By Alex Mangie: The Big 10 canceling the 2020 football season is about as asinine as anything I have heard in 2020, and that is saying something when 2020 has been an all-you-can-eat buffet for disappointment and all things asinine. If 2020 has not been bad enough for you, the Big 10 volunteering to remove itself from the college football world until the spring (heh, don’t hold your breath) just added another miserable event to an already miserable year—and it is completely needless. As of today, the ACC, Big 12, and SEC are still intending to hold a season, and because Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney are involved, I do not think anyone in their conferences is going to tell them no, so look for them to play this year.
Before you say this is in the best interest of the kids (who are really adults who can make their own decisions about things), let me stop you. Consider what your own day is like—you work all day, run some errands after work (maybe go to the pharmacy or the grocery store), you might go out for dinner with your family, possible get a hair cut or get your nails done, and go to the park to walk your dog. And you might hold a similar schedule every single day, except maybe on Saturday you go to Target and Sunday you go to church, or you participate in other extracurricular activities that hold your interest.
Your day is filled with opportunity to catch COVID-19, because no matter where you go, there are people, and they are inside buildings where you are also trying to get things done. The Post Office, Home Depot, Walmart, Kroger or Giant Eagle, the bank, the hair salon, the doctor, no matter where you go there are unlimited amounts of contact with people in some shape or form who are breathing and touching things and all in enclosed spaces.
And none of these have been cancelled for the rest of the year. Not one. You live your life, and you knowingly take the risk when you leave your house without someone telling you your life should be canceled for your own good.
If the rest of the world can remain open, why then has collegiate athletics drawn such ire? The plan had been a shorter, conference-only season in the Big 10 with very limited number of fans (that could have been eliminated altogether if need be) and two teams across the sidelines where there is plenty of room to space out. You are in the middle of a field with twenty-two players which are rotated regularly as well as the refs who are already spaced apart. The players are regularly checked by team doctors who are highly qualified to monitor the players health. It seemed like as good a plan as any.
When it comes down to it, the hypocrisy of it all is a problem when certain things must be closed while everything else is fine to be open. What is worse is when other conferences within the same league intend to do something others do not, and it will give them an unfair advantage going into next year, supposing the Big 10 doesn’t shut down football altogether as the academics in the institutions never cared for it to begin with. That may be a strong statement, but kicking football back to the spring is just placating the fans at this point with there not being any real chance of it happening, and if the threshold for playing football now hinges on whether someone can get sick by merely participating in a contact sport, we may never have college football again. People are so rabidly over the top with the COVID boogeyman that if there is even a remote chance that a football player can get sick, they will kick and scream about it. As an Ohio State fan, I do not think we will have a spring season. I do not think we will have a 2021 season either the way this is heading.
If the SEC and ACC play this season and do not have any problems, the Big 10 is going to look very foolish. Of all the teams in the Big 10, this is going to cost Ohio State the most because odds are they were going to win the title in 2020, and if not likely have a top 4 finish. They are going to lose talent like QB Justin Fields who almost certainly has played his final down as a Buckeye, players will transfer and recruits will decommit, not to mention a year’s loss of funding. The same goes for Penn State and Michigan–their programs will suffer as well for much the same reasons.
And the baffling thing about all of this is the Big 10 went to the trouble of making schedules and getting peoples hopes up for something that they probably knew was never going to happen under their watch. Why go through the exercise of drawing up new schedules and formulating plans for dealing with COVID-19 during the season when they never intended to follow through with anything? Would it not have been better to do this earlier than wait until August to drop that kind of bombshell?
With college football, it should be either everyone plays or no one plays, and while I think it would be better to let them play, I would be okay if this was a universal decision where every conference sat out the year. But that is not what is happening here, and frankly letting the ACC, Big 12, and SEC play is unfair to the other conferences whose players and coaches do want to play but have been forced to sit. The only entity happy with this arrangement is ESPN, who truly would relish having an “All SEC, all the time” format—they’ve been gunning for that for years, and this year they might get their wish.
The Big 10 jumped the gun way too early on this kind of decision, and they should be ashamed of themselves for throwing away the season like this.