Well, friends, it feels like we are in the last throes of a losing battle to have college football this season. Following chilling news on Saturday about the Big Ten moving towards canceling the fall season, it now appears almost an inevitability that should football happen during the 2020-21 academic year, that it will be in the spring of 2021. The common consensus is that the B1G, with new commissioner Kevin Warren at the helm, is the most likely league to pull the trigger first on a cancelation.
Not only has the conference long been the most progressive in making radical decisions, but thanks to the Big Ten Network and lucrative contracts with FOX and ESPN, it is believed that the B1G and its member institutions are the most well-prepared to withstand the inevitable financial shortfall should games be delayed until spring — or even fall — of next year.
As players and their parents are actively campaigning for the season to progress as (re-)scheduled, there is a palpable fear rising from all corners of the college football fandom and media. We are all reading the writing on the wall, and as reality washes over us, we are lashing out at everyone within arms length who has any part in taking the sport that we love away from us, away from the coaches, and away from the players.
You can think and say whatever you’d like about how individual schools and conferences — and the NCAA as a whole — have mismanaged their specific responses to this pandemic, and chances are that you’d be right. While these organizations were fairly proactive in March, moving to cancel unsafe and unnecessary in-person classes and large gatherings, in most cases they have completely abdicated their responsibilities since then when it comes to adequately planning for a return to some semblance of normalcy for their students; athletes or otherwise. So, they are by no means immune to criticism in regard to the handling of COVID-19 and the return of college football.
However, let’s be clear, wide-spread public health is not the responsibility of Ohio State, the Big Ten, or even the NCAA. They are institutions of higher education and intercollegiate athletics. They are simply responding to what is happening in the world around them; despite whatever political pull they might have, they are not dictating what is being done to keep the citizenry-at-large healthy.
That responsibility falls to our elected and appointed officials and to each of us as individual members of a collective society. So, as I said on Twitter on Sunday, for all of the anger and resentment being sent the Big Ten and NCAA’s way, I hope that there are ample amounts being reserved for the actual individuals who have spent the past five months doing little to nothing to get our country into a position in which playing college football was possible in the fall.
Being mad at schools/conferences/NCAA about CFB potentially being canceled is fine; I'm all for yelling at those orgs as much as possible. But I hope some of that anger is being saved for those who abdicated their responsibilities leading us to the position we're in now.— Matt (@BWWMatt) August 9, 2020
This is not a political statement, this is not a scientific statement (lord knows that I am not an expert in either field); this is a blanket statement. There has been a gross dereliction of duty at every level of our nation when it comes to taking the coronavirus seriously and following through on the sometimes painful steps required to keep it in check.
We know that it’s possible to curb the spread the disease enough for life to return to something approaching normal; other countries of have done it. Heck, even in the sporting world, the NWSL has done it, the NBA has done it, the MLS has done it, the NHL has done it. We know what it takes to stop the spread of this highly contagious disease; we’ve always know what it takes to stop the spread of this highly contagious disease.
But, for whatever reasons (some valid, some less so), governmental officials at all levels and of all stripes have been hesitate to put these stringent protocols in place. And all too often when lesser protocols have actually been ordered, far too many people have selfishly refused to comply, thus in turn making it even more politically difficult for officials to do what is necessary to keep people safe and to get the country to a place where collegiate sports could return.
Now, I certainly am not carrying water for the B1G or NCAA, as I think that they have mostly followed the government’s model and washed their hands of any serious leadership and have instead defaulted to hoping for the best. But ultimately, they aren’t the ones to blame if college football is canceled this fall. Sure, they might be the ones that make the final decision, but we are the ones at fault. Both because of our communal unwillingness to do the difficult things needed to slow down the virus’ spread, and because we have not demanded more from the people that we put in power.
We could have had college football this fall; we should have had college football this fall. But if we don’t, I hope that those who are actually responsible for creating a situation that forces the games to be taken away from us are the ones who receive the brunt of the fandom’s collective anger.
From the first official day of preseason camp until whenever Ohio State’s football season ends, I will be posting a column every single day. Some days they will be longer and in depth, some days they will be short and sweet. Let me know what you think of this one, and what you’d like to see me discuss in the comments or on Twitter. Go Bucks!