The Fifth Quarter: Week 4 Rewind

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

WINNERS

Survey says… LSU’s No. 1
They have to be.  How could they not?  All the Tigers have done is beat then-No. 3 Oregon on a neutral field; went to Starkville and whooped on No. 25 Mississippi State; then, Saturday night, traveled to Morgantown and laid a woodshedding on No. 16 West Virginia.  Three of their four wins over ranked teams away from Baton Rouge, and by an average of just over 17 points per game.  Again, I have to ask: how can LSU not be the No.1 team in the country in both polls when the rankings come out Sunday?  The answer should be they can’t be anywhere but No. 1; we’ll see if that’s the case in just a few hours.

I gots yer fluke right here
Almost immediately after Tajh Boyd threw nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns on Auburn, some brushed it off and attributed the performance to AU’s very young and raw secondary. “Wait ’til he faces a real defense like No. 11 Florida State,” they said.  That surely would be a good test for Boyd; the Seminoles came into Saturday’s huge ACC Atlantic clash with the Tigers No. 6 in the country in pass defense, giving up just 118 yards per game.  344 yards and three touchdowns — and a 35-30 win — later, Boyd has likely silenced many a doubter.  And put No. 21 Clemson firmly in the divisional driver’s seat, especially given the “level of play” in the Atlantic this season.

Cowboys on Comeback Mountain
It was the first game involving two Top 10 teams at Kyle Field since 1975, and No. 8 Texas A&M was looking to run away with what would be a monumental win in what looks to be their final season in the Big 12, staking themselves to a 20-3 halftime lead on No. 7 Oklahoma State.  At some point during that 15-minute period in the locker room, however, the Cowboys woke up and realized we’re men, we’re 40 (points per game) or thereabouts!  After the halftime wake-up call, OSU ripped off 27 straight points and then held on for a 30-29 win that keeps the Cowboys in the thick of the Big 12 race.

Wilson’s Heisman bandwagon: good seats still available
Let’s get this out of the way first.  Yes, Wisconsin’s opponents this season have a combined record of 5-10.  Yes, the No. 6 Badgers’ biggest test of the season won’t come until next weekend’s game against No. 9 Nebraska in what could be a preview of the first-ever Big Ten title game.  All of that, however, should not detract from what Russell Wilson is doing this season.  In his first four games as a member of the previously run-happy Badgers — Saturday’s unlucky foe was overmatched South Dakota — the transfer from North Carolina State is completing almost 76 percent of his passes for 1,136 yards, 11 touchdowns and just one interception.  Again, the level of competition should be taken into account, but that doesn’t mean the numbers Wilson’s putting up should be discounted.

Can’t spell Tide with a “D”
A dominating, stifling, suffocating “D” at that.  While we went over it a little more extensively HERE, No. 3 Alabama’s utterly dominant 37-14 win over No. 14 Arkansas deserves at least a mention in this space.  There’s been a lot of talk of late that LSU might have the best defense in the country.  Suffice to say, the Bayou Bengals are stifling in their own right.  After what I saw Saturday, and with all due respect to the wrecking crew in Baton Rouge, I’ll take the Tuscaloosa defensive gang any day of the week and twice on game days, thank you very much.  I’ll also thank the football gods in advance for LSU-Alabama on Nov. 5; the way those two are going, the winner may somehow wind up with negative points.

Sportsmanship, FTW!
Late in the first half of Arizona State’s 43-22 victory over No. 23 USC, Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley threw an interception straight into the hands of Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who returned it into USC territory. Coincidentally, it was Barkley who tackled Burfict. But the junior linebacker, notorious for being one of the most ruthless guys in college football, did something amazing. Almost purposefully in manner, Burfict went over to Barkley, extended his hand, helped the quarterback up and the two embraced in a brief moment of sportsmanship. It’s something we don’t see nearly enough.

Lookin’ good kid.  Sorta
OK, it wasn’t something you’d find in any type of quarterbacking textbook.  After three consecutive weeks of Todd Boeckman Joe Bauserman, however, it was a solid starting point for what will be an interesting learning experience for both Braxton Miller and the Ohio State Buckeyes from here on out.  The true freshman quarterback made the first start of his career in an easy 37-17 win over Colorado and, while he completed just five of his 13 attempts, two of those completions went for touchdowns and he did not throw an interception.  Where he really shined, and as should be expected from a young player with his God-given athletic ability, was in the running game.  Miller finished second on the team in rushing with 83 yards — oddly enough, that number matched his passing yardage.  Again, it was hardly a virtuoso performance statistically, but Miller showed enough that — thank The Big Fan Upstairs — there’s absolutely no reason to go back to Boeckman Bauserman at any point this season.

The fat boys are back (in the end zone)
Like puppies and side boob, most everybody loves a fat guy touchdown.  This year, Melvin Ingram has become the patron saint of those crowd-pleasing scores.  Earlier this year, the South Carolina defensive lineman scored two touchdowns in a single game — one on a fumble return, another on the greatest fake punt for a touchdown in the history of fake punts.  Saturday, Ingram added to his prolific point total, scoring on a fumble recovery in the end zone in the No. 12 Gamecocks’ 21-3 win over Vanderbilt.  Obviously, that was Ingram’s third touchdown of the season.  To put that into its proper perspective, he has more trips to the end zone than teammate and All-SEC wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (1) does this season.  Of course, that may be more of an indictment on the Gamecocks’ passing game than anything else.  Speaking of which…

LOSERS

Can you drive yourself to drink?
Heading into this season, it wasn’t exactly a state secret that quarterback play would likely be the key to any chance No. 12 South Carolina had of advancing back to the SEC championship game.  After an offseason rife with turmoil, two-year-plus starter Stephen Garcia found himself on the sidelines to start the season; a shaky Connor Shaw led to Garcia being reinserted into the starting lineup shortly thereafter.  And then Saturday night happened.  In the Gamecocks’s 21-3 win over Vanderbilt, Garcia threw four interceptions, including three in the first half, before being replaced by Shaw.  South Carolina can get away with that against the Commodores, no offense intended; against Auburn, Arkansas and Florida?  Unacceptable, and Steve Spurrier knows it.  And knows he needs to get that position, that player, straightened out sooner rather than later.  If not, he risks wasting the most talented team he’s had since leaving Florida.  And, yes, that includes the Washington Redskins and thank you I’ll be here all week.

Oops, our bad
The Big East and one of its officiating crews should be ashamed of themselves, screwing Toledo out of a huge road win against a BcS conference school the way they did (for all of the particulars of said screwing, click HERE).  Even all of these hours later, it’s unbelievable that neither the officials on the field or, even more unfathomable, the official in the replay booth could not see that the Syracuse extra point was no good.  What should’ve been a 30-29 win for the Rockets in regulation turned into a 33-30 overtime win for the Orange, thanks solely to the blatant ineptness of an officiating crew.  And, sorry, an apology after the fact is not enough.  Given all of the technology available in these days, it’s inexcusable for anything like this to go down.

A win, but heavy losses
As expected, Penn State had no problems whatsoever in easily dispatching Eastern Michigan 34-6 Saturday.  Unfortunately, they paid a significant price on the defensive side of the ball in the process.  Linebacker Mike Mauti and cornerback D’Anton Lynn — both starters — went down with injuries in the win, the former with an ACL tear that will cost him the remainder of the season and the latter with a head-neck injury.  Lynn’s injury was particularly scary as he lay motionless on the field for several minutes after attempting to make a tackle.  He was taken off the field strapped to a backboard and stretcher, but the school announced later that he had movement in all of his extremities.

Houston definitely has a problem
Where to start when it comes to the state of the Ole Miss football program?  You could go with just five wins in their last 16 games.  Or you could go with eight straight SEC losses overall.  Or, hell, you could just go to the latest loss.  In their 27-13 home loss to Georgia, the Rebels produced just 183 yards of total offense, which was offset by the four sacks given up to an UGA team that came into the game with just one for the entire season.  In three games against Div. 1-A schools this season, Ole Miss has scored a grand total of two touchdowns, or one less than South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram.  Parse it, twist it, spin it any way you like, but this is a bad, bad football team.  And, because of it, Houston Nutt has surpassed Mark Richt as the coach in the SEC with the hottest backside.  So hot, in fact, we’ll make our very first iron-clad coaching lock of the year: Nutt will not be the head coach of the Rebels when the calendar flips from 2011 to 2012.

The life (and coaching death?) of Riley
Many people, my editor included, thought me crazy when I had the audacity to mention in this space a couple of weeks ago that Mike Riley could be on the coaching hot seat.  Three games and three Oregon State losses into the 2011 season, and the head coach’s seat is at least getting uncomfortably warm.  The latest data point in the downward Riley arc comes courtesy of a really, really bad UCLA football team, with the Bruins going up to Corvallis and inexcusably coming away with a 27-19 win; it’s the first time in Riley’s nine years with the Beavers his team has started a season 0-3.  Riley has built up and banked a lot of goodwill during his OSU run, and that would likely preclude a move being made this year regardless of how the season plays out.  If this current trend continues, however, all bets may be off.

Fashion gods pissed, take it out on Terps
For the first month of the season, the college football world has been abuzz — or aghast, depending on your perspective/age — over the strikingly bad uniforms Maryland has chosen to don.  Perhaps the offseason would’ve been better utilized by hiring the best option at head coach coughcoughMikeLeachcoughcough instead of drawing up gimmicks to call attention to your football program?  Less than 40,000 fans showed up Saturday — remember, sagging attendance was one of the reasons behind Ralph Friedgen‘s dismissal — to watch the Terps get waxed 38-7 by Temple.  Temple, people.  The Owls of the MAC, for goodness sakes.  And that’s not a knock on Temple; rather, it’s a damning indictment of the current state of Randy Edsall‘s football program.  There were many, many Terrapin fans who wanted to bring a certain former Texas Tech head coach to College Park, and were none too pleased over Edsall’s ho-hum hiring.  After the start to the season the Terps have had, look for the discontent of a fan base already unhappy to grow exponentially with this embarrassment of a loss — regardless of how “cutting-edge” their apparel may be.

OMG LOL #derp
Div. 1-AA North Dakota State 37, Minnesota 24.  At Minnesota

ODDS & ENDS

– As great as Justin Blackmon is on the field, it appears he’s just as great — or greater — off of it.  I can’t applaud that young man enough for what he’s doing for that young girl in her brave fight with cancer.  And, if you do decide to click that link and view the video of the ESPN GameDay piece on Blackmon, grab a Kleenex or two.  Ya know, just in case the room suddenly gets all dusty or something.

— Classy gesture by Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer, who paid tribute to the members of the Marshall football program who lost their lives in a plane crash in 1970.  Roughly two hours before the No. 13 Hokies’ win over the Herd, Beamer laid a stone at a memorial honoring the victims, one of whom was Beamer’s former college teammate.

— If LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu‘s not in your Heisman discussion, you need to shut up.  Of course, the cornerback/special teams maven has two strikes against him when it comes to the stiff-armed trophy: he plays defense and he doesn’t play offense.  And that’s sad, that voters likely won’t be able to look beyond the backfield skill positions to find the best player in the country.

— At this time last year, Brady Hoke was head coach at San Diego State.  Fast-forward 365 days, and Hoke, now at No. 22 Michigan if you haven’t heard, took on his former school in Ann Arbor and came away with 28-7 win to start his Wolverines coaching career at 4-0.  A word of warning for Hoke, however: Rich Rodriguez started the past two seasons 4-0 and, well, we all know what happened earlier this year.

— From the Associated Press on UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni: “Just three hours before kickoff, Pasqualoni spent an hour stuck in a hotel elevator before workers dropped a ladder through the roof to let him climb out.”  Guarantee you there’ll be at least one “microcosm of the Huskies’ season” story that will come out of this incident at season’s end.

— After injuries sustained in a summer-camp collision forced him to press boxes for the first three games of the season, Joe Paterno returned to the sidelines for the first time in 2011 as Penn State dropped Eastern Michigan 34-6.  Unfortunately, that only lasted a half as JoePa was back in the press box for the final two quarters.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

— In Hawaii’s easy win over UC Davis, quarterback Bryant Moniz threw for 424 yards and seven touchdowns in the first half.  Again, those numbers came in two quarters of a football game that did not include a joystick or game controller.  My goodness.  That’s ridiculous.

— Speaking of ridiculous, No. 10 Oregon’s LaMichael James set a school record with 288 yards rushing against overmatched Arizona.  He reached that total on just 23 carries.

— This season, No. 17 Baylor’s Robert Griffin III has thrown 13 touchdowns and 12 incompletions.  He’s completing a staggering 85.4 percent of his passes.  He’s good.

— The last time Kentucky beat Florida, Ronald Reagan was president; a gallon of gas would set you back 93 cents; “That’s What Friends Are For” won the Grammy for Song of the Year; and I was a freshman — in college.  That year was 1986, 25 losses ago for the Wildcats after getting spanked 48-10 by the No. 15 Gators.

— While it came in a blowout loss, Geno Smith set a West Virginia single-game record by torching the LSU defense for 463 yards passing.

— In a somewhat surprisingly close contest at home for Oklahoma, Landry Jones threw for 448 yards and stayed in the thick of the Heisman race as the No. 1 Sooners held off Missouri 38-28.

— Temple’s Bernard Pierce rushed for a school-record five touchdowns in the Owls’ embarrassment of the Terps.

– Rutgers wide receiver Mohamed Sanu set a Big East record with 16 receptions for 176 yards and two touchdowns in the Scarlet Knights’ 38-26 win over Ohio.

— A 90-yard reception by Keenan Allen set a Cal record for longest pass play in the school’s history.

— In No. 6 Wisconsin’s four wins this season, including Saturday’s 59-10 win over South Dakota, the Badgers’ average margin of victory is exactly 40 points.  Their “closest” game?  A 34-point win in the season opener against UNLV.

— During their come-from-behind win over Texas A&M, Oklahoma State totaled 290 yards on 40 plays — in the third quarter.

— Speaking of the Cowboys, quarterback Brandon Weeden set schools records for yards (438) and completions (47) in the win.

— Notre Dame has committed 15 turnovers this season; they’ve played 16 quarter of football.  Somehow, they’ve managed to squeeze an even .500 mark out of their inept generosity.

— Air Force set a school record with 792 yards of total offense (595 rushing, 197 passing) in a 63-24 drubbing of Tennessee State.

— Memphis had minus-14 yards rushing in a 42-0 loss to SMU.

QUOTE OF THE DAY, POSSIBLY THE YEAR

“The speed of the game, it’s kind of like lightning struck the outhouse and we were in it,” Kentucky defensive coordinator Rick Minter, following the loss to Florida.  To quote the great Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post, who was kind enough to forward us this gem: “The heck?”

Amen Jason.  Amen.

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?

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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”