Notre Dame A.D. can’t see playing in empty stadiums

For many reasons, the return of college football presents more complex and nuanced questions than the return of professional football, because college football entails much more than simply finding a way to play football.

Notre Dame A.D. Jack Swarbrick addressed these dynamics during a Monday appearance on NBCSN’s Lunch Talk Live. And it sounds like Swarbrick won’t be comfortable allowing football to resume if it can’t happen without fans in the stands.

“It is not for me,” Swarbrick told Mike Tirico. “I don’t know how we reopen our campuses, put students back in dorms and dining halls, and then say we can’t be in a football stadium together. That doesn’t feel compatible to me. . . . We have to be consistent in our approach. I’m not sure how you say we’re OK with the students engaging in the field but not fans in the stands. Now, might there be approaches to fans in the stands that are a little different, that help ensure safety? Absolutely. But I can’t see playing in empty stadiums.”

That answer necessarily encompasses the broader question of whether college football would resume without the college. In other words, until the students can return to campus, college football won’t be returning, period.

“It’s premature to take any option off the table,” Swarbrick said regarding the potential return of college football. “A season we move, a season we shorten, a season we delay the start of. All of that’s got to be under consideration. The starting point for this will be the scientific data that we’re given, the medical data. And then I think the commissioners will take the lead on trying to decide based on that, with their institutions, what’s the best path forward? Because again we have to do this as all of college athletics. Individual schools will make decisions about what they do, but to play college football in the fall, all of us have to come together and how we’re going to approach that.”

If that’s with fans in the stand, college football in the fall of 2020 becomes a much more dicey proposition. Which definitely will affect the NFL, in ways that are both negative and positive.