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Nick Saban in his practice field mask. Photo: University of Alabama

Most schools have postponed college football, and others are dealing with coronavirus outbreaks — yet the season remains on track to begin in a few weeks for six of the 10 biggest conferences.

The big picture: It's not an exact parallel, but college football faced similar confusion and uncertainty 102 years ago, when the 1918 influenza pandemic — combined with WWI — led to a bizarre, shortened season.

  • Some conferences shut down, while others chose to play. Most schools played five games or fewer, and Michigan (5-0) and Pittsburgh (4-1) were named co-champions.
A photo of fans in the stands during a Georgia Tech game in 1918. Photo: Thomas Carter; Courtesy: Andy McNeil

The state of play: History repeats itself. Here are some newspaper clippings and other college football media coverage from 1918:

1918
  • CHICAGO — "[M]iddle western football was dealt another blow tonight when a score of colleges and universities cancelled gridiron contests scheduled for tomorrow, because of the epidemic of Spanish influenza."
  • COLUMBUS, Ohio — Although health officials ordered Ohio State to close its campus on Friday, Saturday's football game against Denison went forward with fans in attendance.
  • LEXINGTON, Mo. — "Quarantine against the 'flu' epidemic has halted football practice at Wentworth. There has been no influenza in the school, but the authorities desired to take every precaution to keep it out."
  • SPOKANE, Wash. — "Football work at Gonzaga University is going forward regardless of the influenza ban, although the squad is somewhat reduced."
  • PITTSBURGH — "OCTOBER FOOTBALL IS BANNED."

This week's headlines...

2020
  • TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama returned to the practice field in preparation for the Crimson Tide's Week 1 matchup on the road against Missouri (Sept. 26).
  • ROSEMONT, Ill. — In an open letter, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said the conference will not reconsider its decision to postpone fall sports. "The decision was thorough and deliberative, and based on sound feedback, guidance and advice from medical experts," he said.
  • ATLANTA — Georgia Tech will have 20% capacity for home football games this fall, or approximately 11,000 fans per game.
  • CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — UNC has temporarily suspended all athletic activities, citing the upward trend in positive COVID-19 cases that caused the school to move to fully online classes.
  • SOUTH BEND, Ind. — After seeing another spike in COVID-19 cases on campus, Notre Dame is putting football practice on hold.

Go deeper

In photos: Black Friday shopping across the U.S.

Customers shop at Macys on Nov. 27 in New York City. Photo: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

Many Americans braved shopping malls and department stores to shop in-person on Black Friday.

Why it matters: Coronavirus infections are still on the rise across much of the U.S. during a season of travel and holiday gatherings. Hospitals across the country, especially in rural areas, are still overwhelmed.

Updated 24 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Omicron variant lifts Moderna's stock price — CDC strengthens COVID booster recommendation.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns."
  3. States: Federal court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for health workers in 10 states — NYC urges masks indoors "at all times" regardless of vaccination status — New York declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron.
  4. World: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating worldWHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries — First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Nov 27, 2020 - Health

WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release"

A medical syringe and vial with fake coronavirus vaccine in front of the World Health Organization (WHO) logo. Photo Illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Top scientists at the World Health Organization on Friday called for more detailed information on a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

Why it matters: Oxford and AstraZeneca have said the vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses. AstraZeneca has since acknowledged that the smaller dose received by some participants was the result of an error by a contractor, per the New York Times.