DENVER — James Stefanou. He's the kicker at CU-Boulder. Brice Honaker. He's the kicker at Air Force. Joe Deline, Jonathan Terry, a couple of freshmen — one will be the man up at CSU.
Good group. Solid group.
Big kickoff coming for this group.
Anyone else who can’t wait to see Colorado’s kickers do their thing in the fall? Never typed that before. But when Air Force debuts against Duquesne and CSU hosts CU, the kickers are the ones who will send us into a college football season unlike any other. They'll be the men of the hour. With one swing of their heavy legs, they’ll boot this silly media-driven notion we shouldn't have a college football season right out of Falcon, Folsom and Canvas stadiums.
Because this college football season is coming. Sorry, the doom and gloom and nonsensical science-ignoring that’s being pushed almost everywhere else has no room in this space. We're about the facts, and the CDC releases the facts right here for the world to see: if you’re 34 years or younger, the probability of dying from anything is .08 percent. Meantime, the probability of dying from COVID-19 is .0004 percent. That’s right — three zeros and a four. The athletes' odds of dying from this stupid coronavirus exist, but they are miniscule. Then there are the coaches. Air Force’s Troy Calhoun, CU’s Karl Dorrell and CSU's Steve Addazio are excellent men, and no one around here wants the coaches getting sick. So here’s the science on that front: if you’re 35-64 — this is the CDC talking again — the probability of dying from COVID-19 (.01) is still a fraction of the normal annual risk (.49).
Nobody's arguing if the coronavirus is a serious matter. Of course it's a serious matter. But if the science was valued two months ago it must be valued equally now — and come September.
Hey, it's not me saying these promising things. What do I know about epidemiology, anyway? It’s the CDC saying these promising things. It’s the science we’re supposed to listen to saying these promising things. Maybe that’s why CU athletic director Rick George is saying these things: "I'm more optimistic today than I was last time we talked about having sports in the fall."
Is this a good time to mention that on Tuesday only seven people in the state of Colorado were newly hospitalized due to the coronavirus, according to Denver's 9News? Makes you wonder why Denver mayor Michael Hancock still has public tennis courts wrapped in police tape and putting greens closed. But that's a column for another day.
Back to college football. It's coming. Will there be fans in the stands to celebrate when Stefanou, Honaker and the other kickers boot us into another glorious season? Too early to tell, and there's two months to go. But two months ago the thought of soccer in hard-hit Italy and England was merely optimism. Guess what? Serie A and the Premier League will restart on June 20 and June 17, respectively — long before the NBA and NHL are planning their return, even though our virus numbers per capita were better than Italy's and England's. Yeah, I don't get it either.
Texas governor Greg Abbott said his state will allow outdoor stadiums at 25-percent capacity — this summer. If the science continues at its current rate, we’ll not only have football games — we’ll have fans there to root on the college kickers who kick off the 2020 season.
“There’s going to be a reduction in revenue regardless of whether we play 12 games with fans, with a portion of fans or with no fans. And we’re looking at all those scenarios,” said George, who’s been a true leader during a bizarre and novel process of returning sports.
Oh, one more thing: none of these athletic departments wants to be the one that draws the wrong headlines in its return to sports. You saw nationally how a place like Florida — and locally like Douglas County — was vilified in mainstream media. And those were the success stories, Florida earning the NBA’s trust and Douglas County issued a variance to reopen early.
For athletes and their families, “We’re going to be comfortable with their decision, whatever it is. But we also want them to know if they choose to send their son or daughter back so they can have voluntary workouts through the end of June, we want to make sure they understand what that’s going to mean,” George said.
At CU, that means symptom checks, athletes in small groups of "cohorts" spread between three weight rooms, equipment sanitized hourly. As one college coach told me, it stands to reason athletes are safer on a campus that invests millions of dollars in their health than elsewhere.
“Our medical team in the (Pac-12) conference is as good as there is in the country,” George said.
The return of sports isn’t about the games themselves. It's not about winning the league or Top 25 polls. It's about another step toward the return of jobs, the return of classrooms, the return to living life. Bring on the kickers.