IOWA CITY, Iowa – The news nobody wanted but all of us kind of saw coming hit like a ton of bricks Tuesday afternoon. The Big Ten canceled Fall sports for 2020, which included football, the front porch of college sports.
The conference cited health concerns for student-athletes related to COVID-19 as the reason. As expected, that sparked public debate prevalent for the last six months. Forget naming it after the country of origin or the president, it’s become the political virus.
News began trickling out during the weekend that the Big Ten college presidents were moving toward canceling. Student-athletes reacted. Some of college football’s biggest names led a #WeWantToPlay social media movement that included plenty of Iowa players. Families wrote letters to decision makers.
Turned out, it was too little, too late. The Big Ten fumbled in delivering the news. The conference left student-athletes hanging for a few days before announcing a final decision. It created infighting and public posturing for a league normally with its act together.
Some slack should be given. These decisions are difficult. As we’ve seen as a country, there is no playbook for a pandemic.
The PAC-12 followed the Big Ten is canceling fall sports Tuesday. That conference took an extra step, sidelining athletic competition until at least January 1.
Are these leagues doing the right thing? Some doctors say yes. Some doctors say no. In truth, nobody knows. It’s a novel virus. That’s why it’s a hard decision.
I feel terrible for the student-athletes who play in the Fall. It’s the same way I felt about the Winter student-athletes who had their championships canceled and the Spring student-athletes whose seasons never started. The virus is crushing dreams.
Hopefully experts continue learning more about it day after day after day. It’s not going away, but knowledge and perhaps a vaccine can help manage it better. Quicker, better testing also is beneficial.
We can sit here casting blame. It’s a waste of time. That’s not fixing anything. We’re here. We can’t go back. We can only go forward.
With that, we turn now to college basketball. Maybe we get to see it by December. Iowa has a Top 10 team, in case you hadn’t heard. It could be an awesome season.
We’ll just have to see how it goes. I’m not going to tell people to wear a mask, wash hands or socially distance. Some folks get mad at those suggestions and wouldn’t listen to me anyway.
Everybody has rights. We’ll all continue exercising them and see where that gets us.
It’s time to look on the bright side. It still could be a special upcoming season for Iowa athletics.
Iowa basketball can tip it off with a run even if the season starts a little late. Same can be said for Hawkeye wresting, the likely top-ranked team in the country.
And what about football? The Big Ten is aiming to play in the spring. We’ll see if the other Power 5 conferences join them.
I’d propose a six-game, division-only schedule starting in February. Play the conference title game after that. Maybe there can be a playoff or some type of bowl system at the end.
Skip traditional spring football and lighten summer conditioning. Push the ‘21 campaign back and shorten it, maybe 6-10 games.
It wasn’t going to be a normal season this fall anyway. There were fewer games with empty stands. Crowds in the spring could generate revenue that would have been lost.
No scenario is great but college athletics must continue working to make the best of a bad situation. It’s not surprising. It’s happening everywhere. It’s silly to think this walk of life would be immune no matter how much it’s a fabric of our society.
It was a very terrible Tuesday for sports. Welcome to 2020.