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Pushback intensifies over canceling football; decisions by Power 5 conferences expected soon

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey urged people to be patient about deciding if football will be played in the fall.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey urged people to be patient about deciding if football will be played in the fall.Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

President Donald Trump joined a US senator and a number of coaches Monday in the push to save the college football season from a pandemic-forced shutdown.

There was speculation that two of the five most powerful conferences — the Big Ten and the Pac-12 — might call off their seasons. Late Monday afternoon, the Mountain West Conference announced it was postponing all fall sports until the spring. The Mountain West is the second FBS conference to postpone football and other fall sports, joining the Mid-American Conference, which voted to do so Saturday morning.

Farther east, Old Dominion canceled fall sports and became the first school in the Bowl Subdivison to break from its league in doing so; the rest of Conference USA was going forward with plans to play.

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A Big Ten spokesman said no votes had been taken by its presidents and chancellors on fall sports as of Monday afternoon and the powerful Southeastern Conference made clear it was not yet ready to shutter its fall season.

“Best advice I’ve received since COVID-19: ‘Be patient. Take time when making decisions. This is all new & you’ll gain better information each day,’” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey posted on Twitter. “Can we play? I don’t know. We haven’t stopped trying.”

A growing number of athletes have spoken out about saving the season with Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence among the group posting their thoughts on Twitter with the hashtag #WeWantToPlay. Trump threw his support behind them Monday.

“The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled,” he tweeted.



Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh took a stand, saying the Wolverines have shown players can be safe after they return to school.

“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,” he wrote. “I am advocating on August 10 that this virus can be controlled and handled because of these facts.”

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Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh says the Wolverines have shown players can be safe after they return to school.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh says the Wolverines have shown players can be safe after they return to school.Tony Ding/Associated Press

Another Big Ten coach, Nebraska’s Scott Frost said that the Cornhuskers are prepared to play this upcoming season — even if it’s outside the Big Ten.

“We’re a proud member of the Big Ten,” Frost said during a Zoom teleconference with reporters. “We want to play a Big Ten schedule. I think the only reason we would look at any other options is if for some reason the Big Ten wasn’t playing and only a handful of teams from the Big Ten wanted to continue playing. I think if that’s the case, I think we’re prepared to look at any and all options.”

Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, picked up on the safer-with-football theme in a letter to the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten.

“Life is about tradeoffs. There are no guarantees that college football will be completely safe — that’s absolutely true; it’s always true,” he wrote. “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.”

“Here’s the reality: 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,” added Sasse, a former college president. “This is a moment for leadership. These young men need a season. Please don’t cancel college football.”

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