By Lenn Robbins
The Mid-America Conference has always been a favorite. The majority of schools are located in Michigan and Ohio which means many games have a rivalry feel. It’s not the Big Ten and it doesn’t strive to be. In fact, the MAC just proved it’s better than the Big Ten or any of the Power 5 conferences.
The MAC’s decision to postpone all fall sports, including football, is almost surely going to be the impetus for college football being pushed to the spring, if at all. According to published reports, the the Power 5 commissioners – ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, SEC -held an emergency meeting Sunday morning to discuss postponement.
Finally, a conference whose schools offer scholarships has shown the gumption and common sense to do the right thing. Mac Daddy!
“There are simply too many unknowns for us to put our student-athletes in situations that are not clearly understood,” MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. “We have traditionally been a leader on student-athlete well-being issues. This has not been an easy decision. For the Mid-American Conference, it is the right decision.”
It’s the right decision for every conference. Football means just as much to the athletes at Toledo or Western Michigan as if does to the athletes at Tennessee or Washington.
According to CBS Sports, at least two athletic directors at Power Five institutions believe it’s inevitable that the college football season will be pushed to the spring. All it took was one scholarship conference to pull the pin. The MAC did. So ends the water torture the sport has subjected itself to these last several months.
Consider this drip, drip, drip that at best would have led to a watered-down product:
The Navy-Notre Dame game scheduled to be played in Ireland will be played in the Academy’s 34,000-seat stadium in Annapolis.
The great intersectional games that get the season off to a stirring opening were scratched – Alabama vs USC; Michigan at Washington, Ohio State at Oregon, Georgia at Virginia.
Leagues opted to go to a conference only schedule, forcing the postponement of hundreds of games.
The HBCU canceled its season-opening classics. The Ivy League, the Patriot League, Wagner and UConn cancelled its seasons.
Coronavirus outbreaks hit Clemson, Houston, Kansas State, Michigan State, Rutgers, and Texas among others.
Michigan and Ohio State, which is on the verge of becoming one of the nastiest rivalries in college football as coaches Jim Harbaugh and Ryan Day exchange pleasantries, has been moved from the last weekend of the season to the third week in October. Is nothing sacred?
No. Nothing is sacred when money is the drug of choice.
What should be sacred, non-negotiable, is the health of college athletes. Even the consideration of putting those athletes at risk has been unconscionable. In the 15-24 age group, the coronavirus has claimed hundreds of lives according to the Center for Disease Control.
Players at some universities – Ohio State and Stanford – are confident in their school’s screening protocols. Players at Colorado State and Arizona are not.
And elite players across the country – Penn State’s Micah Parson, Miami’s Greg Rousseau, Purdue’s Rondale Moore, Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman and Pitt’s Jaylen Twyman are among more than 30 players that have opted due to coronavirus concerns.
College football lost some of its luster with every passing week. But hey, the show must go on.
The economic devastation of canceling or postponing a season is legit. It will mean the end of many small businesses in college towns across the nation. The mom and pop apparel stores, the non-chain hotels and motels, the restaurants, vendors, and parking facilities, which includes the front lawns of those owning homes within walking distance of the stadium, could take a hit from which they will never recover.
Olympic sports at universities across the country have already been casualties and the number will only grow. Stanford recently cut 11 varsity sports including field hockey and wrestling. That means less opportunity for thousands of high school student-athletes.
As Steinbrecher said, “This has not been an easy decision.” It’s the only decision. Because he also said, “There are simply too many unknowns for us to put our student-athletes in situations that are not clearly understood.”
The MAC understood. The other conferences now have no choice but follow.