The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our daily lives. As most universities open back up for a combination of in-person and virtual classes, BIG news was announced regarding college football this fall. After nearly a month of on-campus workouts, several conferences pulled the plug on football this fall and are taking aim at a Spring schedule.
Big Ten conference presidents and chancellors voted earlier this week to postpone all fall sports seasons, including football.
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said "Because we announced a schedule does not mean we're going to play, As you gather information on a daily basis, that's what day-to-day is. We have to still plan. By organizing schedules and making announcements, we made it very clear -- I thought I was very clear in that it's a day-to-day decision, and we're going to do what's best for the health and wellness of our student-athletes."
Warren said the decision was based on the uncertainty that still surrounds the coronavirus pandemic.
"It's a combination of where we are in our testing, where we are in our rapid testing, how is contact tracing actually defined?"There's a whole litany of issues. We have incredible policies and procedures in place and our schools, we have 14 schools in 11 different states. People are doing the best they possibly can, but when you go from the acclimation period to getting ready to put on pads and contact, and you look at the overall numbers during this global pandemic as far as caseloads, they have not decreased, they have gone up.
"Trends have not improved, they've become worse. You add that up, and you're getting ready to go into more formal practice, it's just a level of not only concerns, but unknown risks are large. When you're dealing with the health of human beings, it's serious."
Later the same day, Pac-12 presidents and chancellors followed the Big Ten's lead and also voted to postpone the conference's fall sports season, including football.
The Pac-12 CEO group voted unanimously to postpone all sports, including football and basketball, through the end of the year. In a statement, the Pac-12 said if conditions related to the coronavirus improve, it would consider a return to competition after Jan. 1, 2021.
"The health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports has been our number one priority since the start of this current crisis," Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. "Our student-athletes, fans, staff and all those who love college sports would like to have seen the season played this calendar year as originally planned, and we know how disappointing this is.”
Interestingly, the Big 12, the SEC, and the ACC are moving forward with a fall season.
Notre Dame opened up fall camp yesterday. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has been steadfast that the conference is doing everything it can to safely play football next month.
"I look forward to learning more about the factors that led the Big Ten and Pac-12 leadership to take these actions today," Sankey said in a statement "I remain comfortable with the thorough and deliberate approach that the SEC and our 14 members are taking to support a healthy environment for our student-athletes.
"We will continue to further refine our policies and protocols for a safe return to sports as we monitor developments around COVID-19 in a continued effort to support, educate and care for our student-athletes every day."
The Big 12's presidents also decided to allow their conference to proceed toward playing the 2020 college football season this fall despite the Big Ten and Pac-12 canceling their 2020 seasons. The Big 12 announced its schedule -- consisting of nine conference games and one non-conference showdown with a start date of Sept. 26. The SEC is also starting on that date, while the ACC aims to begin the week of Sept. 7.
The trickle down effect has been seen at the local level as well, with many high schools postponing the start of the season. Everyone, at all levels, continues to be cautiously optimistic. The general consensus from coaches and players is that THEY want to play, and that being on campus under the supervision of staff and following necessary health protocols is safer than NOT playing. As we’ve seen with the NBA and the NHL, creating bubbles has proven to be the safest, most effective avenue to returning to competition. Will college football programs be able to follow suit in some fashion or will the hurdles of travel, on-campus interaction with student-body, and larger rosters be too much to overcome? The Power 5 conferences have made their determination. Curious to see how it all plays out.