Gordon Monson: BYU’s outbreak shows the risks of playing football during a pandemic

(Tommy Gilligan | AP) BYU quarterback Zach Wilson, center, looks to throw downfield as Navy defensive tackles Jackson Perkins (96) and Deondrae Williams (92) apply pressure during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Monday, Sept. 7, 2020, in Annapolis, Md.

It’s hard and maybe even reckless to blame those afflicted with COVID-19 for their affliction. Nobody in their right mind wants to come down with the coronavirus, least of whom are BYU football players who have practices to hold and games to play. Many individuals across the country have been careful in their comportment and still been diagnosed with the virus.

The question as it pertains to BYU players is: Are they in their right mind?

About 10 Cougar players, according to sources, tested positive for the virus this past week and as many as 22 are quarantined, including some who live under the same roof, causing the postponement and more likely the cancellation of Saturday’s scheduled game at Army.

Beyond the more important issue of the well-being of the players, that’s a shame, considering both BYU and the Black Knights are ranked heading into a game that would have been televised nationally, a game that given the Cougars' impressive performance against Navy would have stirred a real opportunity, maybe a last one, for BYU to climb higher in the polls. After Saturday’s erasure, victories over the opponents the Cougars have left on the schedule wouldn’t move BYU much higher if the players' moms were voting in the polls.

And it seems as though the happenings around BYU left Army officials none too pleased. Army Athletic Director Mike Buddie tweeted out Sunday the following: “Undefeated, COVID negative college football team from NY looking for like minded, disciplined team for a date next Saturday … must also be COVID negative! Twitter, do your thing!”

The less-than-sophisticated insinuation there is BYU is not a like-minded, disciplined team.

It’s not fair to say, really, one way or the other.

What is fair to say is that the pictures coming out of Provo illustrating BYU students at crowded parties and dances last week wearing no masks are telling about a cavalier and careless attitude, at least among some, toward the virus, a condition that has killed more 190,000 Americans and nearly a million people around the globe. And the dying isn’t the whole of it. Studies are indicating that some afflicted with the virus, even among the young and healthy, who weather the initial effects of COVID have additional lingering troubles with which to deal.

Point is, nobody completely understands the ramifications of this virus.

Another point, too many people are ignoring the effects and ramifications.

BYU players are being tested three times a week, and still they had players afflicted.

And Army wanted nothing to do with that.

Those who complimented the Cougars, themselves included, for creating college football’s version of a bubble around the team did their complimenting too soon.

Again, there’s no blame here put upon specific individuals for their contracting the virus. But the contracting took place somehow, some way. With the insidious nature of this thing, any of us could fall victim. It’s frightening. It frightens me and, hopefully, it frightens everyone.

The finger here is aimed at those who are not frightened, they are the worst of it, and also those who think college football should roll on no matter what, come what may.

BYU’s outbreak is not the only one and it will not be the only one moving forward. This is going to happen, again and again, in all corners of college football. And so, while some coaches, players and fans around the Big Ten, the Pac-12 and the Mountain West are complaining, allowing their anger at the absence of football around their programs to spill over and out, they should stop and remember that this pandemic is not fake, it’s not to be taken lightly, it’s not just a minor speed bump on the freeway to football.

It’s deadly and it’s dangerous.

And there’s no way for college football to replicate the safety of the bubble the NBA has enjoyed over the past two months, even with regular testing.

The reason is found in the pictures from Provo. Even if most BYU players aren’t attending those parties, those social gatherings, they may come in contact with someone who did or does. We all might.

And if they do, if we do, heaven help them and us get through what comes next. For some, it might be a breeze. For others, it might be devastating. We don’t know.

What we do know is this: Army, an institution that specializes in courage, preparing young men and women to lead the defense of our country in battle, if need be, wants nothing to do with a team on the football field that’s had players exposed to the coronavirus, players who’ve tested positive.

That should mean something not only to the kids partying unmasked around BYU, but to those who are masked, confident this thing can be contained, even as careful, responsible players live their lives around those who aren’t so careful and responsible.

GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.