Re: “Pac-12 fall football season is revived with seven-game schedule starting Nov. 6” [Sept. 24, Sports]:
As a lifelong Big 10 and Pac 12 football fan — in a year where we all need some normalcy — I was disappointed when major conference sports schedules were canceled. However, my role as physician and public-health practitioner took precedence, and I applauded the decision.
Now, with Big 10 and Pac 12 reversing course and returning to the field, I’m uncomfortable. I suspect that even accounting for false-negative testing rates, frequent, rapid testing will reduce the risk of outbreak among players. However, my discomfort goes beyond COVID-19 risk.
Rather, this pause from football should prompt us to re-examine whether we’re OK that football is prioritized because it is an essential revenue generator for American universities, despite football’s association with long-term physical and mental-health disorders (e.g. chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and persistent problems accessing COVID-19 testing in many of Washington’s marginalized communities. Without alternative funding sources, difficult decisions are even harder for university leaders, and doing the “right thing” is nearly impossible without cutting other programs or staff.
It’s time to rethink how we finance, prioritize and invest in higher education if we expect academic centers to produce the leaders needed to reshape the systemic issues this pandemic has exposed.
Katherine Ritchey, DO, MPH, Seattle