One by one, big-time college football programs and entire conferences called it quits on the 2020 season this week. A significant handful of premier players also told their schools they would not be playing the game this year: The Big Ten and the PAC 12 have already pulled out.

The news is still happening even now; as Opening Day draws closer, many teams remain undecided as to how, and if, they will proceed.

For now — for now — the ACC still plans to have a football season, which means our only local team of note, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, have a schedule. But all of these independent plays have a destructive effect on the college football system it took decades to build.

How will it affect the championship?

How will it affect revenue sharing?

How will it affect the NFL draft?

And, perhaps, the most important question: Does any of this really matter?

Of course it does: millions of people have devoted their lives to competitive sport and its attendant businesses. To a one, these college athletes have devoted most of their lives thus far to their sports; some have their futures pegged to it.

It’s a terrible time for sport, just as it’s a terrible time for the arenas that host them, as it is for movie theaters, restaurants, airlines, cruise ships and just about every other business except for grocery stores, real estate and home-improvement.

Major League Baseball has been postponing games all season long because of outbreaks among the players. Many college football programs have already reported players infected with the coronavirus during summer camps. A couple dozen NBA players have tested positive, and 43 players in the NHL. It is not going well.

And in the case of college athletes, their respective schools must consider the safety of their students, even if the students themselves do not — thousands of players and parents are petitioning to “let them play.”

We should not, no matter the consequences, because to do otherwise puts college students in harm’s way, for money and entertainment. In those stark terms, it doesn’t seem worth it.

It’s terrible for the fans, too — especially if this trend in college football bleeds over into the NFL, which would mean the first American autumn without football in more than a century.

But we will survive to see other seasons. And it’s only fair to hope that our favorite athletes and teams do, too.

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