Notre Dame finally announced on Monday that it would welcome students back to campus for the 2020-21 academic year the week of Aug. 10, two weeks earlier than originally scheduled. The school will forgo fall break in October and end the semester before Thanksgiving.

According to the ND web site, the reopening plan will include comprehensive testing for COVID-19, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation protocols, social distancing and mask requirements. The school also has identified facilities to isolate students who test positive and quarantine students.

The significance, of course, is that Notre Dame is a national icon for college football.  Notre Dame is among the most beloved and respected schools as well, a leading opinion influencer among educational institutions. Does that mean the return of college football is a safe bet for the 2020-21 football season?

Father John Jenkins, the school president, is obviously under pressure to make it happen but not all in yet. “It’s not just our decision,” he told NBC on Tuesday. “It’s the decision of all division one institutions across the nation, and so we’re going to talk to them and see what is safe and what is possible. I hope we’ll have sports. I hope we’ll have football. We’ll just have to see.”

While he wasn’t exactly going out on a limb, one has to give the Notre Dame leader credit for at least broaching the subject. Most other administrators have been reluctant, not wanting to be the first to discuss the possibility of college football next fall.

That doesn’t include the California State University system, which has announced that football can wait. The system includes Fresno State, San Diego State and San Jose State, the only programs in the CSU system that compete on the FBS level. Not a popular decision and they will regret it if everyone else is playing.

The University of Louisville, meanwhile, has announced that that UofL will return to regular campus operations, including students on campus and attending in-person classes. President Neeli Bendapudi noted even during 2020 spring semester that 2,700 students remained in campus facilities or affiliated housing.

Athletic Director Vince Tyra earlier indicated a decision would depend on whether students are back at school. In essence, then, the University is preparing to go ahead with a full menu this fall. That, of course, would include college football.

UofL was ahead of the game in announcing its plans. The fact that Notre Dame is now planning the do the same will give other administrators the courage to make their plans public. College football fans, desperate for the return of normalcy, may have something to cheer about this fall.

Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

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