Winners & Losers: TCU, Boise, you’re on deck…

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As is the case every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WINNERS

Blowing out the candles on No. 400
Who else could — or should — lead off this edition of W&L?   All the legendary and beloved Joe Paterno did Saturday was put the 400th notch in his victory belt, becoming the first — and probably last — Div. 1-A head coach to reach that unthinkable milestone.  And, as the icing on top of a lifetime celebratory cake, his Penn State players did it for him in spectacular fashion, overcoming a 21-0 deficit to score the last 35 points of the game in beating Northwestern.  I’ve said it before and I’ll continue saying it ’til either he or I takes our last breath: this is a better game when JoePa is in it.  Congrats, Coach Paterno.  You don’t want or need the plaudits that will be lavished upon you in the coming days, but you sure as hell deserve them.

Utes is served
The biggest game of the day?  TCU at Utah.  You know how we know it was biggest game of the day?  The World Wide Leader decided to grace Salt Lake City with their presence.  And then the Horned Frogs promptly decided to take a leak all over their host’s rug, Big Lebowski style.  And, in the process, made a resounding statement that they are not only the best non-automatic qualifying school in the country, but maybe, just maybe, they’re the best damn team in the land.  The Horned Frogs absolutely dismantled a previously unbeaten Utes squad in each phase of the game and in every way imaginable in their 47-7 road win that wasn’t even as close as the final score indicates.  558 yards of total offense while that stifling defense held the Utes to 199.  11 first down allowed against an offense that came in averaging over 21 a game.  Nearly a 40-20 advantage in time of possession (more on that stat shortly).  Against the No. 6 team in the country.  I don’t know if TCU is the best team in the country, but I would sure as hell like to see it proven one way or the other on the field.

Remember me? It’s spelled B-o-i-s-e…
Hawaii came into Saturday’s game with Boise State ranked No. 7 in the country in total offense and No. 11 in scoring.  All the Broncos did was limit the Warriors to 197 yards (295 below their per-game average) and seven points (32 below their average) in a 35-point dusting  of a team that was that was 7-2 coming into the game.  Oh, and they put up over 700 yards of total offense of their own in a ho-hummer.  Of course, that will not be enough to stop the wailing and gnashing of teeth and whining and crying over their and TCU’s worthiness as far as the national landscape is concerned, but they’re doing all they can with the hand that’s been dealt.  It’s a shame, really.  Actually, it’s more of a “should be ashamed” thing, really, but we won’t pick nits here.

$200K? Money well spent
Cam Newton may have some (very serious) allegations swirling around him on the field, but it was of zero import to him on the field.  Of course, it was just Tennessee-Chattanooga, but the Race for the Heisman continues to run straight through Newton as the Auburn quarterback passed for 317 yards and four touchdowns while adding another one on the ground — all in the first half.  He was “held” to 24 yards on eight carries, however, which should be enough for Mike Bianchi and Thayer Evans and their ilk to shout “See!  See!  See!” as they count page views.  With three games left — two regular season, one bowl — Newton has 19 passing and 15 rushing touchdowns; with those numbers and that amount of games left, he has a more-than-decent shot at becoming  just the second player in Div. 1-A history to have 20 touchdowns both rushing and receiving in a single season.  The first and only thus far only?  Tim Tebow in 2007, of course.  Somewhere — hopefully — Bianchi just threw up a little bit in his mouth.

(Writer’s note: much thanks to the alert reader who reminded us that Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour accomplished the same feat in 2007 — 27 TD passes, 20 rushing TDs.)

TOP = Overrated
Related to the above game, Chattanooga led in time of possession 37:02-22:58; Auburn had a 48-14 halftime lead and won going away 62-24.  Hell, take it even further, the Mocs had 22 first downs to 26 for the Tigers.  For some reason, “lies, damn lies and statistics” is running through my head right about now.  Then again, should Auburn be concerned about a defense that gave up 334 total yards to a Div. 1-AA school?  Probably not, but still…

“When God be blessin’, the devil be messin'”
To finish up the Auburn trifecta of notes, the above subhead is an actual quote from Newton following the game and after being asked about the controversy that’s been swirling all around him the past couple of days.  All I know is, I have a new phrase to put on my tombstone.  For the record, Newton’s linguistic brilliance will replace “Here I sit, brokenhearted, tried to…” as my final resting-place missive to the living world.

Remember me, the sequel? It’s spelled K-e-l-l-e-n…
A lot of people, including myself, have all but handed the Heisman to Newton.  Today, Kellen Moore reminded everyone that he should have a dog in this hunt.  Or, at least, a dog that gets a December invite to New York City.  The Boise State quarterback passed for 507 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Hawaii, although he did double his season interception total with two inexplicable picks.  Still, he now has  21 touchdowns versus four interceptions this season, and 60 and five the past two seasons combined.  Just buy the man’s plane ticket to NYC and get it over with already.

Gators and Gamecocks: It’s on
Despite the fact that they have lost three of their seven conference games, Florida can still win the SEC lEast with a win over South Carolina next weekend in The Swamp.  And could then play their way into a BcS berth as a three-loss team with an upset in the SEC championship game.  Of course, the Gamecocks can and could say the exact same thing.  Wait, should this note actually be in the winners?

Big House fireworks
We’ll get to the defenses in the Losers (obviously) portion of this piece, but for now we come to praise one helluva college football game for fans to take in both in person and at home.  Three overtimes, 132 points,  1,252 yards of combined total offense, 58 first downs and Michigan overcoming a 5-1 deficit in the turnover battle in getting a thrilling 67-65 win over Illinois in a game that had the sounds of Bo Schembechler rolling over in his grave echoing off in the distance.  On the bright side, the win makes the Wolverines bowl eligible for the first time since 2007; on the downside, quarterback Denard Robinson was injured.  Again.  Hey, you can’t win ’em all.

Cowboy up!
The Big House wasn’t the only place that saw an offense explode all over the field.  At The House That Boone Built, Oklahoma State rolled up an Oregon-esque 725 yards of total offense en route to baptizing Baylor (see what I did there?) 55-28 in Stillwater.  Quarterback Brandon Wheeden completed 34 of his 42 passes for 435 yards in the rout, with Justin Blackmon, the nation’s leading receiver returning from a one-game suspensions, catching 13 of those passes for 173 yards.  The win gives the Cowboys the Big 12 South lead but, as noted earlier, that race is wide open heading into the home stretch.

The Comeback Coach
First-year Kansas head coach Turner Gill led his Jayhawk squad from 28 points down to beat Colorado 52-45 in what is likely Dan Hawkins‘ last season in Boulder. The Jayhawks have just been terrible this year, but you have to give a coach credit for 1) keeping his kids believing from week to week and 2) for keeping his kids believing from quarter to quarter. We’re not saying Gill is Coach of the Year, but he deserves a lot of credit for this win, no matter how bad the Buffs are.

The first time?  Really?
From the Department of Whoda Thunk: With their 55-7 win over Idaho State, it marked the first time in school history that the Bulldogs have scored more than 30 points in five straight games.  Don’t know why, but I thought that would’ve happened at some point before now.  So… ummm… congrats?

LOSERS

And Saturday’s De Niro goes to…
Leading Kansas by 28 points in the fourth quarter, you give up 35 unanswered points to the Jayhawks and lose?  Colorado, and the embarrassment that is the soon-to-end Dan Hawkins era in Boulder, y’all are more than deserving of getting DeNiro’d this week…

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Book ’em Horns!
Yes, somebody associated with the University of Texas needs to be arrested, or at the very least be subject to an intensive and all-inclusive investigation that results in multiple arrests.  Somebody, anybody, needs to do some time for the crimes being perpetrated in Austin.  This year, not only have the Longhorns lost to UCLA, Iowa State, Baylor and Kansas State, but they’ve lost those games by a combined 62 points.  With three of those losses coming at home.  My God, the humanity.  Speaking of which, here’s a sneak peek at UT’s 2010 highlight video…

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Nationwide recall on all Boomer Sooners
I get the fact that Texas A&M is “improved”.  I get the fact that Oklahoma may have been a tad bit overrated heading into the season coughcoughPhilSteelecoughcough.  What I don’t get is a Sooners team that had themselves positioned very nicely at No. 8 in the BcS rankings and in line for a season-ending Big 12 South showdown with their in-state rivals absolutely pooping themselves in College Station.  There are myriad things that makes you scratch your head about this season; Sooner losses to Mizzou and A&M are two of ’em.

Arkansas, circa 2010
On the plus side, the Razorbacks are arguably the fourth-best team in the entire SEC.  The downside?  The three teams ahead of them in the conference pecking order also happen to reside in the very same SEC West they call a divisional home.  Guess that 21-point win over SEC lEast co-leader South Carolina in Columbia meant… well… squat, actually.  Ummm, attaboy Hogs?  Maybe next year?

First-quarter doughnut? Banished to the losers…
For the first time all season, Oregon was held scoreless in the first period.  Of course, they proceeded to overwhelm the overmatched Washington Huskies 53-16 the rest of the way.  But, still, a scoreless first period is unacceptable for the most awesomest of awesome offensive juggernauts in all of the history of awesome offensive football.  Three words for that display: Un.  Axe.  Eptable.  Now, excuse me while I go remove my tongue, which is firmly planted deep into my left upper cheek…

The Big East LOLz OMG WTF
On Nov. 7, 2010, the Big East has exactly zero teams that are currently bowl eligible.  Yes, they have five schools within one win of qualifying, and two more within two wins, but they have no teams right now, in the first week of the last full month of the season, that are bowl eligible.   And they have an automatic berth in the BcS.  That right there is the biggest indictment of the current system for determining the “national champion”.  It’s an absolute joke that schools like TCU and Boise State and Utah have to be absolutely perfect and unbeaten and unblemished, while that embarrassment of a football conference automatically trips into a full share of the BcS money regardless of how badly they step all over their own junk.

Wherefore Art (Briles) thou, Baylor?
At 7-2 and leading the Big 12 South, Baylor was the epitome of the topsy-turvy 2010 season. That is, until they went to Stillwater and got a good ol’ fashioned Southern Baptist spanking from Oklahoma State. Amazingly, this was the very Baylor team who, just the week before, went to Austin and handled Texas. The Bears have two games remaining against Texas A&M and Oklahoma, both in Waco. But, with the emergence of A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the Aggies don’t look like much of a pushover, anymore. If Baylor continues to play like they did against Oklahoma State, they could fall to 7-5 — certainly not awful by Baylor’s standards, but a disappointing end considering what could have been.

Defense?  We don’t need no stinkin’ defense…
In the first 30 minutes of the Illinois-Michigan game, the two teams combined for 62 points and 706 yards of total offense.  Wolverines wide receiver Roy Roundtree had four receptions for 192 yards — again, all in the first two quarters of play.  The utter dearth of defense is understandable on Michigan’s part — I think they were ranked No. 137 out of the 120 Div. 1-A schools in total defense coming in — but the Illini came in No. 15 in total defense and No. 12 in scoring defense nationally.  They gave up 10 more yards and 15 more points in one half of play than they had been allowing for entire games on average.  In other words, they Zook’d themselves yet again.

Send the bubble wrap in care of “Vandy RBs”
Vanderbilt entered Saturday’s game without leading rusher Warren Norman, who suffered a season-ending wrist injury last weekend.  Norman’s replacement, Zac Stacey, was knocked unconscious on a second-quarter hit, was taken off the field in a cart and with a neck brace, and did not return to the game.  The twin injuries at the position leaves the Commodores with just two scholarship running backs, possibly for the final three games of the season.

Miami of Florida “fans”
The following is a picture, courtesy of d1scource.com, of Sun Life Stadium during the first quarter of Miami’s “home” game with Maryland:

Regardless of how you spin it, Hurricane Nation, that (being generous) quarter-filled stadium is an embarrassing and shameful display of fandom.  Unless you were sending a message to the higher-ups at The U that you are extremely dissatisfied with Randy Shannon, in which case you resoundingly stated your case and made your displeasure very clear.  Well done?

Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson
Okay, so we’re not implying Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is a girly man, but the sophomore quarterback’s health has been an issue the last several weeks. In a 67-65 (that’s right) win over Illinois. Robinson left the game in the third quarter, citing “dizziness”. “He was dizzy and had a headache,” Rich Rodriguez said after the game. Poor baby. Look, all we’re saying is that when Tate Forcier has to come in to win the game for you …

(Much thanks to Ben Kercheval, who helped me with the Winners & Losers this week.  In other words, you can blame all of the crappy ones on him.  Thanks in advance for your cooperation in this matter.)

Big Ten pulls plug on fall football amid COVID-19 concerns

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The Big Ten won’t play football this fall because of concerns about COVID-19, becoming the first of college sports’ power conferences to yield to the pandemic.

The move announced Tuesday comes six day after the conference that includes historic programs such as Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State had released a revised conference-only schedule that it hoped would help it navigate a fall season with potential COVID-19 disruptions.

But it was not a surprise. Speculation has run rampant for several days that the Big Ten was moving toward this decision. On Monday, coaches throughout the conference tried to push back the tide, publicly pleading for more time and threatening to look elsewhere for games this fall.

“The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement. “As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.”

The Big Ten touts itself as the oldest college athletic conference in the country, dating back to 1896 when it was called the Western Conference, and its schools have been playing football ever since. It became the Big Ten in 1918 and grew into a football powerhouse.

The 14 Big Ten schools span from Maryland and Rutgers on the East Coast to Iowa and Nebraska out west. Not only has it been one of the most successful conferences on the field but off the field it has become one of the wealthiest.

The Big Ten, with its lucrative television network, distributes about $50 million per year to its members.

Trump, coaches push for college football as cracks emerge

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President Donald Trump joined a U.S. senator and a number of coaches Monday in the push to save the college football season from a pandemic-forced shutdown.

There was speculation that two of the five most powerful conferences — the Big Ten and the Pac-12 — might call off their seasons. Farther east, Old Dominion canceled fall sports and became the first school in the Bowl Subdivison to break from its league in doing so; the rest of Conference USA was going forward with plans to play.

A Big Ten spokesman said no votes had been taken by its presidents and chancellors on fall sports as of Monday afternoon and the powerful Southeastern Conference made clear it was not yet ready to shutter its fall season.

“Best advice I’ve received since COVID-19: ‘Be patient. Take time when making decisions. This is all new & you’ll gain better information each day,’” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey posted on Twitter. ”Can we play? I don’t know. We haven’t stopped trying.”

A growing number of athletes have spoken out about saving the season with Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence among the group posting their thoughts on Twitter with the hashtag #WeWantToPla. Trump threw his support behind them Monday.

“The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled,” he tweeted.

Old Dominion has stopped trying. The Virginia school canceled football and other fall sports less than a week after Conference USA set out a plan to play a football season.

“We concluded that the season – including travel and competition – posed too great a risk for our student-athletes,” ODU President Broderick said.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh took a different stand, saying the Wolverines have shown players can be safe after they return to school.

“I’m not advocating for football this fall because of my passion or our players desire to play but because of the facts accumulated over the last eight weeks since our players returned to campus on June 13,” he wrote. “I am advocating on August 10 that this virus can be controlled and handled because of these facts.”

Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, picked up on the safer-with-football theme in a letter to the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten.

“Life is about tradeoffs. There are no guarantees that college football will be completely safe — that’s absolutely true; it’s always true,” he wrote. “But the structure and discipline of football programs is very likely safer than what the lived experience of 18- to 22-year-olds will be if there isn’t a season.”

“Here’s the reality: Many of you think that football is safer than no football, but you also know that you will be blamed if there is football, whereas you can duck any blame if you cancel football,” added Sasse, a former college president. “This is a moment for leadership. These young men need a season. Please don’t cancel college football.”

Players unite in push to save college season, create union

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Michigan defensive back Hunter Reynolds saw the tweets from Trevor Lawrence and other college football players pushing for the opportunity to play this season despite the pandemic.

Reynolds, one of the organizers behind a players’ rights movement in the Big Ten, didn’t like the way some on social media seemed to be pitting Lawrence’s message against the efforts of #BigTenUnited and #WeAreUnited.

“There was a lot of division,” Reynolds told AP early Monday morning.

Reynolds got on a call with Lawrence and the star quarterback’s Clemson teammate, Darien Rencher, and within a matter of hours the summer of athlete empowerment found another gear.

College football players from across the country united Sunday in an attempt to save their season and ensure they will no longer be left out of the sport’s biggest decisions.

Lawrence, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Oklahoma State All-America running back Chuba Hubbard, Alabama running back Najee Harris and numerous other players from Florida State to Oregon posted a graphic on social media with #WeWantToPlay and #WeAreUnited.

“We came to the conclusion, We Want to Play, their message might have been conveyed differently but at the end of the day the message wasn’t too far off from what Big Ten United wanted to promote,” Reynolds said. “Which is we all want to play sports this fall. Every athlete, I’m pretty sure, wants to play their sports. They just want to do so safely.”

The #WeAreUnited hashtag was used a week ago by a group of Pac-12 players in announcing a movement they say has the support of hundreds of peers within their conference. They have threatened mass opt-outs by players if concerns about COVID-19 protocols, racial injustice in college sports and economic rights for athletes are not addressed.

#BigTenUnited arrived on the scene a couple days later, a movement that claimed the backing off 1,000 Big Ten football players. Their demands were more targeted, strictly related to health and safety in dealing with COVID-19.

Sunday night, the call with Reynolds, Rencher and Lawrence led to a Zoom meeting — of course — with some of the Pac-12 players involved in “WeAreUnited.”

Washington State defensive lineman Dallas Hobbs got to work on a graphic and now the movement is officially nationwide.

“Just started bouncing ideas off each others’ heads and kind of discussing where we go from here and we ended up coming up with that statement,” said Reynolds, a senior from South Orange, New Jersey.

Under the logos of each Power Five conference — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — the players pronounced their platform:

— We all want to play football this season.

— Establish universal mandated health & safety procedures and protocols to protect college athletes against COVID-19 among all conferences throughout the NCAA.

— Give players the opportunity to opt out and respect their decision.

— Guarantee eligibility whether a player chooses to play the season or not.

— Use our voices to establish open communication and trust between players and officials: Ultimately create a College Football Players Association.

All of this capped a weekend during which the adults who run college sports seemed to be moving toward shutting it all down because of the pandemic.

A day after the Mid-American Conference became the first of the major college football leagues to cancel the fall season, Power Five conference commissioners met Sunday. They discussed mounting concerns about whether a season can be safely conducted with the pandemic still not under control in the United States.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said no decisions on the season have been made, but conceded the outlook has not improved.

“Are we in a better place today than two weeks, ago? No, we’re not,” he said.

Bowlsby cited “growing evidence and the growing pool of data around myocarditis.”

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart and it has been found in some COVID-19 patients. There is concern it could be a long-term complication of contracting the virus even in young, healthy people, a group that has usually avoided severe cardiovascular symptoms.

Also Sunday night, the Big Ten’s university presidents and chancellors held a previously unscheduled meeting, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was not announced by the conference.

Another person with direct knowledge of the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no votes were taken or decisions made about the college football season.

The final call on whether major college football will played this season rests in the hands of the university presidents who oversee the largest conferences.

With doom and gloom hanging over college football, Lawrence, who has become the face of the sport in a summer of strife, tried to push back the tide with a series of tweets.

“People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play,” Lawrence posted. “Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract covid19.”

Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth had a similar message, and the parents of Ohio State football players weighed in, too.

Reynolds wants athletes to have a say in the meetings that are deciding the fate of their sports — starting now.

”All college athletes through unifying and not being afraid to speak our minds and having social media to kind of mobilize, I think that box on a Zoom call is something that is pretty attainable,” he said. “Especially, in the near future.”

After MAC surrenders to pandemic, will other leagues follow?

MAC football
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In many ways, the Mid-American Conference has little in common with Power Five leagues that first come to mind when fans think of major college football.

There are no 75,000-seat stadiums in the MAC. Million-dollar per year coaches are rare. In a typical season, NFL scouts might find one or two potential first-round draft picks playing at the 12 MAC schools that dot the Midwest. The MAC’s biggest games — #MACtion, if you will — are often played on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Its television deal with ESPN pays per year only a few million more than the $9 million Clemson pays coach Dabo Swinney.

Still, the MAC is one of 10 conferences that competes in the NCAA’s highest level of football, and Saturday it became the first of those to surrender to the coronavirus pandemic and cancel the fall sports season.

So is the MAC an anomaly, done in by its small budgets or is this a dire sign of things to come in college football?

“I won’t try to judge what other folks are doing,” MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. “I know we’re all in the same place. They all have their advisers. They’re going to make judgments based on the information they are receiving.”

Not long after the MAC announced it would explore second-semester seasons for all fall sports, including soccer and volleyball, the Big Ten made its own announcement that seemed ominous given the timing.

Tapping the brakes on football’s preseason, the Big Ten told its schools that until further notice full contact practices cannot begin. All teams will remain in the first two days of what is known as the “acclimatization period,” working out in just helmets. The first Big Ten games of the season are scheduled for Sept. 5.

“As we have consistently stated, we will continue to evaluate daily, while relying on our medical experts, to make the best decisions possible for the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes,” the Big Ten said in a statement.

The MAC’s schools were facing a significant financial burden by trying to maintain costly COVID-19 protocols, while also dealing with the uncertainty that campuses can be opened safely.

A move to the spring, however, could also be budget-buster if it means less revenue from the ESPN deal, which pays each school about $1 million per year, and football ticket sales. The MAC also shares about $90 million per year in College Football Playoff money with four other conferences.

“It would be naive to say that you don’t give thought and consideration to what the financial ramifications of any decision are, but this was a health and well-being decision first and foremost,” Steinbrecher said. “As we sit here today we don’t know what this will mean financially and how the rest of the fall plays out.”

Steinbrecher said the decision effects only fall sports, not basketball or others that begin in the second semester such as baseball, softball and lacrosse.

He added the decision was unanimous among the membership. Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier, supported by NIU President Lisa Freeman, has been a vocal advocate of delaying the season.

“No one wants to have football or sports more than me,” said Frazier, who played football at Alabama in the late 1980s. “Football gave me all the opportunities I have today, but I can’t do it at the expense of people’s lives.”

Eastern Michigan athletic director Scott Wetherbee said he has been feeling a sense of inevitability for two weeks about the MAC canceling fall football, but can’t predict whether this decision trickles up to other conferences.

“Could it? Certainly. There’s certainly a narrative out there that could happen,” Wetherbee said. “No, it wouldn’t shock me if some followed suit. In fact, it would shock me if some didn’t.”

NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline made clear that even though plans for the football season have been adjusted to accommodate potential COVID-19 disruptions like the ones Major League Baseball has had, they are all still aspirational.

“Almost everything would have to be perfectly aligned to continue moving forward,” Hainline said Friday during the NCAA’s weekly video chat on social media.

As the Power Five conferences re-worked their schedules to play exclusively or mostly within their conferences, another of the MAC’s revenue streams dried up.

MAC schools, with athletic budgets in the $30 million range, rely heavily on payouts from road games against power conference teams. Kent State alone had more than $5 million in so-called guarantee games canceled. Whether they can be recouped and when is still to be determined. Without that revenue, the strain became too great of trying to keep players and staff safe during a pandemic.

“Certainly there was a cost attached to it,” Wetherbee said. “But as a league we were prepared to do it.”

The move to try spring football has already been going on in the second tier of Division I.

Nine of 13 conferences that play in the Championship Subdivision, have postponed fall football seasons. The first was the Ivy League in early July.

Now it’s the MAC, which was among the first conferences to limit fan access to its basketball tournament in March as concerns for the virus began to soar across the country. On March 12, the MAC was among many conferences to call off their tournaments hours before the NCAA canceled all of March Madness.

“If you told me in March we’d be here today,” Steinbrecher said, “I’d never have believed it”