Down, set, spread: The association between college football and COVID-19

J Am Coll Health. 2022 May 12;1-8. doi: 10.1080/07448481.2022.2074278. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Objectives: Before the Fall 2020 semester, college presidents and the NCAA made decisions about playing college football. The current study aims to examine the association between college football games and COVID-19 infections at universities.

Participants: More than 1,800 college campuses nationwide from The New York Times database on COVID-19 cases on college campuses.

Methods: Random effects negative binomial regression is used to analyze the association between college football games, membership to college football organizations, and COVID-19 cases at the universities studied.

Results: The number of football games played was significantly associated with higher COVID-19 cases at the universities studied. Membership to certain college football organizations was also significantly associated with higher COVID-19 cases, particularly FBS and Power Five conferences.

Conclusions: These findings provide a baseline for subsequent analyses across other sports and advocates for continued assessment of protocols that ensure the safety and well-being of student-athletes, fans, and university communities.

Keywords: COVID-19 cases; college campuses; college football; college health.