By Matt Noonan
The debate about if and how college football could be played during a pandemic may be answered this week, especially after a flurry of activity this past weekend between Power 5 conferences convening remotely, per reports, to the Mid-American Athletic Conference (MAC) becoming the first F.B.S. league to cancel its 2020 season.
Last night – Sunday, August 9, to be exact – we learned the Big Ten conference, which met twice this weekend, is leaning toward canceling its football season. And if football is canceled, it is likely both the presidents and chancellors of each institution would pull the plug on other fall sports, too.
An announcement from the Big Ten is expected if not today definitely this week, and pending the league’s final decision on the 2020 fall sports season, it is possible other Power 5 conferences such as the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Pacific-12 Conference (Pac-12) could cancel their respective fall sports seasons or perhaps make tweaks to their newly updated schedules.
While nothing official has been announced by the Big Ten or any Power 5 conference as of this morning, Bob Bowlsby, who is the commissioner of the Big 12, did provide some insight into what leagues might take into consideration when deciding to cancel games this fall: players enduring longlasting cardiac issues from contracting the coronavirus (Covid-19) that may prohibit them from future competition.
As noted in a recent story from Sports Illustrated, team doctors and physicians are worried that youth athletes, who are healthy and may be asymptomatic, could develop life-long heart problems, including myocardial, which causes damage to the heart muscle. It appears this issue is just one of many both presidents and chancellors are grappling with when it comes to making a decision on the 2020 fall sports season.
Here in New England, it appears as if both Boston College and the University of Massachusetts will play football this fall, but it is not a given that either program will play or perhaps complete its entire schedule. It is possible, pending future announcements from the Big Ten and other leagues, that both seasons could be canceled or punted to next spring.
Merrimack College, which competes in the Northeastern Conference (NEC), will have to wait and see if their football team will be allowed to play games this fall. According to last month’s update, the NEC President’s council will reconvene on Thursday, October 1 to assess the ongoing pandemic and see if it’s possible to provide not just the Warriors, but every team in the conference with some form of competition.
Other New England schools, including those that compete at both the Division II and III levels, will not be competing this fall, despite some athletic departments still not announcing that fall sports are canceled. But it is likely those announcements could come if not this week later this month once students return to campus.
At the end of the day, these are not easy decisions, so fans and football fanatics need to respect whatever is announced either today or over the next few days. Yes, no college football in the fall would seem strange, but if these decisions result in keeping the student-athletes safe, along with everyone else involved with college athletics safe and healthy, then we should applaud both the presidents and chancellors for making the right call.