Congratulations, college football, you now fully represent America.
If not complete chaos, a pretty fair approximation of it.
Mixed messages or no messages from leadership. A confused workforce. Haves gaining access to COVID-19 testing while have-nots can’t foot that bill.
To be clear, there are no right answers, no clear path. Right now, Solomon might throw up his hands. We’re too late in the game to be able to salvage a coherent strategy. One size simply does not fit all. That’s NCAA 2020.
The sport also represents America because actions perceived as leadership by some will be castigated as weakness by others.
With millions of dollars on the line.
While it certainly appears the Big Ten is on the verge of not having fall sports (at least in the fall), Big Ten athletes have earned the right to be frustrated.
What have they been testing and quarantining and working out for in recent days? Why hasn’t the Big Ten announced this yet? Communicating to your own campuses has taken a day or two for leagues that have made these decisions already. Big Ten presidents also would dearly love to not be alone among Power 5 schools. It’s apparently fine for the Mid-American Conference and UConn and most of the FCS and all of Division II and Division III to shut it down. But that ain’t the football America really wants to see on Saturdays. The Big Ten shutting down while other Power 5 leagues keep going will be perceived as weakness.
(What would I do? I’ve already written that. Shut it down. Hope for spring football. I’m one of those scared off by what we don’t know -- by possible heart issues, for instance, for an Indiana University freshman lineman after he tested positive.)
A #WeWantToPlay hashtag from players popped up over the weekend, with stars such as Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields leading the charge.
Other recent player actions have made it clear that players want protections and a voice in making sure protocols are in place. A group of American Athletic Conference football players, reportedly led out of Central Florida, also wants a cut of the revenue. (One problem: There won’t be much of any revenue in the AAC this season if Temple’s league plays.)
The #WeWantToPlay group calls for college football powers to “give players the opportunity to opt out and respect their decision,” and also “guarantee eligibility whether a player chooses to play the season or not.”
Those sound like apple-pie issues, and while the opt-out option has already been put in place by the NCAA board of governors, there is no guarantee right now of future eligibility. It’s every school for itself.
Meanwhile, the circus is in town. The governor of Florida said on a radio interview Monday that Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference schools should play and poach players from the Big Ten if it shuts down. A senator from Nebraska was more statesmanlike but went right at university presidents: “Many of you think that football is safer than no football but you also know that you will be blamed if there is football, whereas you can duck any blame if you cancel football.”
If you were pretty sure President Donald Trump would weigh in Monday with a tweet, right you are, at least twice. First, retweeting Trevor Lawrence with the words, “The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled. #WeWantToPlay” Then an hour later: “Play College Football!”
It’s true that just moving football to the spring isn’t a panacea. Are NFL draft prospects supposed to play then or prepare for their professional future? Is it feasible to end a season in the spring and start training for a new one in the summer? If we’re talking about public health, how is that healthy?
While it is good to hear the opinion of Lawrence and Fields and other stars of the game, there’s no reason they should have a bigger voice than a freshman offensive lineman at Indiana.
Among those signing on to #WeWantToPlay is the Penn State Football Parents Association, expressing its “full trust in the decisions made by our football coaches and staff.”
Of course, the opt-out option already has been taken by Penn State’s top returning star, linebacker Micah Parsons, who has a big-time NFL future ahead of him.
There are important points being made, nonfinancial points, for why every attempt to play should be made.
Kylin Hill, a star running back at Mississippi State, tweeted that he didn’t want to go home “for a reason … hometown [Columbus, Miss.] not peaceful people get kilt every day/week in my city.”
That’s as real as it gets, but also suggests that Mississippi State couldn’t keep athletes on campus all fall without football. Football can’t be the deciding factor in such decisions. If it is, we’ve truly failed. #chaos.