Dr. K Discusses the NFL and College Football Season and the Financial Implications of COVID


Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed Dr. K to the newsmakers line.

During the second hour, Dr. K weighed in on the upcoming college and NFL football season revealing concern for both the players and the universities whose financial viability weighs heavily on the sport.

Leahy: Dr. K joins us. Good morning Dr. K.

Dr. K: Good morning Michael.

Leahy: Did you think we’d ever get to this point?

Dr. K: Well to be terribly honest I’ve never in 40 plus years doing this stuff I can never remember anything like it. It’s so unprecedented. I never dreamed that this would happen but a lot of things have happened this year that I never dreamed would happen. This is certainly out there on a limb for sure.

Leahy: But now the SEC and the ACC are going to play some football. Opening day is September 26. Now it’s a little longer then we might have hoped for. And the Big Ten and the Pac-12, they are not playing football. Who else is playing football and who else is taking and knee and sitting on the bench?

Dr. K: Well, the truth of it is we ought to chat about the very fact that there is certain Power Five conferences that are playing football and there are certain Power Five conferences are not. You take the Big Ten. Powers Warren plays for Mississippi State. Now what’s ironic about that statement is that his father Kevin Warren is the commissioner of the Big Ten.

And guess what they’re not doing? They’re not playing football. And the Big Ten really says they are more concerned about the myocarditis that follows the COVID infection. I’m not about to take any issues with any conference that believes that the safest route to take is not playing.

I think what you have to do is you have to try and think about what would be the mindset behind those conferences that are. I mean the Pac-12 says no. The Big Ten says no. The Big 12 says yes. But I think honestly Michael it boils down to the whole concept and the intellectual capacity of not having football. The Southeastern Conference and every school thrive on the financial value of college football.

Leahy: You know, talking about the health side of things. We were talking about this in the five o’clock hour with Doug Kellet. And apparently the big issue in the Big Ten was one freshman football player at Indiana University got COVID-19 and had some adverse reactions with a difficult recovery and may have developed myocarditis. They don’t know. That’s a bigger issue to them than the long term health effects on your brain or having your head banged against something multiple times. It seems a little weird to me. The context seems off to me.

Dr. K: Well that’s an interesting perspective. I just think that in today’s society, and you look at education and everything else that’s going on, we’re being awfully careful and, of course, we should be because this is a terrible disease and its taking thousands and thousands of lives. And it’s hard to separate that conceptually from what we love so much in the fall and that’s college football.

Leahy: Just a little bit more on the health issues. If you look at football pre-COVID-19. There would be every year a report of mostly high school kids and maybe a couple of college kids have passed away from overheating. Or they have some underlying situation. As far as I can tell no college kid has died of COVID-19 in terms of a football player as of yet.

I think that kind of puts it in context. I love the SEC and the ACC for playing and for analyzing the risks and understanding that the risk of in my view getting myocarditis after COVID-19 for a college football player is far less than the long term risk of brain damage caused by multiple hits to the head. Which they all know exists.

Dr. K: Well you know there appears to be some empirical data that currently supports the theory that these players are better served being in a restricted community run by athletic departments and coaches who are watching over their every move as opposed to having them at home or some other place where there is no culture that’s going to protect them.

Leahy: Put them in a bubble, right? Isn’t that the idea?

Dr. K: Yeah. Yeah. We’ll talk about this a little bit more. I think where the conference might be slightly impacted and maybe not. Florida is already because four players have already decided to opt-out. And that’s no different than any other sport we’re seeing. NFL football players, opting out.

We’re seeing Major League Baseball players opting out. And major hockey league players opting out. That’s their right. And really and truly when you look at it, what is the season going to be like? Well, you kind of change the whole temperament of the schedule. Now we’re 100 percent in the conference.

I guess we’re going to have one bye week off. And then there’s always who’s the national champion and then how to you. And then how do you play the bowl games. This has a wide-reaching perspective. And even in what we do every Tuesday now, how many games will there be? I’ve been watching what’s going on at training camp for the Titans.

And also what’s happening in the college ranks in terms of what the practices are going to be like and how they’ll ultimately begin to be played. And then there’s always the financial piece as a season ticket holder at the University of Tennessee, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to see the games or not. I don’t know how they are going to go about choosing. I know what the deal was with the Titans. And we decided to get our money back this year.

Leahy: So what was the deal with the Titans because they are going to have a certain number of games here. What was your option as a fan? Could you go to a game?

Dr. K: That’s a good question. They haven’t decided who is going to go to the game. We have two sets of season tickets. One of them in the lower level and one in the front. So they gave us the option of keeping all four. Keeping any two we wanted or turning them all back in and getting a full cash refund for this years cost of the tickets. Or we could have rolled the money that we paid into this year’s tickets over to next year.

Those were the options. We just personally decided that, one we couldn’t be guaranteed that we would even have a seat or where those seats would be. Because what they are doing is taking an inventory of everybody that’s decided to get their money back or to roll over. So once they have that inventory of seats that are no longer going to be occupied, I think then they are going to be telling people where they are going to sit.

Leahy: How many fans will they let in? The capacity is what? 70,000?

Dr. K: They won’t say. They’re not saying.

Leahy: Well that’s not helpful.

Dr. K: I know. That’s kind of where we made the decision that we’ll just watch it on TV this year. We’ve been season ticket holders since they walked in town. I’m concerned and I’m 71 years old. I have to be really cautious and careful about this disease. This is a pretty big deal.

Leahy: Yeah. Well if you are 21 and playing college football and you get it you are not likely to go to a hospital. You are not likely to die. You might possibly have some long term health effects. Maybe. Sort of. But if you get it at your age, 71 or my age 65 it’s a different trajectory, and it’s not a good trajectory.

D. K: No. You’re right. And then certainly I don’t know how they are ever going to bring this social distancing effort together. I do believe and I’m not saying this because that appears to be callous, but certainly, the financial impact to the teams in the Southeastern Conference without Southeastern Conference football and we all know how much money that brings to the table.

Basketball a distant second and baseball and golf are not even in the picture. But you take away the billions and billions of dollars that are generated from television and other angles and you take that away, I think a lot of universities are going to have a big-time problem.

Leahy: It seems to me that one thing that would make sense is if they said look if you are 65 years or older you are not allowed to attend a football game. There is some science that supports that. I don’t know if they are going to do that.

Listen to the full second hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio







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