Learning from history: College football has bounced back from a pandemic once before

In the wake of COVID-19, college football games may look and sound differently than fans are used to.

News 12 Staff

Jun 13, 2020, 1:07 AM

Updated 1,409 days ago

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In the wake of COVID-19, college football games may look and sound differently than fans are used to.
But this is not the first time college football would be impacted by a pandemic.
“We look back in the record books and there are a lot of games that didn’t occur until later in the season – in the November timeframe – even though the season started in September at the time,” says College Football Hall of Game historian and curator Jeremy Swick.
By 1918, the Spanish Flu and World War I had killed millions of people globally. Swick says that in the aftermath of those events, teams had to adapt.
“Rutgers, for example, had to improvise. When your normal schedule couldn’t be played, they played Naval training stations. I think it’s really a good picture for college football as a whole,” he says.
Fans were also willing to adapt. A 102-year-old photograph from a Georgia Tech game shows spectators wearing face coverings.
Swick says that it was the passion for the game that gave way to the college football craze of the 1920s.
“I call it the stadium's arms race, that was who could build the biggest and most luxurious stadiums to not only support the teams, but also support the universities,” says Swick.
Photos: COVID-19 Impacts the World
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Swick says that if history teaches anything, it is that college football is resilient.
“We’ve been around for 150 years, so we’ve definitely seen several world wars, several pandemics and I think we just come back stronger,” he says.
The College Football Hall of Fame was vandalized and the gift shop was looted during protests in Atlanta last month. None of the exhibits were damaged.


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