- The Washington Times - Monday, August 10, 2020

Whispers that the Big Ten and other collegiate conferences might be considering canceling the 2020 football season grew into a roar Monday, and everyone from University of Maryland players to the president of the United States had something to say.

Reports said that the Big Ten’s presidents voted to cancel the 2020 football season, with an announcement coming Tuesday, but a league spokesman told national outlets that no such vote had taken place.

Broadcaster Dan Patrick said a source told him that 12 of the conference’s 14 university presidents voted to call off the season due to continued COVID-19 health and safety concerns, and Iowa and Nebraska cast the two dissenting votes. The Detroit Free Press later confirmed the report.

This would make the Big Ten the first of the power five conferences to call off the football season, the biggest moneymaker in college athletics. The Mid-American Conference postponed football and other fall sports over the weekend and the Mountain West followed suit Monday. They became the first two Division I Football Bowl Subdivision conferences to do so to this point.

Just last week, the Big Ten appeared to be trying to move forward in 2020 with a 10-game, conference only schedule. Maryland and other member institutions released their new schedules on Wednesday; the Terrapins would have opened Sept. 5 on the road at Iowa.



A massive group of players has emerged to voice their desire to play in 2020. But that comes with some demands outlined in a social media campaign that circulated Sunday and Monday — universal NCAA health and safety measures, eligibility guarantees for players who decide to opt out of the season and the creation of a “college football players association.”

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence argued that athletes would be put at greater risk of COVID-19 if sent home from their college campuses than they would be from playing football.

Football is a safe haven for so many people,” Lawrence tweeted late Sunday. “We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football. Having a season also incentivizes players being safe and taking all of the right precautions to try to avoid contracting covid because the season/teammates’ safety is on the line.”

“Could not have said it better myself,” Maryland running back Jake Funk, one of the Terrapins’ senior leaders, replied. “You will have the same issues if not worse by pushing the season to the spring.”

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh released a statement saying that there is evidence college athletic programs can keep the virus “controlled and handled,” pointing to the Wolverines’ containment of the virus and low numbers of cases since the football team reported back to campus.

“I’m not advocating for football this fall because of my passion or our players’ desire to play but because of the facts accumulated over the last eight weeks since our players returned to campus on June 13,” Harbaugh wrote.

President Trump weighed in Monday afternoon, quote-tweeting Lawrence and writing that “the student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled.”

And Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, wrote a letter to the conference’s presidents and chancellors arguing against the season’s cancellation because students could be put at greater risk of the virus.

“Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence have made similar points persuasively: Canceling the fall season would mean closing down socially-distanced, structured programs for these athletes,” Mr. Sasse wrote. “Young men will be pushed away from universities that are uniquely positioned to provide them with testing and health care.”

The players’ desire for a season, while encapsulated neatly by the hashtag #WeWantToPlay, is not unanimous. Several have opted out of the 2020 season, including six Terrapins, most notably 2019 starting quarterback Josh Jackson. Indiana freshman offensive lineman Brady Feeney said he wanted to play, but warned his peers of the seriousness of the coronavirus; Feeney suffered from the virus earlier this year and might have lingering heart problems connected with his illness.

There were rumors that the Pacific Coast-based Pac-12 would also cancel its football season. The other three conferences — the Southeastern, the Atlantic Coast and the Big 12 — are less likely to do so, despite, ironically, their member universities being located generally in regions where COVID-19 cases are worse at the moment.

A Bleacher Report college football reporter said one athletic director described it as “looking more and more like it’s Big Ten and Pac-12 vs. SEC, ACC and Big 12.”

The NCAA has not outlined a course of action to handle football practices and games during the pandemic, leaving decisions up to conferences and individual schools.

Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, which plays in Conference USA, canceled its football season Monday. The University of Connecticut, a football independent without a conference schedule to fall back upon, also decided last week not to play football in 2020.

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