Stanford University is in the northwest corner of Santa Clara County, which means that the various Cardinal teams cannot play or practice on campus for the next three weeks, in accordance with the COVID restrictions that have resulted in the 49ers making a temporary move to Arizona.
The NFL will move heaven and earth and entire football teams to get its season played, even if they have to put a game on a Wednesday afternoon because of a TV conflict with the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony, or have a team play with no quarterbacks, or whatever other mishegoss and chazerai we’re going to see in December.
But Stanford isn’t the 49ers, a professional football team with agreed-upon coronavirus protocols between labor and management. It’s a major private research university with a community of about 30,000 people between students and staff. On Sunday, the school posted a message to that community about Santa Clara County’s new mandates meaning that a 14-day quarantine is necessary for anyone returning from 150 miles away or more — it’s no longer possible to opt out of quarantine by virtue of negative coronavirus tests.
Sports did come up in the note from associate vice provost Russell Furr, who wrote, in boldface, “The county directives also include new restrictions for athletics activities that involve contact, that do not allow for social distancing, or that take place indoors.”
Such athletic activities would include football and basketball.
For the Cardinal women’s hoops team, this meant a bit more schedule juggling. Stanford’s game against Pacific on Sunday had been canceled last week because the Tigers had a positive COVID test. So, Stanford quickly added a home game against San Diego for Monday… which was then canceled “in accordance with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department’s emergency directive.”
It’s not like women’s basketball isn’t a big deal at Stanford. Tara VanDerveer is closing in on Pat Summitt’s wins record, and the coach is handling this whole thing pretty well, all things considered.
“I love to be in the gym but the health of our community is No. 1,” VanDerveer said, as quoted by the Marin Independent-Journal. “I just think this is really hard for everybody to deal with. … We’ll be playing when it is safe. But the most important thing is the health and safety of our team and community. We’re really thankful to be healthy.”
VanDerveer’s counterparts on the men’s side have a different challenge. They’re in Asheville, N.C., playing in the relocated Maui Invitational, which means that when they go back west, returning to campus would mean a 14-day quarantine under the county health order that the school was emphatic about superseding its own previous guidance.
So, after “Maui,” that’s a wrap for Cardinal men’s hoops for the next few weeks, right?
You must be new here. Of course that’s not what’s happening.
They must also be looking for alternative sites to live, because it’s not like they can just show up back at Stanford, bus over to San Mateo or Redwood City to practice every day once they’re back out west. At least, they shouldn’t be able to do that, because the point of a 14-day quarantine is isolation, not coming and going to play basketball in a neighboring county because it’s not allowed where you are.
Two weeks of quarantine would mean scrubbing games against Cal Poly and Loyola Marymount — which wouldn’t be allowed under county guidelines anyway — and the Pac-12 opener at USC, which, again, is more than 150 miles away from Santa Clara County, so playing that one would be a challenge anyway if they hoped to come home. Colorado’s game against Arizona already is canceled, so it’s not like Stanford is alone here in the conference.
It’s ludicrous to ask everyone involved with a college team to just pack up and go somewhere — they don’t even know where — for an indefinite period of time, to be able to play basketball and get around the restrictions of the county where the university is. It’s not like Maples Pavilion burned down and they need to find somewhere else to play. There’s a global pandemic, and the safest place to be is inside the place where you live. For Stanford, that’s gonna mean not playing basketball for a while, which VanDerveer understands, but her counterpart on the men’s side, Jerod Haase, doesn’t yet seem to grasp.
If men’s basketball doesn’t get it, then you know football isn’t going to, and indeed, the plan for Stanford football, which previously ran the San Mateo practice gambit, appears to be to relocate to “the Pacific Northwest. … The exact location is not yet known, or possibly has not yet been determined.” Stanford’s next game is at Washington, then a home game against Oregon State that they can’t play at home, so, sure, whatever, that does make sense on a logistical level that completely ignores the fact that it’s about asking 100-some people to go hundreds of miles for a temporary housing setup in the middle of a pandemic… so that a miserable 1-2 football team — they lost at home to Colorado! — can finish its season. Stanford beat Cal on Saturday, isn’t that enough? What else about their season even matters a tiny bit?
Stanford University, as a whole, is taking the new county regulations and rolling with them.
Stanford women’s basketball, ranked second in the country, is canceling games with a legendary coach preaching the importance of community safety.
Stanford men’s basketball, a tournament bubble sort of team, is playing on the other side of the country and weighing how to proceed in a situation that appears impossible.
Stanford football, which sucks and already has played its one borderline relevant game of the year, is plowing full speed ahead into uprooting 100 people to another state and setting them up to endure two weeks of quarantine whenever they finally do come home.
The school can do all the distancing itself from Scott Atlas that it wants to, but so long as Stanford’s priorities are this upside down, so long as the school is even considering going on with football in this situation, everything the university gets right winds up ringing hollow.