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WATCHING FOOTBALL: The Season(s) To Come

After two conferences cancel fall sports, here's where college football stands.

Yesterday, the Big Ten officially canceled its fall college football season, with the expressed hope to play in the spring. The PAC-12 swiftly followed suit. But the Big 12 stood firm for now, releasing an in-conference fall football schedule this morning.

That’s the news. To my eyes, here’s what it means.

Deciding to cancel fall sports is, to be generous, hasty and willfully unreasonable. The Big Ten and Pac-12 both quoted “the science” in doing so, when keen observers know they were fully committed to playing in-conference schedules until players started organizing and asking for better safety protocols.

Specifically, both canceling conferences expressed worry about the long-term effects of COVID-19, including myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that can sometimes result from COVID and has serious, long-term effects.

Let me clear something up: Myocarditis can result from quite a few viruses, including the common cold, or the flu. Many cases are mild and clear up on their own or with anti-inflammatory treatment. Some don’t and become serious. It’s unclear whether COVID causes more cases of myocarditis than the average virus.

The Big 12 decided to deal with this new information by including a full battery of heart tests in their new safety protocols. The Big Ten and PAC-12 decided to deal with it by canceling their seasons, with zero guarantee that their players won’t still contract the virus and get myocarditis. (Nick Saban made this point eloquently yesterday.) This difference in approach is notable.

Football players are all in their early twenties. Most are extremely healthy. The death rate for such individuals from the virus itself is lower than the flu. This is also something that should be taken into account.

But no. We get postponements instead. And I’d like to be frank about what just happened. So I will.

The Big Ten panicked, tried to push their fellow Power 5 conferences to postpone, and then still postponed when three out of the four said “no, thanks.” This is an abject disaster for new conference commissioner Kevin Warren. Now several Big Ten coaches and administrators are in open rebellion, some seeking to play elsewhere, perhaps permanently.

Oh, and as for the PAC-12? Most of their schools had already gone online-only. They could have isolated teams on campus and created a bubble. Their decision makes even less sense. But it’s nice to know that they just vote to do whatever the Big Ten does. They’ve now proved it twice.

Thank goodness the Big 12 still has something resembling a spine. Their statement on the matter basically amounted to “well, with good safety precautions in place, there’s no reason to cancel right now.” They’re right. There isn’t.

My advice to Nebraska, Iowa, and other dissenting schools would be to join another conference for a year. See if you like it. Stay if you want to. It should be up to each individual university – their AD, their coaches, their president, and their players – to decide whether they want to play or not.

Point is, I’m very frustrated with this decision to postpone, but (for now) it means we’ll have two seasons. At the very least, that should be fun for fans!

I was going to preview the PAC-12 this week, but I guess that’ll have to wait! So next week I’ll have an SEC preview ready. Until then, keep your ear to the ground, and follow me on Twitter for all the latest news from college football.


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