The 2020 college football season is officially at a crossroads.
On Sunday afternoon, Commissioners of the Power 5 conferences -- the Big XII, SEC, Big 10, Pac-12 and ACC -- held an emergency meeting to discuss the mounting concerns that the fall sports season should be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Per an ESPN report, Big 10 officials voiced their intent to vote in favor of postponing fall sports to this spring. No official vote was taken on Sunday, but reports on Monday indicate that Big 10 universities voted 12-2 in favor of canceling the season. No indication was made as to whether teams will attempt to play this spring.
This nationwide uncertainty comes a day after the Mid-Athletic Conference officially postponed its fall sports seasons to the spring, becoming the first Division I FBS conference to do so. Division III programs like Trinity and TLU have already seen their seasons go up in smoke after the NCAA canceled their fall sports championships outright.
But while conference officials appear to be leaning towards postponement or cancellation, college football players have organized a national movement on social media. After Big 10, ACC and Pac-12 players like Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Michigan defensive back Hunter Reynolds appeared to be tweeting at cross-purposes earlier in the week, players around America have gathered under the combined hashtags #WeWantToPlay and #WeAreUnited.
Their message is simple: “We all want to play football this season.”
While prominent programs and big-name players remain at odds with each other over the status of the season, smaller conferences like Conference USA are left in limbo. That includes the UTSA Roadrunners, who have already lost three games from their 2020 schedule. Their season-opener against LSU was canceled when the SEC announced that they were limiting teams to playing against conference opponents, and UTSA’s home-opener against Grambling State was postponed after the SWAC moved fall sports back to the spring.
On Monday, the Roadrunners were forced to drop another game from their schedule after Old Dominion became the latest FBS school to postpone fall sports due to the virus. In roughly a week, UTSA has lost three games. The team has only held three practices for fall camp. Needless to say, the Roadrunners are not oblivious to the national rumblings.
“We talk about it all the time,” head coach Jeff Traylor said. “It’s what’s scary about where we are today. We’ve had to bubble ourselves so we can make sure we don’t have COVID and we can go play the game. Our bubble is enough right now. It’s sad that I haven’t seen my mom and my dad. I hate that. We’re all dealing with that, but it reaffirms to us how closed our bubble is.”
If college sports were allowed to proceed as scheduled, the fear is that COVID-19 will spread rapidly, shattering carefully constructed bubbles across the nation and putting hundreds of thousands of lives at risk. While Traylor understands that fear, he sees the situation differently.
“There’s a risk either way. There’s no doubt about it, but I do feel like there’s a greater risk from the kids not playing. That’s my personal opinion just because what’s our plan? What’s our plan for these young men if we take this away from them? That’s a high risk. There’s risk involved in football, period. We’ve all played the game. We’ve all coached the game. We all love the game. These kids have fought through it. They get tested here once a week. If they cancel the season, are we still going to test them? What’s that going to look like? I have an issue if we don’t play, but what is that going to look like? We need a plan to give these young men hope so they can keep fighting.”
That’s the ultimate goal for all involved: keep athletes safe and give them a chance to do what they love. Time will tell whether that happens this fall, in the spring or at all during this collegiate year.