The Fifth Quarter: Week 6 Rewind

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

WINNERS

Red River Rout
Speaking for myself and myself only, the one question I had ahead of the annual Oklahoma-Texas rivalry game wasn’t who would win but rather by how much would the No. 3 Sooners keep their unbeaten season rolling along.  Question answered, in resounding fashion.  OU’s 55-17 rout of UT proved two things I think we already knew coming in.  One, the Sooners are one of the top teams in college football and did nothing to dissuade anyone from arguing that they could very well be one of the two teams booking tickets for a January date in New Orleans.  And, secondly, the No. 11 (for now) Longhorns still have a long, long, long way to go to get back to the level it takes to compete for berths in title games.  The good news for UT is that they have a lot of talent up and down their roster, although most is of the young, inexperienced variety.  The bad news?  So do the Sooners, with the added bonus of possessing a plethora of experienced talent in the here and now.  As UT can attest, their Red River rivals are real and they are spectacular.

All they do is Geaux out and win
They’re not “stylish” like Oklahoma or Stanford or Oklahoma State.  They don’t have a legitimate Heisman contender like Wisconsin or Boise State (although they would if voters weren’t Helen Keller when it comes to defensive players).  Much like their SEC West rival Alabama, all No. 1 LSU does is win.  And dominate on a weekly basis with a stifling defense and a relatively mistake-free offense that can throw a haymaker or two when needed.  What else can be said about the Bayou Bengals that hasn’t already?  Another weekend, another ho-hum throttling, with No. 17 Florida becoming their sixth straight victim in a 41-11 cruise of a win in Death Valley.  Their week-in, week-out domination is becoming redundant… and positively hypnotic.  To me, the 2011 LSU Tigers are one of the most fascinating teams of the past decade and, for the life of me, I couldn’t begin to tell you why.  What I do know for an absolute certainty is that I can’t wait, provided both schools take care of their business between now and then, for the Nov. 5 showdown of the two SEC behemoths in Tuscaloosa.  Get chills just thinking about it.

Spurrier’s new best bro Connor
At least for one game, Connor Shaw made the Ol’ Ball Coach look like a quarterbacking savant once again.  Playing in place of Stephen Garcia, who was officially benched by Steve Spurrier earlier in the week, Shaw passed for 311 yards and four touchdowns in No. 18 South Carolina’s 54-3 evisceration of Kentucky.  Perhaps what warmed the cockles of Spurrier’s QB heart the most was the fact that the sophomore threw no interceptions; Garcia had tossed six in the previous two games. “We could have picked up 70 or 80 points today. But 50 was enough,” Spurrier said after the lopsided win.  Have I ever mentioned that I (heart) the OBC?

Wake up the echos
All those that had Wake Forest tied for the ACC Atlantic lead at this point in the season put your hands up… now put ’em back down ’cause y’all are straight lying.  Unbelievably, though, that’s where we stand at the moment, with the Demon Deacons overwhelming preseason favorite and No. 23 Florida State (more on them a little further down) 35-24, putting themselves at 4-1 overall and a spotless 3-0 in conference play.  With Clemson’s romp over Boston College, the two are tied atop the Atlantic standings, setting the stage for a Nov. 12 clash that could have all sorts of ACC title game ramifications.  And the good news for Wake if they are to continue their early-season success is they have one of the best quarterbacks in the country hardly anybody’s heard of.  In the win over FSU, Tanner Price completed 22-of-36 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns — and no picks.  For the season, the sophomore has thrown 10 touchdowns against just two interceptions in 163 attempts.  Price is a big reason why Wake is off to a 4-1 start; he’ll also be the reason why the second half of the season will really matter, conference-wise, at the school for the first time in half a decade.  And, speaking of midseason surprises…

K-State is what?!?
As we near the midway point of the 2011 season, and with Texas’ loss, there are three undefeated teams in the Big 12: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and… Kansas State?  That’s right, No. 20 K-State is an unblemished 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the conference thanks to their 24-17 win over Missouri.  Sure, four of their five wins have come by a combined 15 points, but one of those came on the road against Miami and another was against a Baylor team ranked No. 15 at the time.  All that matters is what’s there in black and white, and the standings very plainly state that Kansas State is five to the good, zero to the bad in the W/L ledger.  How long that stays the case remains to be seen; after games against Texas Tech and Kansas the next two weeks, the Wildcats have a four-game gauntlet of No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 6 Oklahoma State, No. 24 Texas A&M and Texas in Austin.  So, yeah, those in Little Manhattan might want to soak this start in and enjoy it as it’s going to get a helluva lot harder to keep it going in the very near future.

Roses blooming in Ann Arbor?
I don’t know how accurate the following stat is, but since it comes from the Big Ten Network we’ll run with it: every year Michigan has started a season 6-0, they’ve gone on to play in the Rose Bowl.  In other words, pack your bags, Wolverine fans; you’re going to Pasadena in a couple of months!  OK, it’s still way early but, if precedent is indeed an indicator of future bowling destinations, things are looking positively rosy in Ann Arbor as the No. 12 Wolverines are now unbeaten through six games thanks to their 42-24 win over Northwestern.  The game was a tale of two halves for Big Blue, which saw itself down 24-14 heading into halftime before scoring 28 unanswered second-half points to secure their second Big Ten win of the season.  Granted it’s only the midpoint of their season, but the Wolverines are in first place in the Legends (chuckle) division and are one of only two teams in the division — Michigan State being the other — with a win in conference play.  After the past few years under Rich Rodriguez, that storied program deserves a little bit of optimism, even if it may be a tad bit premature.

LOSERS

“Mr. Meyer, there’s a Gene Smith on Line 1…”
The wheels came off Ohio State’s season during a 24-6 loss to Miami Sept. 17.  They lost their transmission and at least one axle last weekend in a loss to Michigan State.  After Saturday?  There’s nothing left but a smoldering heap of scrap metal.  Leading No. 14 Nebraska 27-6 midway through the third quarter in Lincoln, the Buckeyes watched helplessly as the Cornhuskers peeled off 28 straight points the rest of the way in a 34-27 loss.  Point fingers in whichever direction you’d like and you’d probably hit somebody who’s culpable as this football program is a mess both on and off the field.  There’s no program in the country in more dire need of the services of a certain former Florida head coach.  If he’s not the first, second and third calls the athletic director makes, the Buckeyes are in more trouble than anyone realizes.

Growing pains really, really hurt
In the past two games, No. 17 Florida has lost by a combined score of 79-21 to Alabama and LSU.  They’ve given up 819 yards of total offense while only being able to muster 435 yards of their own in the two losses.  After starting off the season at 4-0 in their first year under Will Muschamp, the Gators have come down to earth with a thud, with games against Auburn and Georgia looming on the not-too-distant horizon.  Humbling back-to-back losses to arguably the two best teams in the country will tend do that.  Patience is a virtue, and will become a necessity for the whole of Gator Nation as Muschamp attempts to get UF back to the rarefied air of the national stage to which they’ve become accustomed.  Much like with Texas, UF has a long way to go, but there is talent to work and build with.  Patience, though.  Patience.

Stay classy, Lubbock
We’ll allow a tweet from Texas A&M Bill Byrne to set the scene: “Someone vandalized our buses in Lubbock. Excrement inside and outside of buses plus spray painted vulgarities on outside. Classy.”  Excellent work, Texas Tech fans.  Way to show your ass to the Aggies — and the rest of the country — as they’re on their way out the door to the preeminent football conference in the country.  Jealous much?

Rock bottom, meet the 2011 Arizona Wildcats
After opening with a win over Northern Arizona, Arizona proceeded to rip off four straight losses by an average of over 20 points per game.  Then things got really, really bad for Mike Stoops & Company.  How bad?  Their fifth straight loss Saturday came to an Oregon State team that hadn’t won a game all season.  The 37-27 loss to the Beavers leaves the Wildcats reeling at 1-5 and places significant doubt on Stoops’ future at the school.  I don’t know if Stoops’ seat is the hottest in the country, but it certainly wouldn’t take long for a roll call.

Karma’s on vacation, right?
That can be the only explanation for the fact that Adam James, son of serial douche Craig James and whose entitled personality was the flash point for the eventual firing of Mike Leach, scored a touchdown for Texas Tech during the Red Raiders loss to No. 24 A&M.  For those out to prove there is no God, there’s Exhibit A, B and C.

Oh Danny boy… smdh
Last year under Ralph Friedgen, Danny O’Brien was a Freshman All-American at the quarterback position.  This year under Randy Edsall?  Yeah, not so much.  Following a 1-for-6, 17-yard start to the game against No. 13 Georgia Tech, O’Brien was yanked in favor of C.J. Brown, who proceeded to go 4-for 17 for 36 yards — he did rush for 124 yards — as the Terrapins fell 21-16 to the Yellow Jackets and dropped to 2-3 on the season.  But, hey, at least they have all of those really cool uniform combinations, right?  As long as you look good in the eyes of high school kids, doesn’t matter what kind of craptastic product you put out on the field.  Remains unbelievable that they fired Friedgen.. and passed on a chance to hire Mike Leach… for this.

Is there a Plan C?
With an offense that was 105th in the country at 18.7 points per game, Louisville reportedly opted to part ways, at least temporarily, with offensive coordinator Mike Sanford ahead of their non-conference tilt with North Carolina.  Seven points and a third loss in five games has second-year head coach Charlie Strong still grasping for ways to correct his utterly inept and impotent offense.  Godspeed trying to figure this quagmire out, Charlie.  Godspeed.

John Taylor
In CFT’s preseason Top 25, I had Florida State sitting firmly at No. 2 in the country, right behind top-ranked Alabama.  Five games into the season, the Seminoles are 2-3; have lost three straight games; and are 0-2 in ACC play thanks to the 35-24 loss to Wake Forest.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: at the bare minimum, polls should not be released until at least four weeks of the season have been played.  That doesn’t, though, change the fact that I was dead wrong about FSU.  Shocking development, eh?

ODDS & ENDS

— While No. 8 Clemson kept its surprising unbeaten season intact, they almost saw it come crashing to a halt despite the win.  Star quarterback Tajh Boyd suffered a hip injury during the 36-14 win over Boston College and did not return to the game.  Fortunately for the Tigers, the injury does not appear to be serious; in a release issued after the game, Clemson revealed that X-rays and MRI taken at a local hospital were negative.  His status for next Saturday’s game against Maryland would be termed questionable at this point, the release stated, and his status will be updated later this week.

— Another quarterback injury that bears watching: Tennessee’s Tyler Bray suffered an injury to his right (throwing) hand late in the 20-12 loss to Georgia.  The early speculation is that it could be a broken thumb, although head coach Derek Dooley would only say after the game that X-rays would be taken to determine the nature and extent of the injury.

— The past two games, Alabama’s defense has sidelined the opposition’s starting quarterback with a lower-leg injury — Florida’s John Brantley last week, Vanderbilt’s Larry Smith this week.  Don’t know what exactly that means, just thought it was worth mentioning.

— This was not a good weekend for our men in uniform when it came to the gridiron.  The three service academies lost by a combined score of 157-96 — Southern Miss 63, Navy 35; Notre Dame 59, Air Force 33; and Miami (OH) 35, Army 28.  That said, God bless those young men and what they will be doing for our country when their playing days are over.

— LSU’s Brad Wing became the first victim of the NCAA’s new premature celebration rule, losing a touchdown after it was ruled that he taunted Florida defenders roughly ten yards before he crossed the goal line.  It somehow seems very appropriate and feels oh so right that it was an Australian punter on a Les Miles-coached team to be the first dinged by the asinine and arbitrary rule.

– In 2000 and 2003, Oklahoma took Texas to the Red River Rivalry woodshed 63-14 and 65-13, respectively.  Both times, the Sooners went on to play for the BcS title.  In the 2011 edition of the Triple R, OU went all woodshed on UT in a dominating 55-17 win.  Feel free to make as big of a leap with those two factoids as you’d like.

— From the UGA media relations department: With a 20-12 win over Tennessee, Georgia head coach Mark Richt improved to 100-36 in this his 11th season. He becomes just the third coach in UGA history to reach 100 wins, joining Wally Butts (140) and Vince Dooley (201). Butts and Dooley reached that milestone in their 14th season.

— Mississippi State was down 3-0 at halftime against UAB.  For those keeping score at home, that would be the winless UAB Blazers of Conference USA with the halftime lead.  Sure, the Bulldogs came back to grab a 21-3 win, but combine the fact that they had to come back against that level of competition with their 0-3 mark in SEC play, and you have a very worrisome situation developing in Starkville.

— With their win over Arizona, Oregon State became the last member of a BcS conference to earn their first win of the 2011 season.  So, um, congratulations Beavers?

— Roughly 45 minutes before the start of the Michigan-Northwestern game, a member of the chain gang was taken away by ambulance after reportedly going into cardiac arrest.  There’s been no update that we’re aware of as to the unnamed man’s condition, who is reportedly 83 years old and has been working the chains for Northwestern games for 47 straight seasons.  If I knew for sure the man was OK, I’d say there’s a joke in there somewhere about Big Ten speed.  Since I don’t know, I won’t go there.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

— Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden threw for 288 yards and five touchdowns in the No. 6 Cowboys’ 70-28 win over Kansas.  All of those numbers came in the first half as he did not see the field the last two quarters.

— Speaking of the Cowboys, they tied school records for points in a quarter (35), points in a half (56) and points in a game (70).  Were it not for the band and the mothers of the players taking a majority of the fourth-quarter snaps, they likely would’ve broken the latter record.

— Stanford’s Andrew Luck threw for 370 yards and three touchdown in the Cardinal’s 48-7 win over Colorado.  For the season, the quarterback has thrown 14 touchdowns and two interceptions — one of which came this weekend — while completing more than 73 percent of his passes.

— Alabama came into their game with Vanderbilt leading the country in scoring defense, allowing just 8.4 points per game.  Thanks to a 34-0 whitewashing of the Commodores, they actually lowered that nation-leading mark to an even seven points per game.

— LSU has won each of their first six games by at least 10 points, the first time in the school’s history they’ve started a season with that many double-digit victories.

— No. 18 South Carolina’s 54-3 win over Kentucky was their largest margin of victory ever in SEC play, surpassing the 52-14 beatdown of Vanderbilt back in 1995.  The 51-point win prompted Spurrier to praise one aspect of his otherwise downtrodden opponent. “Kentucky has a heck of a punter, I know that,” the OBC said.  At this point we’re back to the whole (heart) Spurrier thing.

— Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill became the first player in Div. 1-A history to record 3,000+ passing yards and 1,500+ receiving yards in a career.

Denard Robinson had 451 yards of total offense and four touchdowns in No. 12 Michigan’s come-from-behind win over Northwestern.

– Oklahoma’s Tony Jefferson has four interceptions the past two games — three last week, and one this week that led to a Sooners touchdown and what would prove to be an insurmountable 20-6 deficit for Texas.

— Staying at the Texas State Fair, the final score of the game within a game was OU’s defense 21, UT’s offense 10.  The Sooners set a school record with the three defensive scores, two of which came on fumble returns and one on an interception.  The Longhorns’ other score came on a 100-yard kickoff return by Fozzy Whittaker in the first half.

— In a 38-35 loss to No. 21 Virginia Tech, Miami’s Lamar Miller averaged 9.2 yards on his 18 carries, scoring a touchdown and receiving in the process.

— In the same game touched on above, Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas accounted for five touchdowns — three passing, two receiving.

— In his first start at quarterback for Utah, Jon Hays tossed three interceptions in the Utes’ 35-14 loss to No. 24 Arizona State.

— Temple’s Bernard Pierce scored three rushing touchdowns in the Owls’ 42-0 win over Ball State, giving him 41 for his career.  That breaks the school’s all-time record of 39 set by Paul Palmer in the mid-eighties.

— This one’s for Ben: North Texas returned two interceptions for touchdowns in a span of 10 seconds in the third quarter on their way to a 31-17 win over Florida Atlantic.

IN CLOSING…

While many had felt he had become a caricature of himself over the past decade, there’s little denying that Al Davis was one of a handful of great men who helped shaped the game of professional football and transformed it into the preeminent sport in the country.  The owner of the Oakland Raiders died Saturday morning at the age of 82 and, with his passing, the NFL has lost a living legend and a true pioneer of the sport.  Love him, hate him, whatever, there’s no doubt that the NFL would not be the same were it not for the myriad contributions — good and bad — Davis made during his half a century in professional football.  For all he gave to the game of professional football, it was at the collegiate level where Davis got his start; in the mid-fifties, he was the offensive line coach at The Citadel before moving on to the same position at USC in the late fifties.  His true mark, though, was left at the professional level, with Super Bowls and a merry band of renegade cast of characters masquerading as football players and a “Just Win, Baby” mantra leaving an indelible legacy that will likely never, ever be matched.  RIP Mr. Davis.  Your contributions to the game, and your commitment to excellence by doing things your way, cannot be overstated.

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”