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Coronavirus and college football, one year later

It was a year ago today that the world stopped spinning.

Okay, that didn't really happen, but it sure felt that way on March 11, 2020. That was the day America's pandemic year started -- when the NBA shut down and Tom Hanks revealed his positive test. None of us had any idea what the next year would be like, how the virus would find its way into every nook and cranny of daily life.

Though March 11 is the official start date of the pandemic, it was not the first time the word "coronavirus" appears in FootballScoop's archives. That was March 6, 2020, when the University of Washington closed in-person classes. The Huskies' spring practices, slated to begin April 1, were still on, and their winter workouts and spring recruiting continued on as scheduled. U-Dub was moved to take such a drastic measure after a stunning 69 cases emerged in the Seattle era.

From there, it's amazing how fast everything moved. From the FootballScoop archives:

March 9: "Could the NCAA cancel March Madness?"

March 12: "Should the NCAA consider suspending spring practices and recruiting?"

They could, they should, and they did.

"These are the hard yet necessary decisions that can, hopefully, prevent a bad situation from turning worse," I wrote at the time. "Remember, the best possible outcome here is that we all look back at this six months from now and think, 'That was probably overboard, don’t you think?'"

Oh, you sweet summer child.

By week's end, all American sporting events would be shut down indefinitely.

Looking back on it, it's remarkable how all-encompassing the pandemic was. A search of our archives reveals the word "coronavirus" was tagged to 268 articles. That's an amazing number considering:

A) That number could've been much, much higher.
B) This is a college football website!

Again, no corner of American life was unmolested from this microscopic virus.

Other than the week shut everything originally shut down last March, the worst period was the second week in August. This was when the MAC announced it wouldn't play in the fall and the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Mountain West quickly followed suit. Everything felt on the table in those days.

It was a terrible time to be in the football business, but it was unfathomable time to be a football fan. There we stood, staring at the abyss of a fall without (college) football. What do you even do on an October Saturday if not watch football? I didn't know the answer then, and I'm grateful to still not know the answer today.

Looking back on it, the 2020 season was worse than I hoped but better than I feared. We got a full NFL season, but that was never truly in doubt. If the NBA could find a way to finish its 2020 season, the NFL would find a way.

As for the 2020 college football season, I'd be lying if I remembered it fondly. The memories I do have will be of empty stadiums and endless speculation over which games would get canceled that weekend. We got around 70 percent of an FBS season, a whisper of an FCS season and nothing beyond that.

As a reporter, the constant threat of cancellation gave us an overabundance of news. But as a person who enjoys as much college football as the human eyes can handle... it was a grind, man. And that's what it was like to cover it from the outside. I can't imagine how intense the grind was from the inside.

Would I ever want to relive the 2020 college football season? No. Would I take it over the alternative? He*k yeah, brother.

Looking forward, the overwhelming emotion I feel is gratitude. Half a million Americans (and counting) lost their lives to this virus. Countless more lost loved ones, jobs, and life as they knew it. I'm grateful not to be among that group, and even more grateful -- to the point of guilt -- that no one in my social circles lost a job or a family member to the virus, either.

A year later, we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. One in four American adults has already received at least one vaccine dose. Last spring we were told it'd be a miracle to have a vaccine within the year, and in a few months we'll have more vaccines than arms to shoot them into. Those charts we all spent so much time studying now look like the end of a Justin Fields deep ball.

We're not out of the woods just yet, but we can see the clearing from here. We have every reason to believe stadiums will be full this fall. A few short months from today, we could once again live in a world where it would take a major confluence of events to cancel a 7th grade football game, let alone an NFL or college one.

Can you imagine? A world where every game is played, and the only thing preventing you from seeing one in person is if other people already bought up all the tickets?

A year after we never even got so much as a March Madness bracket, they're going to pick the teams on Sunday and play the darn thing over the next three weeks. That's really going to happen.

None of this was promised -- to all of us as a society, and to any of us individually. That's the one thing I want to take with me from 2020, the year that taught us lessons about life we never asked to learn: tomorrow is not promised to us, so let's never forget to be grateful for today.

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