Looming conversations about college football this fall amid COVID-19 has sports fans 'anxious'

Sports fans can’t seem to wrap their heads around a Saturday this fall without college football. However, it is a possibility as conversations across the country are looming about canceling the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fans in Washington said they are still holding out hope for an upcoming season, but they are also beginning to plan for the worst.

“It’s going to be painful for a lot of people. There’s a lot of anxious people right now,” said Barry Erickson, a professor in the Foster School of Business at University of Washington. “We have to fill that Saturday. Saturday’s in the fall can’t be without football.”

Erickson is considered to be “the” super fan of UW Husky football. For 25 years, he was known as “Captain Husky,” leading thousands of fans in third-quarter chants. His son, a UW student, has since carried the tradition. With the potential of no upcoming season, Erickson said some of their traditions will be placed on hold as they resort to plan B to fill their Saturdays.

“I know friends right now that are gearing up for fall watching reruns of the 1977 Rose bowl, the 1991 Rose bowl, the 2001 Rose bowl, any time we beat the Ducks. People are watching those reruns and that’s what Saturday is going to be,” said Erickson. “If there were other conferences that were playing the tailgaters would be down, the ‘sailgaters’ would be down, the big screens would be up, we’ll watch the SEC if we need to. We’ll watch our college football.”

Other college football fans said they aren’t sure how they will spend their weekends.

“With all the lack of sports for the last few months, no March madness and all of that, football was kind of something to look forward to a little bit of normalcy,” said Sarah Zeitler, a college football fan.

“Been taking my kids to the games forever. It’s going to be different, our Saturdays are going to be different the whole ‘Ave’ is going to be different with no fans or opposing fans coming down here making it fun as well,” said a UW football fan.

Erickson teaches a sales program at UW. He said without college football, it also raises concern for other sports. He explained football generates most of the funding for athletic departments across the state.

“It pays for gymnastics, crew, it pays for track and field, it even pays for some of the club sports. So, it will be very interesting how the athletic director is going to continue with those other sports,” said Erickson.

As sports fans anxiously await the decision if there will be a fall football season, Erickson said he hopes fans don’t lose sight of the future.

“One blip, one season on the radar screen is going to make us appreciate it that much more. The season will be through quicker than we may think. It’ll be tough but we’ll get through it. But what I can certainly tell you is there will be zero drop-off to next year. We will not be made or broken by one season,” said Erickson.

Several sports fans said they would be disappointed if college football is canceled this season. However, some of them also said they understand these are unprecedented times and safety should always come first.

“There’s too much uncertainty involved,” said another UW football fan. “To be quite honest with you, I think it’s the right thing to cancel. But it’s safety first.”