still to be determined.”

Wednesday, July 29

COLLEGE SPORTS: ACC Announces Plans for Football and Fall Olympic Sports

The Atlantic Coast Conference became the latest Power 5 league to announce its plans for the fall sports season, with football going to a modified schedule of 10 conference games plus one marquee non-conference game that will be determined at later dates and Notre Dame competing as a league member for this season only. Football and fall Olympic sports will begin competition the week of September 7–12 “if public health guidance allows,” the league said in a statement.

Most notable among the ACC football changes is that instead of two divisions the league will be a one-division format. The top two teams at the end of the season would play in the ACC Championship Game at season’s end. Each team’s non-conference game will be selected by the respective school and must be played in the home state of the ACC member school; all non-conference opponents must also meet the ACC’s medical protocol requirements.

Teams will have two open weeks during the season with the ACC title game played on either December 12 or December 19 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. The exact weekly schedule will be released in the future. Also of note is that the league will have all TV revenue for the season — including Notre Dame’s NBC home game broadcasts — shared equally among the 15 programs.

One intriguing tidbit about the schedule is normally, a Power 5 team would have six home games each season. Because the ACC’s 10-game conference schedule includes five home games, some schools may lose a potential home game if its non-conference game is on the road. Notre Dame’s traditionally has games against Navy and Southern Cal; the game against the Trojans had already been canceled because of the Pac-12’s decision on conferencely-only play, while the Navy game is currently scheduled to be played in Annapolis, Maryland. It would be the first time that Navy has ever hosted Notre Dame at home — and only because the game’s was moved to Annapolis from its original site in Dublin, Ireland. Now under the ACC’s protocols, should Notre Dame make Navy its one non-conference game, it would have to be moved into the state of Indiana.

For Olympic sports, the league will allow competition to start on September 10 with a NCAA-mandated minimum amount of conference games in field hockey (6), women’s and men’s soccer (6) and volleyball (10). Each school will be allowed to schedule additional games at their discretion both against conference and non-conference teams, provided those teams meet the ACC’s medical standards. But any conference games beyond the NCAA minimum will not count toward the league standings.

The ACC fall championship schedule will also be maintained with cross country involving all 15 member schools at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina, plus field hockey at Duke University and both men’s and women’s soccer championships being held at WakeMed Soccer Park.

The ACC’s move comes after two other Power 5 leagues, the Pac-12 and Big Ten, announced that they would have no non-conference play in the fall.

OLYMPICS: Tokyo Official Says 2021 Games Could Have ‘Limited’ Spectators

The chief executive of the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Summer Games has told the BBC that the rescheduled event next summer could be held with “a limited number of spectators,” according to the BBC.

Toshiro Muto said to the network that organizers “will do everything we can to make it to the opening ceremony” on July 23, 2021. The Olympics were postponed — the first time it has ever happened — due to COVID-19 and will be held from July 23 through August 8 next year, with the Paralympics scheduled for August 24 through September 5.

“Everyone should focus on holding the event next year — we’re on the same page,” said Muto. “We discussed this with Mr. [Thomas] Bach [IOC president] and he’s saying it isn’t appropriate to think about cancelling or postponing again.”

Muto told the BBC that the Olympics may have some events without capacity crowds but when asked if the Games would go on without fans, he replied “Mr. Bach is not looking for that scenario. He may be thinking about a limited number of spectators with full consideration of social distancing.”

Both the IOC and Tokyo organizers have been working to find ways to keep next year’s rescheduled event safe. Muto told the BBC that they may reduce the number of staff allowed from individual countries and present a streamlined Opening or Closing Ceremony. There are no current plans to cut the number of events or athletes that would compete in Japan.

“We must build an environment where people feel safe,” Muto said. “Athletes and the IOC family may require testing before/after entering Japan and [we need] strong medical systems around accommodation and transportation plans.”

COLLEGE SPORTS: Big West Conference Postpones Fall Sports

The Big West Conference will postpone fall sports competition through the end of 2020 but has not yet made a decision about men’s and women’s basketball, which are scheduled to begin on November 10.

The conference’s board of directors voted to make the change because of “continued serious challenges to health and safety on Big West campuses and communities impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic.” The move includes the postponement of men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball; “a decision on whether fall sport competition would be feasible in the spring will be determined by the Board of Directors at a later date and be based on conditions and circumstances that are in the best interests of the student-athletes,” the Big West added.

GOLF: U.S. Open Officially Off-Limits to Fans, USGA Says

The United States Golf Association has officially announced that the 120th U.S. Open Championship, scheduled for September 14–20 at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York, will be held without spectators. The decision was reached in consultation with the state of New York. The tournament, traditionally held in the spring with the final round on Father’s Day, was rescheduled to the fall because of COVID-19.

Tickets purchased directly through the USGA will be automatically refunded to the method of payment used to purchase the tickets. Additional information on U.S. Open ticket refunds can be found here.

“This will not be a typical U.S. Open in several respects,” said John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s senior managing director of championships. “Would it have been easier to simply cancel or even move the 2020 championship rather than play it in what has been the epicenter of the virus in our country? Possibly. But all of us at the USGA know how much the U.S. Open matters and we weren’t willing to give up on playing it at Winged Foot Golf Club so easily. We are very proud to give our competitors and champions a platform to chase their dreams. Their perseverance motivates us, in a year when such tenacity means so much.”

COLLEGE SPORTS: NAIA Moves Several Fall Championships to Spring

The NAIA’s Council of Presidents has voted to postpone national championships in the fall for cross country, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball to the spring of 2021. The decision notes that conference competition in those sports can still be held in the fall and winter if they choose; 51 NAIA institutions have already opted to postpone fall competition until the spring.

The timing of the football national championship will be determined at a council of presidents meeting on July 31.

“The NAIA realizes there are a wide range of considerations that come with postponing fall championships,” said NAIA President and CEO Jim Carr. “However, our first priority is making sure our student-athletes are not penalized by this decision. That will likely require temporary rule changes and accommodations as related to eligibility and seasons of competition, which the NAIA governance groups will begin further defining this week.”

HOCKEY: NWSL Releases Season Timeline

The National Women’s Hockey League, which had to cancel its Isobel Cup Playoffs in the spring, will start the upcoming season in January 2021 with a full 20-game schedule for each team and playoffs completed by the end of March. The league says it will aim to have its All-Star Game after the playoffs are completed.

The league said that will allow optional on-ice practices and off-ice training for teams starting the week of September 21, with formal practices starting the week of October 19 while following protocols established by infectious disease experts, the NWHL medical team and community officials in each market.

“The Safety Committee has and will continue to prioritize NWHL player, staff, fan, and media safety above all else while adapting to the ever-changing COVID-19 situation,” said Dr. Guillem Gonzalez-Lomas, assistant professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Health expert at NYU Langone Health. “We are eager to meet the challenge ahead and do our utmost to safely return the athletes to the sport they love.”

OLYMPIC SPORTS: USA Weightlifting Takes American Open Virtual

USA Weightlifting has changed the American Open Series 3 to a remote and virtual event instead of holding it in Las Vegas from September 17–20.

The change will allow athletes to train and compete at home or a nearby gym without the need to travel. The virtual event is being modeled after this summer’s ROGUE Invitational, Pan Am Cup, and USA Weightlifting’s Online Selection Camp. Upon the close of entries, USA Weightlifting will develop a competition schedule and at an athlete’s assigned time, they will login to a Zoom meeting and lift in competition with other athletes in their weight categories.

“This is an innovative solution for an unprecedented time in our history,” USA Weightlifting CEO Phil Andrews said. “We want to give our members something to circle on their calendar. By holding this event remotely, we can assure our members that a weightlifting competition will happen that weekend.”

ENDURANCE SPORTS: Spartan Cancels All 2020 U.S. Races

Spartan Race is cancelling all United States obstacle races and trail races for the rest of 2020. The organization had a series of postponements since March 11 when an event in San Luis Obispo, California, was canceled. It did have a race in Jacksonville, Florida, six weeks ago with a new set of standards but Spartan has decided to focus the rest of the calendar year on setting up its 2021 schedule.

“It was a difficult decision to make, but we believe it’s better to prioritize safety now so we can rally towards the incredible season we have planned in 2021,” Spartan said in a release.

Tuesday, July 28

NFL: No Bubble for Season, Says League

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to fans that laid out the issues that the 2020 season will bring, with many teams under fan restrictions and in some cases possibly not having crowds at all.

The league previously announced that fans in markets where attendance will be allowed must wear masks in the stadium. The New York Jets and Giants have announced that it will not have fans, while the Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers announced that it would have a restricted number of fans in attendance — if they are able to have fans at all. Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis already has said he does not expect fans to be in attendance when his team opens Allegiant Stadium.

“Covid-19 will continue to present a major challenge to nearly every area of American life. Football is no exception,” Goodell wrote, also confirming that there will be no preseason games. “The NFL in 2020 will not look like other years. Players and coaches will be tested for the virus regularly, including every day for a while. … When there is a positive test, strict regulations will be enforced to isolate and care for that individual and to contain the virus before it spreads. Even the sideline will look different. And, state and local health guidelines will help determine whether fans will attend the games. These adjustments are necessary to reduce the risk for everyone involved.”

Goodell’s letter came as the NFL’s chief medical officer Allen Sills told ESPN that the league does not plan to utilize a bubble concept in one location and will instead focus on handling testing in each team’s market and responding quickly to any positives that could occur.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Ohio State to Cap Attendance at 20,000

Ohio State football crowds will be capped at 20 percent of its 104,944 capacity this season, the athletic department wrote to season ticket holders, giving them an update as the season is scheduled to start in less than two months.

If games are played, the university will require physical distancing and mandatory face masks or coverings with limited concessions available. Ohio State will prohibit tailgating and for fans who have paid for season tickets, the university will offer to accommodate as many season ticket holders as possible, which will require limiting the quantity of season tickets for each ticket holder.

“While no final decision has been made regarding the 2020 football season, the Department of Athletics has been working diligently with university leaders, public health experts and government officials to create game day plans that protect the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes, staff, faculty and fans,” the department said in a message to ticket holders today.

Season ticket holders who opt out will retain their full season ticket eligibility for 2021.

Monday, July 27

AUTO RACING: IRL Schedule Adjusts Once More

The IndyCar Series, which has had to readjust its schedule continuously throughout the pandemic to make sure that it could run races at tracks with proper protocols and in some cases have been able to have fans on hand, released another update to the 2020 calendar that keeps it on track to run 14 races this season.

Events at Portland International Raceway in Oregon and a doubleheader weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in California have been canceled, with additional races in its places put in at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, World Wide Technology Raceway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Road Course.

Prior to the scheduled Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on August 9, the series will have another points race the day before. WWTR in St. Louis, Missouri, will have a doubleheader event on August 29–30 and the IMS race course will have events on October 2–3.

COLLEGE SPORTS: Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Postpones Fall Sports

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference has canceled fall sports competition, with a decision on if it can be rescheduled for the fall to be determined at a later date. The MAAC’s decision is the latest in a series of moves made by mostly smaller Division I conferences along with several in Division II, most notably the Ivy League and Patriot League

“The fall sports impacted by the Council’s decision include men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s cross country and sports that conduct non-traditional season segments in the fall,” MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor said. “It is the goal of the MAAC to ensure it recognizes a MAAC champion in each sport and it will review possible championship formats for the fall sports in accordance with evolving state and local regulations.”

One of the MAAC’s member schools is Marist College, which plays football in the Pioneer Football League since the MAAC does not sponsor the sport. Marist’s non-conference games against Georgetown, Cornell and Dartmouth had already been canceled, and Marist released a statement saying “it is presumed that the Red Foxes’ football season may be postponed barring significant improvements related to the COVID-19 pandemic. A decision regarding Marist’s football season is expected within the next few weeks.”

The announcements by the MAAC and Marist came soon after the NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee’s announcement that it will be giving a blanket waiver to fall sports that reduces the legislated minimum number of contests by 50 percent. The waiver is available for men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, men’s water polo and women’s volleyball teams.

“In the current environment where some conferences have eliminated non-conference competition for fall sports, the change allows teams that continue to play the opportunity to avoid scheduling additional games near the end of a season that could put student-athletes, coaches and staff in at-risk positions with additional travel and exposure,” the committee said in a statement.

Friday, July 24

MOTORSPORTS: Formula 1 Cancels North American Races

Formula 1 has announced that it will not race in the United States, Mexico, Canada or Brazil during 2020, a race that takes the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, off the calendar. That race had at the Circuit of the Americas course been scheduled for October 25.

The international racing series said the decision was “due to the fluid nature of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, local restrictions and the importance of keeping communities and our colleagues safe.” The decision was made after ongoing discussions and close collaboration with partners in the affected countries.

Chase Carey, chairman and CEO of Formula 1, said that he looked forward to welcoming the races back to the schedule in 2021: “We want to pay tribute to our incredible partners in the Americas and look forward to being back with them next season when they will once again be able to thrill millions of fans around the world.”

COTA Founding Partner Bobby Epstein called the cancellation “prudent, but painful. After a sold-out 2019, advance ticket sales deposits were up nearly 250 percent over the prior year, and our staff was preparing for our biggest event ever.”

Thursday, July 23

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Pac-12 Prepares Conference-Only Schedule Changes

The Pac-12 Conference, one of the two Power 5 leagues to announce that it will not be playing non-conference games this season in the fall, is on the verge of finalizing plans for a 10-game schedule in football. The news was first reported by the San Jose Mercury News.

The report says that it would be include each team playing against every team in the division along with five crossover games with seasons starting on Sept. 19, the third week on the college football calendar. There would be up to two bye weeks in each team’s season in case there are games that have to be rescheduled and the conference championship game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas could be held on its originally scheduled date of December 4, but it would also be potentially held on December 11–12 or December 18–19 if needed.

The Pac-12 and Big Ten Conferences have announced no non-conference play for football and other fall sports this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other Power 5 leagues such as the SEC, Big 12 and ACC are still working on their models for the season.

Wednesday, July 22

NFL: League Mandates Face Coverings for Fans

The National Football League announced today that fans who are allowed to attend games will be required to wear face coverings, making league-wide a mandate that many teams had already started to inform fans of as a policy.

In the past week, the New York Jets and Giants have announced that it will not have fans, while the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers announced that it would have a restricted number of fans in attendance — if they are able to have fans at all. The Atlanta Falcons joined that list on Wednesday, saying that it would have up to 20,000 fans at games allowed. Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis already has said he does not expect fans to be in attendance when his team opens Allegiant Stadium.

The Rams’ debut season at SoFi Stadium, the most highly anticipated sports venue opening in several years, will be played with a limited number of fans at most and the team announced to stadium seat license holders that “season tickets will not be possible for the 2020 season.” Season tickets will be deferred to the 2021 season with SSL holders given priority for games this year if fans are allowed in. Previous single game ticket purchases and transferred tickets will be canceled. The first game at SoFi Stadium would be the Rams’ season opener against the Dallas Cowboys on September 13.

The NFL has offered to eliminate the preseason as part of its negotiations with the players union — an offer that the union accepted late Tuesday, according to multiple reports — as training camps are scheduled to begin for many teams by the end of this week. The Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs had rookies report to their training camps on Monday since those teams are scheduled to start the regular season a few days ahead of the other teams in the league. The preseason had been a source of talks for several weeks, with the league previously cutting down the preseason to two games from the original four while the players wanted none.

The NFL and union is also close to agreement on a COVID-19 testing program that would result in each player being tested daily to start training camp. The daily testing will continue as long as the positive rate among players, coaches and team staffers is above 5 percent; if the rate is under that number, the testing will be done every other day.

OLYMPICS: USOPC Testing Reveals One Positive, Says Partner

The Partnership for Clean Competition, a nonprofit that funds anti-doping research, has partnered with the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee to test athletes for COVID-19 with 25 athletes at the Olympic & Paralympic Training Centers tested — with one positive test and another athlete testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies.

In addition to quarantining the currently infected athlete, USOPC officials were able to conduct contact tracing and quarantine those that had sustained contact with the positive athlete. The testing will help guide recommendations for sports organizations as they plan returns to training and competition. It will also provide invaluable information about infection rates in the athlete population.

“These tests will give us the first epidemiological profile of COVID-19 in the elite athlete population,” said USOPC Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Finnoff. “We want to know how prevalent the virus is, but we also want to know how an athlete’s body will respond.”

The PCC has provided the USOPC with $75,000, which will cover testing for 250 athletes. The PCC funds more than 70% of the world’s anti-doping research.

“At the end of the day, anti-doping is about athlete health and safety, so while this isn’t our typical area of focus, we felt called to work with the USOPC on this project,” said PCC Executive Director Michael Pearlmutter.

Tuesday, July 21

AUTO RACING: Indianapolis 500 To Have 25 Percent Capacity

The Indianapolis 500 will have 25 percent of capacity, announced Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with face coverings required for all attendees with ticket sales stopped after July 24.

“In June, we announced the race was on and that attendance would be limited to no more than 50 percent of capacity,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President & CEO Mark Miles said in a statement. “We also made clear we intended to do things differently this year. By offering credits to fans who had previously purchased tickets, encouraging those over 65 to stay at home, limiting attendance in the infield, reducing tickets in our suites and promising fans their decision to not attend would not impact their seniority or right to renew tickets for 2021, we now anticipate attendance at approximately 25 percent of capacity. We will welcome fans back, and we have an aggressive plan in place, which has been developed through collaboration with national, state and local health experts.”

Billed as the largest sports venue in the world, the track claims a permanent seating capacity for more than 235,000 people and infield seating that raises capacity to an approximate 400,000.

The track has prepared a nearly 100-page plan that provides guidelines and protocols for how the race will be run this year. Track officials will include safety precautions including the reassignment of seats to provide for greater distancing; the required use of masks and distribution of hand sanitizer to all who enter; temperature checks in order to enter; and changes throughout the facility to minimize lines and gathering spots, including limiting concession options to mostly pre-packaged foods.

Miles and track officials had previously said that if fans were not allowed in attendance that the race would be further delayed but that alternative will not be needed. The IndyCar Series have had a restricted number of fans at recent races in Wisconsin and Iowa.

“We look forward to welcoming fans back to the 500 in person. Our outdoor facility is mammoth, and with attendance of about 25 percent, it will certainly look different this year,” said Miles. “We want to demonstrate that even under current circumstances, people can gather with carefully planned procedures in place so we don’t have to go back to shutting down our country and our community.”

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Texas Expects 50 Percent Capacity; Classes at Cal to Start Virtually

The University of Texas says it anticipates home football games being played in front of 50 percent capacity in the stands, the Longhorns’ athletic director said in an email to season ticket holders.

Chris Del Conte said in the message that the school is working with the governor’s office and will follow state guidelines on social distancing. The Big 12 Conference has not made any announcements on the fate of college football yet; the Longhorns are scheduled to open on September 5 at home against South Florida.

Texas’ Royal-Memorial Stadium holds about 100,000 and even with limited capacity, the school said it expects to offer all season-ticket holders a chance to get tickets.

While the Big 12 and Texas are still moving ahead with plans to play all football games, the Pac-12 Conference has already announced that it will not have its member schools playing in non-conference games for all fall sports. One Pac-12 school, California, has announced that it will start the fall semester with fully remote instruction and not have students on campus. How that will affect Cal’s athletic programs is to be determined; the Bears football program already had games canceled by the conference’s decision against UNLV, TCU and Cal Poly, making the team’s currently scheduled opener September 26 against Utah.

“Although we have repeatedly noted that all fall plans are subject to public health conditions, we understand that this news will be disappointing,” Cal said in a statement, which pointedly did not mention athletics. “Many faculty and students continue to look forward to resumption of some element of in-person instruction. We will continue to work hard on our plans, and to learn from the setbacks as well as the advances.”

TENNIS: ATP Event in Washington, D.C., Canceled

The ATP Tour has called off next month’s Citi Open in Washington, D.C., due to COVID-19. The event was to be the first for the ATP Tour in its return to action since suspension of play in March. While the move has raised questions on the viability of the U.S. Open in New York City, the United States Tennis Association rejected those worries.

“The USTA understands the rationale for cancelling the Citi Open at this time,” said the governing body in a statement. “This decision in no way impacts the U.S. Open or the Western & Southern Open. … We constantly base our decisions regarding hosting these tournaments on our three guiding principles that include safety and health of all involved, whether hosting these events are in the best interest in the sport of tennis and whether this decision is financially viable. We are confident we remain in-line with all three guiding principles.”

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS: Texas Big-School Football Delayed

Texas will delay the start of football season for its largest schools until September 24 amid a surge of new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths throughout the state. The big schools were scheduled to start practice on August 3 and begin the season on September 7.

The University Interscholastic League said it focused the delay on larger schools in the state’s largest metropolitan areas. The Houston school district will not meet on campus until mid-October.

“These adjustments reflect the public health situation at this time and the varying numbers of COVID-19 cases across different geographic areas of the state,” the UIL said in its announcement.

Monday, July 20

NFL: Jets, Giants Without Fans This Season Or “Until Further Notice”

The New York Jets and Giants will not have fans at MetLife Stadium this season “until further notice” because of the coronavirus pandemic after releasing a joint statement with Governor Phil Murphy.

Murphy announced an executive order limiting outdoor public gatherings to 500 people on Monday. The Jets and Giants say the decision to not have fans for now was reached after discussions with Murphy, with the health and safety of fans, players and staff being considered.

We support Governor Murphy’s decision in the interest of public health and safety and, until circumstances change, we will play our games without the benefit of fans in attendance,” said a letter sent to Jets and Giants season ticket holders. “Although we prefer to have fans at MetLife Stadium for our games, we will continue to work with Governor Murphy’s office and will provide updates as available.”

The letter also read “in the event fans are permitted at MetLife Stadium later this season and depending on capacity limitations or restrictions from the State of NJ, Season Ticket Members will receive first access to purchase 2020 individual game tickets via exclusive pre-sales before tickets are offered to the general public.”

Rutgers University also announced that all of its athletic venues will operate with 500 or fewer in attendance and safety precautions will be in place for those fans who come to sporting events there.

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS: California Moves All Sports To December or January Starts

The California Interscholastic Federation has moved all high school athletics back to at least December or January, creating a new statewide calendar that will have two sports seasons in the winter and fall while allowing each of the state’s 10 sections to put together their own calendar to reflect when their regions feel ready to have competition.

With coronavirus surging throughout the state, most California public and private schools will begin the academic year with online classes. High school football practice was scheduled to begin Aug. 3 but now will have its regional bowl games held by April 17 at the latest. Given the state’s enormous depth and breadth of talent in many scholastic sports, the calendar changes will not only make some multi-sport athletes choose one team or the other, it will also inevitably lead to a gigantic scramble for colleges looking to recruit and evaluate athletes.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the CIF will allow athletes to participate on club teams while also competing in high school seasons in a temporary suspension of statewide rules, although local districts can have a stricter rule should they choose.

“We are continuously monitoring the directives and guidelines released from the Governor’s Office, the California Department of Education, the California Department of Public Health and local county health departments and agencies as these directives and guidelines are followed by our member schools/school districts with student health and safety at the forefront,” the CIF said in a statement.

Friday, July 17

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: CAA Cancels Fall Football Season

The Colonial Athletic Association has become the latest collegiate conference to suspend football competition for the fall, citing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. Conference officials said they would explore playing the sport in the spring.

The CAA also cited the unique nature of the conference composition, the geographical expansion of membership and the complexity of the often-changing situation in postponing the fall season. Conference leaders also said schools were welcome to explore pursuing an independent schedule in the fall.

“I commend the Board of Directors for their forward thinking and open-mindedness when dealing with the uncertain and complex moment that we find ourselves in,” said CAA Commissioner Joe D’Antonio. “Each of our institutions is making the best decisions for its campus community, based on a totality of the circumstances analysis.”

The 12 schools in the conference are James Madison, Albany, Villanova, New Hampshire, Towson, Maine, Elon, Richmond, Delaware, William & Mary, Stony Brook and Rhode Island.

COLLEGE SPORTS: Atlantic 10 Postpones All Fall Sports

The Atlantic 10 Conference has postponed of all scheduled fall competition in conference-sponsored sports and A-10 championships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sports affected by the move includes men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, men’s and women’s cross country and volleyball. The fall competitive schedules for men’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and women’s rowing will also be postponed, as will non-traditional competition seasons for baseball, softball and women’s lacrosse.

The league intends to move all fall competition to the 2021 spring semester. Details on the rescheduling of contests and championships will be announced at a later date.

Thursday, July 16

AUTO RACING: NASCAR All-Star Open Draws 20,000 Fans

It was a scene not seen in NASCAR in many months — not the part where a driver wins a race, but what happened when Clint Bowyer won the fan vote to advance to the NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

It was the sound of cheers from the grandstand, as at least 20,000 fans were socially distanced throughout the track’s massive grandstands. Up to 30,000 fans were allowed to attend the annual event, which was moved from Charlotte Motor Speedway to Tennessee for the first time.

“To me there is no more electric environment that we as NASCAR drivers can interact with and hear at Bristol,” said Chase Elliott, who won the race. “I know it was limited on how many people could come. Heck, it felt like they sure were making a lot of noise for only 30,000 people to be here, so that was pretty cool.”

Bristol can hold about 140,000 people, meaning it would be 79% empty even with a crowd of 30,000. Masks were required upon entrance but fans could remove them once in their seats. Concession stands were open, but opportunities were limited.

“Having the fans back is obviously what we all want,” Kevin Harvick said. “Having that energy back in the stands was definitely fun to hear, fun to be a part of.”

IndyCar raced last weekend at Road America in Wisconsin on a 4-mile road course and crowd estimates for that event have been around 10,000 spectators. The IndyCar series plans to have fans again during its upcoming race weekend at Iowa Speedway with a limited number of tickets available and social distancing enforced throughout the stands.

Wednesday, July 15

OLYMPICS: 2022 Youth Olympic Games Postponed to 2026

The Youth Olympic Games scheduled for Senegal in 2022 will be postponed until 2026 after a mutual agreement between the host country and International Olympic Committee. The agreement was approved by the IOC Executive Board and will be submitted to the IOC Session for ratification on Friday.

The postponement of Dakar 2022 allows the IOC, National Olympic Committees and International Federations to better plan activities that have been affected by the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This amicable agreement illustrates the mutual trust between Senegal and the IOC,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement. “I am sure that together we will organize fantastic Youth Olympic Games Dakar 2026 for Senegal, the entire African continent and all the young athletes of the world.”

The IOC also announced that it has so far paid $100 million to various National Olympic Committees and International Federation since the outbreak of the coronavirus, with $63 million going to IFs and $37 million to NOCs. Payments to IFs started in June and the program is continuing, the IOC said.

COLLEGE SPORTS: Tournament of Roses Parade Canceled, Rose Bowl Still On For Now

The Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association has announced that the 2021 Rose Parade has been canceled. Since its inception in 1891, the Parade has not occurred only three times – the wartime years of 1942, 1943 and 1945.

The Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association also hosts the Rose Bowl Game each January 1. The planning for this year’s Rose Bowl Game, which will serve as a College Football Playoff Semifinal, is still ongoing.

“We continue to work with the College Football Playoff and our collegiate partners to explore what this year’s college football season will look like amidst COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines. While the safety and well-being of the student athletes, university personnel and fans is our top priority, we remain hopeful that the Granddaddy of Them All will take place on New Year’s Day,” said David Eads, executive director and chief executive officer of the Tournament of Roses.

Potentially having no Rose Bowl game would be another blow to the Rose Bowl Operating Company’s financial state. The Pasadena City Council earlier this summer approved $11.5 million in debt payments to help cover costs from a decade-long renovation.

NFL: Buccaneers to Get Facility Improvements to Prevent COVID-19 Spread

Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, the home of the 2021 Super Bowl, would be getting over $10 million in federal funding to have upgrades throughout the facility to prevent the spread of COVID-19 if approved by the Hillsborough County Commission. The news was first reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

The federal funding would be used by the Tampa Sports Authority to modify more than 40 different areans throughout the stadium, with the first of three phases to be completed by October 31. Among the modifications would be a public address system in the parking lots to let fans know which groups would be allowed to come to entry gates at assigned times, plus touchscreen ticket scanners and temperature check thermometers. There would also be portable wash stations throughout the venue and parking areas plus modifications to the press box for social distancing and reconfigured entry gates and check points.

The measures already have been recommended for approval by the commission’s staff, according to the story, and the Buccaneers are expected to unveil their ticket policy and seating capacity this week.

NASCAR: Fans Allowed for August Events at Daytona

Daytona International Speedway will allow a limited number of fans to attend the Cup Series and Truck Series races on August 16 in accordance with public health officials and local, state and federal authorities along with amended safety protocols and procedures. Fans will be allowed to sit in the frontstretch grandstand plus there will be options for infield camping. Tickets are also being sold for the August 29 Cup Series event.

Fans who have already purchased tickets to the August 16 event have been reseated and guests who attend will be required to wear face coverings and maintain six feet of social distancing throughout the venue. There will also be ingress and egress procedures into the property and each guest will be screened at the gate with questions about their health status and a temperature check, among other protocols.

COLLEGE SPORTS: Major Preseason Event Canceled

College hockey’s Ice Breaker Tournament, a major opening weekend event that traditionally brings together four of the biggest names in the sport, will be postponed to 2021. The tournament was scheduled be hosted by the University of Minnesota-Duluth and also include the University of Minnesota, Minnesota State University-Mankato and Providence College. The rescheduled event will be held October 9–10, 2021 with all of the teams except for Minnesota still participating.

“Given the latest input and guidance from the University, local and state officials as well as public health experts, we have decided at this time it is not possible to host the 2020 Ice Breaker Tournament in a successful manner and have postponed the event to October of 2021,” said UMD Athletic Director Josh Berlo. “Ultimately, the health and well-being of the participants, staff, coaches, campus and community led us to this decision. We hope this postponement puts UMD, Amsoil Arena and Duluth in the best position to safely host the Ice Breaker Tournament in 2021 that will include an exceptional experience for the teams, a safe and fun atmosphere for the fans of Bulldog Country and beyond as well as significant economic impact for our community.”

Tuesday, July 14

NFL: Eagles, Phillies Will Not Have Fans at Games

The Philadelphia Eagles and other pro teams in the city will likely not have fans at their venues this year after city Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said, “I do not think that they can have spectators at those games. There’s no way for them to be safe having a crowd there.”

Farley did say at a press conference that the protocols for having games played are good. Under the city’s current guidelines, events of 25 or more people indoors are not permitted, such as hockey or basketball games.

“The Eagles are still going to be allowed to play, although without crowds. The Phillies will continue to be allowed to play, although without crowds,” Managing Director Brian Abernathy told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “We have been in communication with the Eagles. We have told them our expectations are that they don’t have fans.”

The news out of Philadelphia came shortly after the New England Patriots announced that pending state and local approval attendance at Gillette Stadium this season will be expected to max out at 20 percent of its total capacity of 65,878.

The team said in a statement that ticketed parties will be asked to maintain physical distancing of at least six feet, tickets will be arranged in blocks of 10 seats or less, and the first eight rows of stadium seats will not be used. Face coverings will be required at all times inside the stadium. Patriots Putnam Club and Season Ticket Members will have the first opportunity to purchase individual game tickets if fans are allowed, and any remaining inventory will go on sale to the general public once the member process is complete.

The Patriots are the third team in the NFL to acknowledge that it will not have capacity crowds this season. The Jacksonville Jaguars said over the weekend that the team would cap attendance at 25 percent of the capacity at TIAA Bank Field this fall, with tickets and most in-stadium purchases being cashless and those allowed to attend games required to wear face coverings. The Jaguars’ home stadium has a capacity of 67,164. The Baltimore Ravens earlier announced that they would cap attendance at 14,000 at M&T Bank Stadium, which has a capacity of 71,008.

Most NFL teams have communicated with its season ticket holders about the plans for 2020 with almost all of them allowing those who have season tickets to roll over their account to 2021.

GOLF: PGA Tour Going Fan-Free For Season

The remaining tournaments on the 2019–2020 PGA Tour schedule will be played without spectators on site as the United States continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

All five tournaments since the Tour returned have been played without fans and there were plans to reintroduce spectators in a limited capacity at this week’s Memorial Tournament before those plans were scrapped as numbers spiked across the country.

Each tournament through the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta in September will now be played without fans in attendance including next week’s 3M Open in Blaine, Minnesota; the World Golf Championship-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis; the Barracuda Championship in Truckee, California; or the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina, the last tournament in which players can qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs.

The PGA Championship at San Francisco’s Harding Park, rescheduled for August 6–9, had previously announced it will be played without spectators. The U.S. Open in September at Winged Foot in New York will be held under the same conditions.

TENNIS: USTA Cancels Several National Events

The United States Tennis Association has canceled a series of national-level events scheduled for August throughout the country for both juniors and adults.

The USTA National Championships for boys 18s singles and boys and girls 18s–12 doubles at the national campus in Orlando, Florida will be affected along with the girls 18s national championship in San Diego, the boys 16s at Rome, Georgia, and the girls 16s at Mobile, Alabama. Adult events canceled included the men’s 65 national indoors at Eden Prairie, Minnesota; men’s and women’s open national grass court championships at Newport, Rhode Island; and the men’s 75 & 80 mother/son national grass court championships at Rumford, Rhode Island.

“As these events were larger in scale and size, there was an inherent risk associated with hosting large numbers of individuals at one site, at one time and would make risk mitigation difficult,” the organization said in a statement. “Without a controlled environment that includes a comprehensive and contained lodging, transportation, food and beverage, and medical testing program in place, proper risk mitigation would not be possible — and in the case of these events, this type of environment would logistically and financially be incredibly difficult to create.”

Monday, July 13

COLLEGE SPORTS: NJCAA Moves Fall Sports to Spring Semester

The National Junior College Athletic Association will adjust its sports schedule and move all fall semester sports competition, including football, to the spring semester. The decision came after the recommendations from the NJCAA Presidential Advisory Council and the NJCAA Board of Regents. The plan of action will move all close-contact fall sports to the spring semester including football, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball.

The NJCAA cross country championships for all three divisions and half marathon championships will remain on their originally scheduled dates in the fall as will Division III women’s tennis. All winter sports competition will begin in January with championships for men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling, and swimming and diving moved to April. Men’s and women’s bowling and men’s and women’s indoor track and field will be held at the beginning of March.

Spring sports competition remains intact with minor adjustments. All championship dates are subject to change based on championship facility availability.

COLLEGE SPORTS: Patriot League Delays Fall Sports Activities

The Patriot League became the second collegiate conference on the Football Championship Subdivision level to announce that fall sports will be — at minimum — postponed until the spring, following the lead of the Ivy League. Two notable differences is that the Patriot League is the first FCS conference that participates in the national playoffs to announce it will not be playing this fall, while both Army and Navy will be allowed to have athletic competition “because the United States Military Academy and the United States Naval Academy are unique in their environments and their missions within higher education.”

The Patriot League’s official statement included the note that decisions on winter and spring sports will be made at a later date. The conference’s core members include American University, Army, Boston University, Bucknell, Colgate, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Lehigh, Loyola (Maryland) and Navy. The most notable football game that will be canceled in the fall is the annual Lafayette vs. Lehigh game; it will be the first time the teams have not played since 1896 and only the second time they will not meet in a calendar year since the rivalry started in 1884.

RUNNING: Chicago Marathon Latest Endurance Race to be Canceled

The Chicago Marathon has been canceled for 2020 with all race activities postponed in response to the ongoing public health concerns brought on by COVID-19.

“In regard to the unique set of circumstances surrounding the decision to cancel the 2020 race, the event has put into place an exception to our standard event policies,” the organizers said in a statement. Each registered participant will have the option to receive a refund for their 2020 entry or to defer their place and entry fee to a future edition.

Sunday, July 12

COLLEGE SPORTS: Pac-12 Conference Eliminates Fall Non-Conference Games

The Pac-12 Conference has followed the Big Ten’s lead and become the second Power 5 Conference to change its fall sports schedules to conference-only play due to Covid-19.

Football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball will be played solely within the conference, “provided it can meet the health and safety needs of its student-athletes and obtain appropriate permissions from state and local health authorities.”

Revised schedules will be announced no later than July 31. Among the nonconference games that will be wiped from the schedule include two high-profile games involving the University of Southern California between its opener on September 5 against Alabama in Arlington, Texas, and also its traditional game against Notre Dame, which will not be held for the first time since 1945.

Thursday, July 9

COLLEGE SPORTS: Big Ten Conference Going Conference-Only in Fall Sports

The Big Ten Conference has made the biggest move in adjusting the collegiate fall sports landscape, announcing that it will be having only conference games in all fall sports and canceling non-conference events — while also not making a guarantee that even conference games would be held because of the shifting landscape resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

While obviously having an impact on all fall sports, football clearly has the biggest national impact. High-profile non-conference games such as Ohio State at Oregon, Penn State at Virginia Tech, Michigan at Washington and Notre Dame versus Wisconsin at Lambeau Field in Green Bay are affected.

There are a total of 36 scheduled games involving Big Ten schools that will be affected overall and six teams — Ball State, Bowling Green, BYU, Central Michigan, Connecticut and Northern Illinois — were scheduled to play two games this season against Big Ten teams. According to USA Today, Big Ten non-conference opponents stood to earn a total of $22.2 million in payouts.

The Big Ten’s statement said the decision was made between meetings from the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee along with the presidents and chancellors plus athletic directors from each of the member schools. All summer activities will be voluntary and any athlete who decides not to compete this fall will have their scholarship honored by their institution.

The Big Ten’s decision comes after the ACC announced the delay of its fall sports events until September 1 at the earliest and one day after the Ivy League announced all fall sports would be canceled.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens Confirm Attendance Cap for 2020 Season

The Baltimore Ravens announced that if they are permitted under state and local government rules and regulations to have fans attend games in 2020, a significantly reduced seating capacity of fewer than 14,000 per game at M&T Bank Stadium would be necessary based on the social distancing guidelines and fan safety protocols.

The Ravens are the first to announce an exact cap on attendances. M&T Bank Stadium’s capacity for the Ravens is 71,008.

In an email to Permanent Seat License owners, the Baltimore Ravens announced that season tickets for 2020 will be deferred to the 2021 campaign and 2020 season ticket seat locations for all fans will be protected, and the same seats will be offered for renewal in 2021. Credits for funds paid toward the 2020 season to date will be applied to accounts and can be used toward renewal for next season or toward future ticket purchases, or a refund can be requested.

Several teams including the New York Giants, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers are offering refunds for season ticket holders as teams prepare for reduced capacities this season. The Green Bay Packers announced they would look to reduce the capacity at Lambeau Field and anybody who is allowed in the stands will be required to wear face masks.

SOCCER: Second Team Removed from MLS is Back Tournament

Major League Soccer announced an updated format and schedule for the MLS is Back Tournament after Nashville SC was withdrawn from the competition. Since arriving in Orlando, nine players on Nashville have had confirmed positive test results for COVID-19.

As a result of the earlier withdrawal of Dallas and then Nashville on Thursday, MLS has reconfigured the groups into six groups, each consisting of four teams, as well as an update to the qualification for the Knockout Stage. The Chicago Fire will move from Group A to Group B in the tournament, joining San Jose, Seattle and Vancouver so that each of the six groups have four teams. After 16 days of group stage matches, the top two teams from each group along with the four best third-place finishers will move on to the knockout stage, which begins July 25.

COLLEGE SPORTS: ACC Delays Start of Fall Sports

The Atlantic Coast Conference will delay the start of all fall sports except football until at least September 1, the league’s board of directors have announced. The ACC’s football schedule is scheduled to start September 2 when North Carolina State visits Louisville.

The ACC’s decision to delay the start of fall sports is the first by a Power 5 conference. The Patriot League has pushed its start back until September 4 and the Ivy League announced the cancellation of all fall sports on Wednesday. The delay includes all exhibition and non-conference games in men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball.

Wednesday, July 8

COLLEGE ATHLETICS: Ivy League Postpones All Fall Athletics

The Ivy League, which was the first collegiate league to cancel its college basketball tournament and spurred a series of actions that led to the cancellation of all NCAA winter and spring championships because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will postpone all fall athletic competition with no certainty on if those sports will be able to compete in the spring. Futhermore, all winter sports activities until January 1 will be postponed.

A decision on the remaining winter and spring sports competition calendar, and on whether fall sport competition would be feasible in the spring, will be determined at a later date.

The announcement had been expected with various reports indicating that football, in particular, could be played in the spring if conditions improve.

The Ivy League’s decision is not the first adjustment for college football, although all Football Bowl Subdivision teams are still on track to play a full schedule. The Patriot Leagu announced in June that its fall sports, including football would play league competition but travel by airplane would not be permitted. Fordham’s football program has canceled its first three games including a September 12 game at Hawaii. Last week, Lafayette canceled its season-opening game at Navy.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Northwestern Moves Game Out of Wrigley Field

Northwestern’s scheduled game against the University of Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in Chicago, scheduled for November 7, will not be played at the home of the Chicago Cubs after consultation with the Cubs, state and local authorities, the Big Ten Conference and in consideration of challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. In 2010, Northwestern and the Cubs brought college football to Wrigley Field for the first time since 1938 with a game against Illinois.

GOLF: Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup Rescheduled to Future Years

The Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup golf tournaments have become the latest international events to be rescheduled. The 43rd Ryder Cup, which pits the best American golfers against the top European golfers, had been scheduled for September 22–27 at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin. The event will now be held September 21–26, 2021.

The Presidents Cup had been scheduled for September 30–October 3, 2021, at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. The event, which features the top American golfers against an international team outside of Europe, will now be played September 19-25, 2022.

The moves will have long-term impact on the golf schedule in years to come. All subsequent Ryder Cups are now expected to shift to odd years, with the next two events scheduled for Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome in 2023, and Bethpage Black on Long Island in New York hosting in 2025. Sites for the Ryder Cup are selected through 2037. The Ryder Cup had originally been played in odd years before switching to even years after its postponement in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks.

AUTO RACING: NASCAR Cup Series Schedule Through August Released

NASCAR has announced its schedule of events through August including two additional NASCAR Cup Series doubleheaders and two separate stops on different courses at Daytona International Speedway.

Races scheduled for the Cup Series in August include a doubleheader on August 8–9 at Michigan International Speedway, as well as a road course race at Daytona on August 16 in place of the regularly scheduled road course event at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York. The race was moved NASCAR cannot meet New York’s quarantine requirements for out-of-state visitors.

After the August 16 event, the Cup Series will have a doubleheader on August 22–23 at Dover International Speedway before returning to Daytona’s oval on August 29.

RACING: BMX World Championships Canceled

The International Cycling Union has canceled this year’s BMX World Championships in Houston as a result of the coronavirus. Action was scheduled to start May 26 before the event was originally postponed. The UCI also has postponed the Junior Track Cycling World Championship in Cairo until 2021.

“Despite its best efforts to come up with an alternative, the UCI regrets to announce that there will be no UCI World Championships in the discipline in 2020,” a statement said.

Tuesday, July 7

ENDURANCE SPORTS: Louisville Triathlon Canceled

The Louisville Ironman triathlon scheduled for October 11 has been canceled. The event had been held in the region for 13 consecutive years with 140.6 miles of swimming, biking and running throughout Louisville, Oldham and Henry Counties. The World Triathlon Corporation, owners and operators of more than 170 Ironman events worldwide, said the full 140.6-mile event would not be held in the foreseeable future in Louisville but there is the potential for Louisville to host a 70.3 event as early as 2022.

NHL: Season to Restart August 1

The race for the Stanley Cup will resume August 1 after the National Hockey League and the NHL Players Association agreed on a full plan for the 2019–2020 season restart and added four years to the current labor agreement, taking the CBA through the 2025–2026 season.

Training camps for teams in phase 3 of the league’s return to play began July 3 ahead of the resumption of games. While the league has not yet made it official, multiple reports have indicated that the two hub cities that will host games in the restart plan — which has 24 teams competing in an expanded playoff formate — will be Edmonton and Toronto.

The CBA extension will also aid the league and union in planning for international and special events such as overseas games, the All-Star Game and Winter Classic. A point of emphasis for players in the extension was the ability to participate in the Olympic Winter Games in both 2022 and 2026. Players from the NHL had participated in five straight Olympics between 1998 and 2014 before skipping the 2018 event in South Korea.

Monday, July 6

SOCCER: FC Dallas Pulls Out of MLS Tournament

Major League Soccer announced that FC Dallas have been withdrawn from the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, Florida, due to 10 players and one member of the technical staff confirmed positive for COVID-19. Each of the tests either occurred upon the club’s arrival or within a few days of arrival.

The decision was made in the interest of the health of players and staff participating and in line with protocols created in conjunction with local and national health authorities and infectious disease experts. Of the 557 players in Orlando, 13 players have been confirmed positive for COVID-19, 10 of those being FC Dallas players and the remaining three from two other clubs.

BASEBALL: MLB Cancels 2020 All-Star Game in Los Angeles

Major League Baseball has canceled its 2020 All-Star Game, which was to be played at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in July. The Dodgers will instead be awarded the 2022 game. (The 2021 event will be staged in Atlanta.)

“Once it became clear we were unable to hold this year’s All-Star festivities, we wanted to award the Dodgers with the next available All-Star Game, which is 2022,” said Commissioner Rob Manfred.  “I want to thank the Dodgers organization and the city of Los Angeles for being collaborative partners in the early stages of All-Star preparation and for being patient and understanding in navigating the uncertainty created by the pandemic.  The 2022 All-Star celebration promises to be a memorable one with events throughout the city and at picturesque Dodger Stadium.”

“As excited as we were to host this year’s All-Star Game, we know that it will be worth the wait and that Dodger Stadium and Los Angeles will host a world-class event in 2022,” said Dodger President and CEO Stan Kasten. “We’d like to thank Commissioner Rob Manfred for re-awarding All-Star Week to Los Angeles so quickly, as well as Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmember Gil Cedillo for their continued support of this premier sporting event, which will have lasting benefits for our community.”

GOLF: The Memorial Going Without Fans

The Memorial, one of the biggest non-majors on the PGA Tour calendar each year thanks to tournament host Jack Nicklaus, will not have fans at the event after originally planning for a restricted number of attendees. The decision was announced right as Muirfield Village Golf Club prepares for a two-week swing with the Workday Charity Open this week, followed by the Memorial. After Ohio Governor Mike DeWine approved a phased approach to allowing fans and guests, tournament officials had announced a 20 percent maximum capacity on the property, encompassing patrons and private venues, as well as essential staff needed to operate the event.

Thursday, July 2

FOOTBALL: NFL Will Remove Two Preseason Games

The NFL has reportedly decided to shorten the four-game preseason to just two games per team, according to ESPN. The new schedule will effectively remove the first and the final preseason week of games, leaving each team with one home game and one game on the road.

The league had earlier announced it was canceling its August 8 Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, as well as the enshrinement ceremonies for its 2020 induction class. Under the proposed new preseason schedule, the first games would take place August 20–24 with the second games being held August 27–31.

CYCLING: USA Cycling Cancels Seven National Championships

USA Cycling has announced the cancellation of seven national championships in 2020 after determining that the events could not be held with the uncertainty of the coronavirus in different destinations. USA Cycling intends to provide another update July 31 on five remaining national championships that are still scheduled before the end of the year. The events canceled as a result of the latest announcement are:

USA Cycling Pro Road National Championships
USA Cycling Amateur Road National Championships
USA Cycling Masters Road National Championships
USA Cycling Gran Fondo National Championships
USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships
USA Cycling Elite and Junior Track National Championships
USA Cycling Masters Track National Championships

Tuesday, June 30

BASEBALL: Minor Leagues Cancel 2020 Season

Minor League Baseball has announced that it will not have a season in 2020 after Major League Baseball informed the minor leagues that it would not provide its affiliate teams with players for the season—the first time an entire season has been lost since the league was founded in 1901.

The minor league had held out hope of a completing a shortened a season but MiLB President and CEO Pat O’Conner said it wasn’t possible to accomplish.

“These are unprecedented times for our country and our organization as this is the first time in our history that we’ve had a summer without Minor League Baseball played,” O’Conner said. “While this is a sad day for many, this announcement removes the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and allows our teams to begin planning for an exciting 2021 season of affordable family entertainment.”

International League President Randy Mobley, president of the Triple-A International League that began in 1884, said it will be the first summer in the league’s history that games will not be played. “While we continue to pray for the health and wellbeing of those within our communities, our focus immediately turns to planning and preparing to welcome fans and sponsors back into our fabulous ballparks next April,” he said. “During what will now become an extended off-season from Triple-A Baseball, I encourage fans to stay in tune with activities planned by their local team. Teams in Minor League Baseball are known for their creativity and that is now and will continue to be demonstrated in ways never before explored. From drive-in fireworks shows to family movie nights on the giant videoboards to experiencing “dinner on the diamond,” teams will be finding creative ways to stay engaged with their community.”

PICKLEBALL: National Championship in California Canceled

The effect of the coronavirus pandemic in sports has now reached pickleball as well. USA Pickleball, the sport’s national governing body, announced that in light of the pandemic, the 2020 Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships will not take place. The event had been scheduled for the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California, from October 31–November 8.

NASCAR: Postseason Awards Event Canceled

NASCAR has announced that it will cancel its postseason Champion’s Week and NASCAR Cup Series Awards, which had been scheduled for Nashville, Tennessee.

In a statement, the league said, “With the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus and the impact on the industry, this year’s NASCAR Champion’s Week and NASCAR Cup Series Awards originally scheduled to take place in Nashville will not occur. The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series champions will be celebrated at the end of the season with more details to come. We look forward to returning to Nashville in 2021.”

Monday, June 29

TENNIS: Davis Cup and Fed Cup Rescheduled to 2021

The International Tennis Federation has announced that the 2020 Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals will be postponed until 2021, and that the 2020 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Finals will be rescheduled for 2021 in Budapest, Hungary.

The decision to move the Davis Cup Finals to the week of November 22, 2021—still in Madrid—came after months of review and were attributable to regulatory challenges that have arisen as a result of the pandemic. The finals mark the pinnacle of the largest men’s international team competition in tennis. The event had been scheduled to see the world’s best 18 national teams competing for the Davis Cup title over one week in Madrid in November 2020.

The Fed Cup is the women’s equivalent and the finals were originally scheduled to be competed in April.

Laszlo Papp Arena in Hungary was unavailable to host later in 2020 and the same regulatory challenges are facing the indoor gathering as well. The event features the top 12 nations competing over a week of competition. The 2021 event will be staged April 13–18.

MOTORSPORTS: Indy 500 Hopes to be at 50 Percent Capacity

When the Indy 500 races on its new August 23, organizers hope to have spectators in the stands at 50 percent of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s capacity. IMS president Doug Boles sent an email to ticket holders last week saying the aim is “to accommodate at least 50 percent of your original ticket quantities in or near your current seating location.” With its suites, grandstands and infield tickets, the race typically can sell 350,000 tickets, leading the potential number of spectators at 175,000 for the race.

SURVEY: Parents Ready to See Kids Return to Play

Phoenix-based Huddle Up Group has released results of a new second-round survey focused on parents of young athletes that play travel sports that concludes that parents are more confident in putting their children back into sports than they were a month ago—76.6 percent in June compared with 61.7 percent in May. The consulting firm surveyed more than 2,700 people in its first survey and included a “select portion” of those who initially responded to the first study in its second survey.

“Most of the survey results were consistent with the responses from a month ago,” said Huddle Up Group Founder CEO Jon Schmieder. “However there were several subtle shifts that host destinations and event owners should pay attention to going forward. These parents are essentially the decision makers for their kids, and thusly our primary client in the end, so we need to make sure we are all in tune with their viewpoints on the issues of safety.”

Among other findings:

  • Parents were the most confident in putting their kids back into sports in September with 84.8 percent stating they would feel safe to do so by then (an increase of 7 percentage points).
  • Parents have less confidence in their kids returning to play after September, with the confidence percentage falling more than four points to 80.2 percent.
  • When comparing the two studies, sentiment for regional drive market events versus longer trips (including flights) were relatively flat.
  • Social distancing remains parents’ primary concerns before letting their kids participate, with temperature testing second.

Friday, June 26

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Morehouse College Cancels Football Season

Morehouse College in Atlanta has become one of the first universities to announce it will not play football in the fall. In an open letter, university President David Thomas, said the historically Black college would not participate in any NCAA or Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Division II sports this fall. The move also affects the school’s cross-country team. All athletic scholarships will still be honored, he said.

“Like all of the decisions we’ve made related to COVID-19, this was a difficult one but was made with the health and well-being of our students and community in mind,” Thomas wrote. “It follows my intention to maintain a safe campus in hopes that our students will be able to return in August. Our Maroon Tiger teams travel to other NCAA institutions and cannot compete without breaking from social distancing guidelines still maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sporting events also invite individuals to our campus who will not be subject to the testing and monitoring that we plan to implement for our students, faculty, and staff.”

Thursday, June 25

AUTO RACING: IndyCar Welcomes Fans to Iowa Speedway

The IndyCar Series will have a limited number of fans for its REV Group Grand Prix at the RoadAmerica course in Wisconsin during the race weekend scheduled for July 9–12.

All guests will be screened in their vehicles with contactless temperature checks before entering the parking areas, and only essential racing personnel will have access to the paddock. A PPE kit that includes a face mask as well as hand sanitizer will be provided to each guest upon arrival. The race weekend will feature two full points races for the IndyCar Series July 11 and 12. All active-duty first responders including law enforcement, fire, paramedics and emergency medical technicians will be admitted free of charge by showing valid identification.

IndyCar previously announced that it will have a limited number of fans at a doubleheader of races on July 17–18 at Iowa Speedway with the Iowa IndyCar 250 on back-to-back nights while Mark Miles, the president and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp., has told Indiana media that the Indianapolis 500 will race as currently scheduled in August only if fans are allowed in attendance — and if not in August, then the race will be delayed again. A Fourth of July race weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course will run without spectators.

SOCCER: CONCACAF Qualifying To Be Modified

CONCACAF will revise its World Cup qualifying format following FIFA’s decision to remove September dates from the international calendar. The hexagonal competition was scheduled to have two games each in September, October and November, followed by two matches apiece in March and September of 2021. The U.S. was to have been in the six-nation hexagonal with Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica and either El Salavdor or Canada.

Among the possible alternate formats under discussion would be having three groups of four, much like the old semifinal round. The group winners would qualify for the 2022 tournament in Qatar, and there would be playoff opportunities for some teams that don’t finish first. The U.S., Mexico and Costa Rica would be placed in different groups.

HORSE RACING: Kentucky Derby Allows Fans Under Strict Guidelines

Churchill Downs announced that after consultation with Governor Andy Beshear and state public health officials, the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks will occur with spectators under strict guidelines. The Oaks will take place September 4 and the Kentucky Derby on September 5.

Among the steps that will be taken to protect fan safety include venue capacity reductions with access throughout the facility severely limited; barn area access restricted to essential personnel; a revised Fan Code of Conduct that will encourage those on the grounds to wear masks at all times; and changes to in-venue operations to limit person-to-person touchpoints.

“The impact of the Kentucky Derby extends well beyond the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery. “It is an incredibly important time for the city of Louisville and the Commonwealth of Kentucky both culturally, economically and with respect to our time-honored traditions. Both employees and guests are asked to take an active role in following all guidelines. We must all do our part to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience.”

Tickets purchased for the originally scheduled Kentucky Derby Week dates are valid for the new dates. Guests may arrive on the new dates in September with their printed ticket or mobile ticket to be scanned for entry at the gates.

NFL: Hall of Fame Game Canceled

The NFL Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers has been canceled, according to NFL Network and ESPN. The game was scheduled for August 6 and the Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony in Canton, Ohio, on August 8 has been postponed to 2021. Hall of Fame president David Baker previously said the game and ceremony were on as scheduled, but there were contingencies in place if postponement was necessary. It is the biggest event the NFL has had to cancel because of the coronavirus.

Wednesday, June 24

BASEBALL: MLB Sets Long-Awaited Return Date

Play Ball … finally.

Major League Baseball will start a truncated 60-game season on either July 23 or 24 in empty ballparks after a drawn-out saga amid the coronavirus pandemic that included months of acrimony and public posturing.

The season will include bringing the designated hitter to games between National League teams for the first time and instituting the radical innovation of starting extra innings with a runner on second base. Players will start reporting for the resumption of training on July 1. Every team but one is planning to have training at their regular-season ballpark; the Toronto Blue Jays have to get permission from the Canadian government.

Each team will play 10 games against each of its four division rivals and 20 total games against the five clubs in the corresponding regional division in the other league, according to The Associated Press. This will be MLB’s shortest season since 1878. No decision has been made on whether fans can attend games.

RUNNING: New York City Marathon Canceled

The New York City Marathon has been canceled. This year’s event on November 1 was set to be the 50th running of the event, which began in 1970 and has grown to become the world’s largest marathon with 53,640 finishers in 2019. Marathons have had a tough go of the marketplace during the pandemic. The Berlin Marathon was canceled on Wednesday and earlier this month the 124th annual Boston Marathon, an April tradition that this year was rescheduled for September 14 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was canceled outright.

TENNIS: USTA Brings Back Wheelchair Competition

The USTA has reversed course on an earlier decision to cancel the wheelchair competition at the U.S. Open in New York and will stage the event September 10–13 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

When the governing body announced last week that it would stage the U.S. Open without spectators, it had decided to eliminate several other disciplines normally staged during the competition. The move drew criticism from the International Paralympic Committee, among others, who said they weren’t consulted beforehand on the decision. The move to reinstate the competition was made following multiple virtual meetings with a group of wheelchair athletes and the International Tennis Federation over the last week.

The wheelchair competition will now feature men’s and women’s singles and doubles and quad singles and doubles, with draw sizes similar to past U.S. Opens. Wheelchair athletes that compete will have to adhere to the same health and safety procedures as all players participating in the U.S. Open.

Monday, June 22

SOCCER: Outbreak Forces Orlando Pride Out of NWSL Tournament

The National Women’s Soccer League’s tournament will be an eight-team affair instead of nine after six players and four staffers with the Orlando Pride tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the team’s withdrawl from the event in Utah. The NWSL will become the first professional league in the United States to return to competition with the Challenge Cup starting June 27 with group stage games at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah, with the semifinals and finals held at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. All housing, training, and competition needs for teams will be created in the Salt Lake Valley as an “NWSL Village” to control as much of the environment as possible.

GOLF: PGA Championship a Go in San Francisco

The 2020 PGA Championship will be held August 3–9 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco without spectators, the city of San Francisco and PGA of America confirmed. The decision to play without spectators was made in coordination with the state of California and city and county of San Francisco. Prior to its postponement on March 17, the PGA Championship was scheduled for May 14-17.

“Welcoming the PGA Championship to San Francisco is the high point of a very unusual year. We are looking forward to sharing the beauty of TPC Harding Park and San Francisco with the players, the media and viewers all over the world,” said Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association, the official destination marketing organization.

Friday, June 19

VOLLEYBALL: AVP Tour Moves Season to Three Events in Long Beach

The AVP Tour will scrap its 2020 season in place of an event series to be held in Long Beach, California, over three weekend in July and August. The AVP Champions Cup Series, Presented by Acer, will begin on July 18–19, and continue July 25–26 and August 1–2. The event will feature an eight-team main draw and each weekend will offer a $200,000 purse plus a $100,000 bonus pool for teams with the top finishes.

The matches will be closed to spectators but will be live-streamed on Amazon Prime Video. NBC will also present an early round men’s match on July 18 and the women’s final on July 19. NBCSN will air one finals match in the second and third weekends, respectively, which will also be simulcast on Amazon Prime Video.

MOTORSPORTS: Pike Peaks Hill Climb Closed to Spectators

The 98th running of The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado Springs, Colorado, will be held without spectators. The motorsports race up Pikes Peak had earlier been moved from its traditional June dates to August 30. While the event will still take place in August, organizers have opted to prohibit spectators after input from state and local authorities.

“For the first time, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will be staged without its loyal, enthusiastic fans lining the course and no one is more disappointed than we are,” said Executive Director Megan Leatham. “Our staff and board of directors have discussed and analyzed multiple scenarios in which our race could be staged. However, with the government-issued long-term mandates for wearing personal protective equipment, providing appropriate social distancing, and limiting the size of group gatherings, we feel it is impossible to safely host spectators at the race on August 30.”

A popular downtown street festival has also been canceled. “We typically welcome over 30,000 fans but in light of current government guidelines we feel it would be irresponsible to hold the event this year,” Leatham said. “The risk to our competitors, sponsors, volunteers and our fans is just too high.”

“Despite this unforeseen challenge, our iconic motorsports event has proven its ability to adapt and endure, and it will continue to do so this summer, next year, and in preparation for the 100th Running in 2022,” said Board Chairman Tom Osborne.

Thursday, June 18

ENDURANCE SPORTS: USA Triathlon Cancels Age Group, Youth and Junior Nationals

USA Triathlon has canceled the Toyota USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships, scheduled for August 8–9 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, have been canceled due to current local government guidelines surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The cancellation was required after the City of Milwaukee informed USA Triathlon that it is unable to guarantee a permit for the event weekend due to ongoing state and local restrictions on gatherings.

“While we are disappointed to have to cancel the marquee event on USA Triathlon’s National Championships calendar, health and safety concerns take precedence in this challenging time,” said Brian D’Amico, USA Triathlon director of events. “We are pleased to be able to offer deferrals to the 2021 or 2022 Age Group National Championships without the need to re-qualify, or to another USA Triathlon-owned event in 2021 or 2022. We appreciate our community’s patience and understanding during this unprecedented time, and we look forward to gathering again in Milwaukee next August.”

The Toyota USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships will return to Milwaukee the next two years, including August 7–8, 2021 and August 6–7, 2022.

“We are deeply disappointed that our beautiful shores of Lake Michigan will not play host to the 2020 USA Triathlon AGNC,” said Peggy Williams-Smith, president and CEO of Visit Milwaukee. “Our city is an ideal destination to host this event, but we understand the need to put the safety of the athletes and Milwaukeeans first during this unique time in our history. We thank USA Triathlon for their partnership and graciously agreeing to host both the 2021 and 2022 Championships in Milwaukee. Sports Milwaukee, championed by Visit Milwaukee, looks forward to welcoming the triathletes back for the next two years.”

USA Triathlon also will be canceling its 2020 Youth & Junior Nationals, initially scheduled for August 1–2 in West Chester, Ohio. The Youth & Junior Nationals will return to West Chester’s Voice of America Park on July 31 and August 1, 2021, as well as 2022 with dates to be determined.

Wednesday, June 17

ACTION SPORTS: Dew Tour Set for 2021 Return to Long Beach

In light of the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Summer Games and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dew Tour’s annual summer skateboard competition in Long Beach, California, will now be held May 2021 and serve as the last Olympic qualifying event in the U.S. before the Tokyo Games. In June 2019, Dew Tour served as the first global Olympic qualifying event in the U.S. for men’s and women’s skateboard street and park competitions.

“Postponing the Dew Tour Long Beach weekend until 2021 is the best decision to ensure the safety of our athletes, fans, partners, vendors, and staff during these unprecedented times,” said Courtney Gresik, Dew Tour vice president and general manager. “The Dew Tour remains committed to the progression of skateboarding, furthering awareness and appreciation of the sport as we lead up to the 2021 Olympic Games. We look forward to our return to Long Beach in 2021 for a weekend packed with fun, excitement, and Olympic-level competition that our fans have come to expect from our events.”

TENNIS: ATP, WTA Tours Schedule Returns

The two major professional tennis tours released their schedules for a modified 2020 season, including the two Grand Slams remaining between the traditional dates for the U.S. Open and the rescheduled French Open.

The ATP Tour will resume action on August 14 with the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. After the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open in New York, the men’s tour will go to Europe for three clay-court events before the French Open starts September 27. Further events beyond the French Open are expected to be announced in mid-July.

The WTA Tour will restart its season August 3 with the Palermo Ladies Open in Italy. After its swing into the United States for the tournaments in New York, the tour will go back to Europe with events in Turkey, Spain, Italy and then the French Open. The WTA Tour’s schedule release extends through the end of the year with a full swing through Asia during the fall.

SOCCER: Champions League Finish Modified

The UEFA Champions League finish will be modified into a knockout format tournament with the championship August 23 in Lisbon, Portugal, instead of Turkey.

Matches will be held at two stadiums in Lisbon for the tournament, which was suspended in March. The quarterfinals will be held August 12–15, with the semifinals on August 18–19. Four teams have already advanced to the quarterfinals before the round of 16 was suspended; the remaining round of 16 home-and-home matches will be held August 7-8 but it has not yet been decided if they will also be in Portugal.

The Europa League will be finished from the quarterfinal stage through the championship in the same format from August 10–21 in Germany, with the championship in Cologne.

Tuesday, June 16

NASCAR: All-Star Race Moves to Bristol

NASCAR will hold the 36th All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time. The July 15 prime-time race will include 30,000 fans in attendance as allowed by the state of Tennessee.

Bristol Motor Speedway will have modified event procedures and protocols which will include social distancing amongst groups of fans in the grandstands and individually in concession lines; enhanced cleaning and sanitation in high-touch, high-traffic public areas; added hand-sanitizer stations; limited guests in suites; and infield admission for race team and operation personnel only. Fans will be allowed to bring in one soft-sided clear bag with food and beverage and coolers will be prohibited.

This year’s all-star event will be the second time it has been run at a facility other than Charlotte Motor Speedway, joining Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1986.

GOLF: LPGA Tour Schedules Return to Play

The LPGA Tour will resume its season with back-to-back events in Northwest Ohio starting July 23 with the Marathon LPGA Classic at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio. That event will be followed by a new three-day event in the Toledo area, the LPGA Drive On Championship starting July 31 at Inverness Club. The LPGA Drive On Championship will feature 144 players competing for a $1 million purse and will take place without sponsors, pro-ams or spectators.

SURFING: US Open Canceled for 2020

The 2020 Vans US Open of Surfing presented by Swatch in Huntington Beach Pier, California, has been canceled. Event organizers said in a statement they look forward to returning to southside of the Huntington Beach Pier in 2021.

“The Vans US Open of Surfing has always been about bringing people together in a healthy, fun and interactive environment and given the size and scale of the event, we can’t see a way to do that this year without sacrificing the very thing that makes it so special,” said Jennifer Lau, vice president of action sports at IMG. “This event would not be the same without the amazing surf, skate, and BMX fans who come out to connect and have fun year after year. We can’t wait to return in 2021 and will be working harder than ever to stage another world-class event at Huntington Beach next summer.”

TENNIS: USTA Confirms U.S. Open To Be Held

The United States Tennis Association will hold the U.S. Open as scheduled starting August 31 in New York City at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center as part of a doubleheader of events with the Western & Southern Open, a combined men’s and women’s event traditionally held in Ohio, moved to New York City to serve as a warmup for players who have been inactive for months. According to The New York Times, players at the U.S. Open will be frequently tested for coronavirus and be kept together in a hotel with some restrictions to their movements outside of the hotel and tournament site. There would be no fans on site and players would be restricted in how many people they would be able to bring with them to the tournament.

Monday, June 15

BASKETBALL: WNBA Tips Off in July

The WNBA has announced elements of its plan to begin the 2020 season, which will start in July with all games and playoffs held at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The season will be 22 games for each team in the regular season followed by a traditional playoff format. IMG Academy will be the home for all 12 teams and serve as a single site for training camp, games and housing. The league will continue working with medical specialists, public health experts and government officials on guidelines to ensure that medical protocols and protections are in place. Under the current plan, teams will report to IMG Academy in early July and regular-season action will tip off in late July after a team training camp period.  The season will be played without fans in attendance with games broadcast on ESPN, CBS Sports Network and NBA TV.

Friday, June 12

TRIATHLON: USA Triathlon Cancels California Event

USA Triathlon has canceled its 2020 Legacy Triathlon, Open Water Swim Competition and Long Beach PATCO Sprint Triathlon American Cup, which had been scheduled for July 17–19 in Long Beach, California. Local government guidelines surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic caused the national governing body to call off the event, as well as the Toyota USA Paratriathlon National Championships, which were scheduled for July 18 as part of the same event weekend. That event is expected to have a new date and location in 2020.

The Legacy Triathlon will return to Long Beach in 2021. The event is designed to be an annual competition to draw on interest from the upcoming 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Los Angeles. The event, first held in 2019, is held at Alamitos Beach, which is expected to host triathlon events at the Games.

Thursday, June 11

COLLEGE SPORTS: Pac-12 Commissioner Says Football is Ready as Scheduled

Pac-12 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott said during an interview this week that “it’s our objective if it can be done safely to play a full college football season,” and that Power 5 commissioners are in constant contact to make sure that each league is able to start on time, adding “we’re all locked at the hip.”

Scott was interviewed by Bonnie Bernstein during the webinar event “Cynopsis: The Great Sports Disruption.” When it comes to college football, “if we want a full season and a playoff at the end, we all have to agree that we’re going to start the season together,” Scott said. “It’s going to require a huge level of collaboration.”

The issue of if a team has an outbreak of COVID-19 and how that would affect the schedule has not been determined just yet, Scott said, but they are being discussed.

“If it gets to point where you don’t have enough players to participate, that decision will be made by the school with the conference office,” Scott said. “One scenario we’re thinking about is whether there will be a buffer of couple of weeks at the end of the season in case games need to be made up. In other words, we could start on time — but there could be a spike during the season, a second wave as people are describing it. There could be an issue that a particular team has that could cause a game to be rescheduled. There’s a lot of scenario planning going on in that regard.”

Scott said that for foreign student-athletes who would have to quarantine after coming back to campus that it would be a decision made by individual conference schools rather than a blanket policy dictated by the league office. He added that for athletes who are not comfortable playing because of any risk of infection, “(Our university presidents) have been very clear that we need to be respectful of any decision made by any of our student-athletes and their families if they’re not comfortable.”

LACROSSE: PLL Event Coming to Utah

The Premier Lacrosse League’s two-week tournament without fans starting July 25 will be held at Zion’s Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah, the same site for most of the NWSL Tournament that will be starting June 27. The PLL event will have seven teams playing in a 14-game group format for the first week, then having single-elimination play the second week. The league will implement COVID-19 preventative measures and restrict travel in and out of the event with an estimated 300 people on site in total.

BASKETBALL: TBT Heading to Columbus

The Basketball Tournament will be held at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, starting July 4 with the entire event held at one site and broadcast on ESPN. TBT, as it’s commonly referred to, is a winner-take-all tournament with more than $1 million at stake. It will be a 24-team tournament. TBT founder and CEO Jon Mugar told ESPN last month that they plan is to have a maximum of 50 people in the gym at one time.

ENDURANCE SPORTS: Xterra World Championship Canceled

The 25th annual Xterra World Championship in Maui scheduled for November 8 and the 13th annual Xterra Trail Run World Championship half-marathon on Oahu on December 6 have been cancelled. The decision comes after several other events this summer in Avon, Colorado; Pelham, Alabama, and Utah were also canceled.

Wednesday, June 10

SOCCER: MLS Tournament Starting July 8

Major League Soccer will return to action with a tournament starting July 8 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The league started its much-hyped 25th year of competition in March before the season was suspended after two weeks.

The tournament will go from July 8 through August 11 with all 26 teams competing in a World Cup-style tournament. There will be a group stage with six groups; the Western Conference will have three four-team groups and the Eastern Conference will have three groups, two with four teams apiece and one with six teams. Each team will play three group games, with the top two in each group moving to the knockout round and the four best third-place finishers also advancing.

After the group stage, the round of 16 will be July 25–28 followed by the quarterfinals on July 30–August 1, semifinals on August 5–6 and championship on August 11. The group stage games will count toward the MLS regular season standings. MLS previously canceled its All-Star Game against the Liga MX All-Stars in Los Angeles as well as two other intra-league competitions between it and Mexico’s top league, the Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup.

AMATEUR SPORTS: AAU Junior Olympics Heading to Brevard County

The AAU Junior Olympic Games will be heading to Brevard County, Florida. Space Coast Office of Tourism Executive Director Peter Cranis confirmed the news to Florida Today.

Cranis said he expects up to 15 sports will be contested at the event during the last week in July and the first week in August. There will be up to 3,000 athletes competing with as many as 10,000 room nights. Cranis said Brevard School District and Brevard County Parks and Recreation Department venues will be used to host the event. The AAU Junior Olympic Games, held annually since 1967, will be moving from its scheduled site of Hampton Roads, Virginia.

GOLF: LPGA Major in France Cancelled

The Evian Championship women’s major golf tournament in France has been canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak, the first LPGA major to do so this season. Tournament chairman Franck Riboud says the cancellation is “unavoidable in view of the situation with regards to U.S. travel to continental Europe.” The Women’s British Open is still set for August 20–23 in Troon, Scotland. The three majors played in the United States have been rescheduled for later in the year.

Tuesday, June 9

COLLEGE SPORTS: NCAA Plans Football Workout Schedule, Fall Championships

The NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee is expected to approve a six-week practice calendar this week, reported Sports Illustrated, which would be another sign that the college football season plans to start on schedule. The NCAA began allowing voluntary workouts on June 1 but not every school started on that date. The four-phased plan includes six weeks of workouts with preseason camps starting in August. The earliest coaches could start interacting with players is July 6. The report comes as the NCAA announced that it plans to keep the same dates and sites for the NCAA fall championships as already scheduled. The NCAA Competition Oversight Committee made the announcement today, though it did note that the situation could still be fluid. Championships in fall sports are currently scheduled from November 20 through January 11.

Friday, June 5

ARCHERY: World Archery Field Championships in South Dakota Moved to 2022

World Archery, the sports’ international federation, has rescheduled its 2020 World Archery Field Championships in Yankton, South Dakota, to 2022. The event had been scheduled for September 2020 at the NFAA Easton Yankton Archery Center, which is the largest dedicated archery venue in the world. The venue has previously hosted world youth and indoor championships as well. Officials had considered a one-year postponement but other events in 2021 made the dates difficult. In addition, the 2020 event had been scheduled to serve as a qualifying event for the 2021 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, but that event has also been rescheduled for 2022. The reshuffling will result in a new qualifying event for the World Games to be announced later. While the field archery world championship has been moved, the Yankton venue is still scheduled to host the 2021 Hyundai World Archery Championships.

Thursday, June 4

BASKETBALL: NBA Restart Plan Approved by Owners, but G League Cancelled

The NBA board of governors approved a plan that will restart the league in late July with all games held at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex on the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida. The players union is expected to give its approval to the plan on Friday.

The regular season would start around July 31 and have eight games for all 22 teams invited to Florida to determine playoff seeding. There would be 13 teams from the Western Conference and nine teams from the Eastern Conference participating, with the cutoff that teams must be within six games of a playoff spot to participate. The playoffs would then begin in August and the NBA Finals would stretch into the fall with the NBA Finals finishing on or before October 12. For an NBA play-in series to happen to determine the No. 8 seed on either playoff bracket, the ninth-place team would have to be within four games of eighth place once the eight-game schedule is completed.

While the NBA season will resume, the remainder of the 2019-20 G League season, which was suspended March 12, has been canceled. The regular season was scheduled to conclude March 28.

NASCAR: Cup Series Schedule Update Released

NASCAR released its latest set of scheduled races, with 23 across its three series including seven Cup Series events that would carry the season through August 2. The schedule also includes six Xfinity Series races, five Trucks Series races and three ARCA events.

Among the finalized dates for the Cup Series are a doubleheader on June 27–28 at Pocono Speedway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania; July 5 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was part of an IndyCar/NASCAR doubleheader race weekend; July 12 at Kentucky Speedway; the NASCAR All-Star Open non-points race on July 15 at Charlotte Motor Speedway; July 19 at Texas Motor Speedway and July 23 at Kansas Speedway before an August 2 race at New Hampshire Speedway.

HOCKEY: NHL Playoff Format Further Detailed

The National Hockey League and players union agreed that the qualifying round for its Stanley Cup playoff tournament will be a best-of-five series with the remainder of the playoffs a best-of-seven series. The league announced that the tournament will be reseeded after every round.

The playoffs this year will be expanded to 24 teams from the traditional 16, with an eight-team qualifying round and a round-robin competition among the league’s top four teams to determine seeding for the official First Round. The top four teams in each conference will play each other once to determine the order of the top four seeds in the first round of the playoffs while at the same time, a qualifying round will also go on in each conference. The round-robin games will be played with regular season rules regarding overtime and shootouts, while the qualifying round games will be played with playoff overtime rules.

Candidates for the hub cities that will be used for the playoffs include Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver. There will be two cities picked from that list. The league has not yet determined which cities will host. Negotiations will continue with the players on health and safety protocols.

Other News

• The National Lacrosse League has announced that it will not continue its 2019­–2020 season. The indoor lacrosse league had suspended its regular season on March 12 and announced the cancellation of its regular season on April 6. The new announcement will eliminate a postseason or the crowing of a champion.

• Organizers of the 42nd annual BOLDERBoulder in Colorado have announced that the 2020 race, which had been postponed from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, is canceled and will be rescheduled for Memorial Day 2021.  Participants already registered will be offered options and alternatives for the 2021 BOLDERBoulder and beyond. 

• The PGA Tour will hold an additional tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, to take the place of an event scheduled for Iowa that was canceled. The tour said the event will take place July 9–12 on the week preceding the already scheduled Memorial Tournament that will be at the same location. The event will be played without spectators and takes the place of the recently canceled John Deere Classic, which will return to the schedule next year. The tour hoped to allow fans at the John Deere Classic in the Quad Cities area, but has announced that local and state-related restrictions on gatherings will cause the event to be canceled.

• A scheduled August 29 college football game between Notre Dame and Navy for Dublin, Ireland, will instead be played at Annapolis, Maryland, at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Labor Day Weekend. The teams played at Aviva Stadium in 2012 with more than 35,000 fans traveling from the United States. In 2020, around 40,000 people from the U.S. were expected to attend. Both programs plan for a return to Ireland in the coming years. The rescheduled site will be the first time that Notre Dame will play on Navy’s home field in the rivalry’s 94-year history.

Formula 1 will start its season on July 5 with a race in Austria as part of an eight-race trek throughout Europe that includes two doubleheader events. The season starts with the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring, followed a week later on July 12 by a second race at the same track. After the Hungarian Grand Prix on July 19, there will be a one-week break before consecutive weekends August 2 and August 9 at Silverstone in England, then the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona on August 16, the Belgian Grand Prix on August 30 and the Italian Grand Prix on September 6. None of the events will be open to fans. The circuit says it plans to race at least 15 times this year, with further races throughout the world to be announced at a later date.

• The Maryland Cycling Classic, scheduled for its debut on the UCI Pro Series calendar in September, will be postponed to 2021. The announcement was made by the event organizer with state, city and Baltimore County partners. Organizers also announced UnitedHealthcare has signed on as the presenting sponsor of the race starting in 2021. The UCI, cycling’s international federation, will announce its 2021 calendar later this year with the event’s date announced at that time. The event is owned by Sport and Entertainment Corp. of Maryland in conjunction with the Maryland Sports Commission.

• Burton Snowboards announced that the company will cancel the 2021 Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships, which was scheduled for March 1–6, 2021, at Vail Mountain Resort in Vail, Colorado. The Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships is the world’s longest-running snowboard event and Burton has owned and run the event since 1983.

• Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross told CNBC in an interview that “I think there definitely will be a football season this year,” and that he plans to have fans in the stadium. The NFL has not made a decision on whether to allow fans into stadiums during the 2020 season, but the league plans to play its full 16-game slate starting September 10. The league announced when it released the schedule that it will schedule all 2020 games in the United States and will not have games in Mexico City or London. Ross’ comments came the Pittsburgh Steelers’ director of communications said on Twitter  that only 50 percent of individual game tickets will be sold to the public because the team wants to be prepared for social distancing scenarios.

• World TeamTennis will play its 45th annual season at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, starting July 12 with up to 500 fans allowed at the outdoor matches. The schedule will include at least three matches per day at The Greenbrier’s 2,500-seat outdoor stadium, with an indoor court to be installed as a backup option, for the league’s nine franchises. World TeamTennis said in a release it “will engage with its teams and league and venue personnel in conducting all necessary testing and screening for COVID-19, as well as outfitting all parties with the personal protective equipment necessary to conduct its 2020 season matches while preserving the health and safety of everyone at The Greenbrier over the three-week season.”

• The 2021 World Transplant Games, scheduled for May 29–June 5 in Houston, have been canceled. The announcement was made jointly by the Harris County—Houston Sports Authority and the World Transplant Games Federation. The 2021 Games would have been the first held in the United States in 41 years. The event was expected to draw more than 4,000 participants.

USA BMX will relaunch its National Championship Series with the inaugural Nabholz Bounce Back Nationals in Pryor, Oklahoma, at Mayes County BMX on June 5–7. USA BMX has worked with local and state officials to ensure the event can be hosted while addressing concerns of social distancing, sanitation, customer interaction and other event specific modifications.

USA Triathlon has decided to reschedule the 2020 USA Triathlon Clydesdale & Athena National Championships that were scheduled for June 28 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The event will now take place as part of Team Magic’s 35th Annual Buster Britton Memorial Triathlon on August 15, at Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama. Athletes currently registered for the 2020 Clydesdale & Athena National Championships have a variety of deferral options, including transferring their registration to the rescheduled 2020 event in Pelham, the 2021 Clydesdale & Athena National Championships in Chattanooga, or any future Team Magic event in 2020 or 2021. USA Triathlon also announced that the 2021 Clydesdale & Athena National Championships have been awarded to the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon. The event is scheduled for June 27.

• This year’s Triple Crown of horse racing will be unlike any other in its history, with the 152nd annual Belmont Stakes — traditionally the final leg of the three biggest races in the world — instead going first this year on June 20 at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. It will be the first time in the history of the Triple Crown that the Belmont will be the first leg. The Belmont Stakes, which will be held without fans, will also be shortened to a mile and an eighth instead of its traditional mile and a half distance, the longest of any Triple Crown race. The Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Maryland will take place on October 3, announced The Stronach Group Chairman and President Belinda Stronach and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan over the weekend. The Preakness will now be held four weeks after the 146th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, which was postponed from May 2 to September 5. The Kentucky Oaks will move from its previous date on May 1 to September 4 and the two-week Kentucky Derby Festival will also shift in conjunction with the new race dates.

• The U.S. Track and Field and the local organizing committee in Greensboro, North Carolina, have announced the cancellation of the 2020 Masters National Championships, which were scheduled to be held July 9–12 at North Carolina A&T State University’s Ike Belk Track at BB&T Stadium.

Ironman and its host city partners have announced that the 2020 editions of the World Championship in Hawaii and the 70.3 World Championship in Taupo, New Zealand, will be postponed. The championship event in Kailua, Kona, was scheduled to take place in October but will now be staged February 6, 2021. A new date for the New Zealand race, which was set for November, has not been determined, although efforts are being made to stage the race in 2021.

USA Wrestling has formed four special committees to help its members and athletes deal with specific issues in the sport caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. That national governing body’s committees will include experienced professionals in a range of industries who will volunteer their time. “USA Wrestling is tremendously grateful and blessed that these talented leaders are willing to step up for wrestling at this time,” said USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender. “All have a passion for the sport and a commitment to help guide our organization in its decision-making process. With this assistance, our sport will have the best possible direction to help us get through the current situation and emerge successfully, with a clear vision for the future.”

USA Gymnastics has announced it will not hold its premier events in 2020 and will reformat the 2020 National Congress and trade show to a virtual event. The affected events including the GK U.S. Classic, U.S. Gymnastics Championships for women’s and men’s artistic, and the USA Gymnastics Championships for rhythmic, trampoline & tumbling, and acrobatics. The national governing body will announce new dates soon for the rescheduled 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials and the 2021 National Congress and trade show. The GK U.S. Classic scheduled for May 23 at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut, will take place at the same venue on May 22, 2021 and the U.S. Gymnastics Championships scheduled for June 4-7 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, will take place in the original venue on June 3-6, 2021.

The Diamond League, track and field’s most high-profile circuit during non-Olympic years, has released a revised schedule starting August 14 in Monaco and having 11 events, many of them one-day exhibitions rather than full showcases. There will not be a final championship meet and this year’s scheduled host, Zurich, will host in 2021 and 2022 instead. One of the events on the 2020 schedule is Eugene, Oregon on October 4 at the renovated Hayward Field at the University of Oregon. The track will host a series of showcase events over the next few years including the rescheduled 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials in June 2021 and the World Athletics Championships in July 2022. Eugene was scheduled to host the 2022 Diamond League championship but as part of the rearranged schedule, it will host the championship in 2023 instead.

• The World Baseball Classic, scheduled for 2021 at sites throughout the world including Los Angeles, San Diego and Miami, will be postponed until 2023 according to multiple reports. The tournament was scheduled to start in late February and conclude in March at Marlins Park in Florida. The qualifying rounds, scheduled for spring 2020 in Arizona, have already been postponed.

USA Taekwondo has canceled its 2020 National Championship, which had been scheduled for San Antonio, Texas. The event at the Alamodome, which was scheduled for July 1–7, would have marked the first time in five years the tournament was held in Texas. It was expected to attract more than 4,000 athletes. In the hopes of still crowning national championships, the national governing body announced plans for “The USA Taekwondo 2020 National Championship Series,” which will consist of three qualifying events nationwide with a chance to compete in a to-be-determined national championships final. The NGB said it would work with cities and venues to host the events in September and October, with a championship final tentatively planned for November.

• DreamHack, one of the biggest gaming and digital festivals held throughout each year with pro, amateur and varsity esports tournaments, has canceled events in Sweden and Montreal and postponed DreamHack Valencia in Spain until October 8–12. The events in Sweden and Montreal will take place in 2021 instead while its five other festivals scheduled for the fall and winter, including November 13–15 in Atlanta, are still on the schedule.

• Epic Games has canceled the 2020 Fortnite World Cup, announcing that its remaining events for 2020 will be hosted online while another of the biggest gaming events in the world, EVO 2020, has been switched to online-only instead of being in Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas starting July 31.

World Long Drive, which organizes driving for distance competitions, has announced it will cancel its regular season and Q-series, although a championship event in Chicago on September 3–9 will remain. Executive Director Matt Farrell said the decision was made with athlete safety in mind, as well as the safety of families, staff, fans, vendors, suppliers, venues and partners.

• The Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, the world’s largest 10K with 60,000 participants, is moving to Thanksgiving from its traditional Fourth of July date because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Atlanta Track Club says the November 26 date will minimize the impact on retailers in downtown Atlanta because most businesses will be closed for the holiday.

ESPN has canceled X Games Minneapolis citing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. The event had been scheduled for July 17–19 and would have marked the fourth consecutive year the event was staged in Minneapolis, including U.S. Bank Stadium. The X Games moved its signature summer event to Minneapolis in 2017 and has seen attendance regularly top 100,000 over the course of the event. The 2020 event marked the end of a two-year extension that ESPN had signed with Sports Minneapolis and U.S. Bank Stadium in 2018.

• The USA Masters Games, a multisport competition, has announced it will move its 2020 event in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to 2021. The event had been scheduled for June 19–21 and June 26–28, 2020. The new dates in 2021 will be June 24–27. The event will continue to be called the 2020 Masters Games. While the Masters Games will be postponed, plans are still continuing for the 2020 State Games of Michigan. Details of that event are being discussed, including a potential shift in schedule and event locations, said Eric Engelbarts, who serves as the executive director of both the State Games of Michigan and the Local Organizing Committee for the 2020 USA Masters Games.

The World Games, an international multisport competition expected to attract more than 3,600 athletes from 100 countries to Birmingham, Alabama, has been rescheduled from 2021 to 2022—a consequence of the rescheduling of the Olympic Summer Games. The new dates will be July 7–17, 2022.

• The world’s most famous cycling race, the Tour de France, has been postponed after French President Emmanuel Macron announced all public events with large crowds have been canceled until at least mid-July. A new start date has been set for August 29, with the event scheduled to run through September 20. The Tour de France was last canceled in 1946 after the end of World War II. The Tour of Utah, the only multi-day men’s cycling stage race in North America on the UCI Pro Series, has been canceled. This year’s event was to run from August 3–9.