The college football season is reportedly hanging in the balance, as officials debate its cancellation at the school administrative and conference level, while a number of coaches and players have spoken out in hopes that they reconsider. It is unclear whether a cancelled season would lead to football played as a spring sport, or called off entirely and picked up next fall, where there’s stronger confidence that a coronavirus vaccine may be widely available.
ESPN reported Sunday night that commissioners of Power 5 conferences held an emergency meeting Sunday to discuss the possibility of cancelling the season as coronavirus cases continue to surge in many states. According to the broadcaster, a vast majority of Big Ten presidents have indicated that they would vote to postpone the season.
“It doesn’t look good,” one Power 5 athletic director said.
All of the P5 have already announced drastic changes to their scheduling for the fall, should games be played. The Big Ten, Pac 12 and SEC are playing only conference games in 2020, while the ACC and Big 12 have allowed each team one non-conference game on the schedule. The Mid-American Conference became the first Division I Football Bowl Subdivision conference to postpone its fall season over the weekend, while UConn cancelled its season after losing a number of games on its schedule due to its status as an independent after departing the American Athletic Conference.
A Group of 5 athletic director told ESPN: “I don’t know why we are trying to push to play in the fall. It’s always made more sense to me to just play in the spring.”
While the powers that be discuss their options in the background, a chorus of dissent has begun to trend on social media, as players, coaches, and political figures have voiced their desire to see football played this fall. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, himself a former college president, wrote a letter to Big Ten presidents and chancellors opposing the shutdown of the sport.
“Life is about tradeoffs,” he wrote on senate letterhead. “There are no guarantees that college football will be completely safe – that’s absolutely true; it’s always true. But the structure and discipline of football programs is very likely safer than what the lived experience of 18-to 22-year-olds will be if there isn’t a season.”
“Cancelling the fall season would mean closing down socially-distanced, structured programs for these athletes. Young men will be pushed away from universities that are uniquely positioned to provide them with testing and health care. Here is the reality: Many of you think that football is safer than no football, but you know that you will be blamed if there is football, whereas you can duck any blame if you cancel football.
“This is a moment for leadership. These young men need a season. Please don’t cancel college football.”
Tweeting with hashtag #wewanttoplay, a number of players and coaches have spoken up as well on social media, encouraged by many in the college football media who are hoping for a season to cover.
This is Big!!! pic.twitter.com/5YwIZm6gSJ
— NCPA (@NCPANOW) August 10, 2020
There’s been too much work put in!! #WeWantToPlay
— Justin Fields (@justnfields) August 10, 2020
— L U K E F O R D🇺🇸 (@lukeford82) August 10, 2020
I speak on behalf of myself and our team. We trust our medical staff here at Baylor University, and we believe they are going to put us in the best position possible to be safe. #WeWantToPlay
— Charlie Brewer (@CBrewer16) August 10, 2020
As the debate on whether or not to play college football has largely centered around player safety, it will be interesting to see if player participation in the pushback against cancellation will be taken into consideration by the school and league officials who will ultimately make the decision on their behalf. We’ll update this evolving story as more details become available.