Americans split on return to college football but majority believe players at risk


Survey results also highlight partisan differences

Army West Point stadium empty

A general view of empty seats as the Army Black Knights take on the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in the second half at Michie Stadium on September 5, 2020 in West Point, New York. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — As Ohio State and the Big Ten Conference prepare to return to football, Americans are split — almost dead even — on whether college football should even be playing.

Results from NBC/SurveyMonkey’s latest weekly tracking poll, released Tuesday, show that 49% of American adults think college football players should be allowed to play, compared to 48% who do not.

Factoring in the poll’s 1% margin of error, Americans are in a statistical tie on whether college football should be back.

A comfortable majority of poll respondents, however, believe players are putting themselves at greater risk of coronavirus. Of those surveyed, 61% said so, compared to 36% who disagreed. And 70% of respondents said they would not attend a college football game this fall if given the chance, compared to 27% who said they would.

The survey polled 18,197 U.S. adults on these three questions, and results are nationally representative of age, race, sex, education level and geography.

Partisan differences

The survey results also show differences between political ideologies. Seventy-five percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners agree with college football being back, but only 27% of Democrats and Democrat-leaners think so.

These groups are also far apart on whether they think players are putting themselves at greater risk of coronavirus (85% of Democrats/leaners vs. 36% of Republicans/leaners), although a slim majority of each group said they won’t attend a game (88% of Democrats/leaners and 51% of Republicans/leaners).

Seeing a game in person won’t be an option anyway for Big Ten fans this year as the conference is closing all games to spectators. Other conferences, however, are allowing fans, with several Southern schools allowing more than 10,000 or 20,000 per game.

With the Big Ten’s announcement last week, seven of the 10 NCAA Division I FBS conferences have plans to return to play, including a few that have been back for multiple weeks.

Among the holdouts, the Mid-American Conference is likely to wait until early 2021 to play football, while the Mountain West Conference will vote later this week. The Pac-12 is considering a fall return, but nothing concrete has been reported.  

The Big Ten will require all players and personnel to get daily COVID-19 tests, as well as require players who test positive to have their heart health monitored. The conference also set positivity rate benchmarks that can possibly bar a team from competition if enough players test positive.

Ohio State will open its season on Saturday, Oct. 24 against Nebraska and will play every Saturday for the following seven weeks, leading up to the Big Ten Championship on Dec. 19.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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