TCU football announces 23 signings

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(Below is TCU’s press release on the newest members of the Horned frogs football program.)
TCU head coach Gary Patterson and the Horned Frog football program have announced the signing of 23 players.

All but two of the newcomers are three star and above recruits. Four signees earned four-star status: defensive end Devonte Fields (Arlington), tight end Griffin Gilbert (Austin), quarterback Tyler Matthews (McPherson, Kan.) and safety Jordan Moore (Lithonia, Ga.).

Fields (171) and Matthews (174) represent TCU in the listing of the nation’s top 250 players. Gilbert and punter Ethan Perry (Spring Branch) are tabbed as the top-ranked players at their positons in the state of Texas.

TCU has now signed 13 four-star recruits in the last four classes. The Horned Frogs had just five four-star signees in the previous eight years combined (2001-08).

Eighteen of the 23 signees are in-state products with six landing in the Texas Top 100. Four states are represented in this year’s recruiting class.

Ten of 23 signees are on offense, nine on defense, two as athletes with a punter and placekicker rounding out the class. Defensive end and offensive tackle were the most common positions with three players.

Fields was a second-team ESPN All-American and the District 4-5A Defensive Player of the Year. He’s ranked as the No. 12 defensive end in the nation and No. 3 at his position in Texas.

Gilbert is one of two Texans to be named to the Sports Illustrated All-America Team while also being a All-American. Ranked as the No. 10 tight end in the nation, Gilbert was part of four straight 4A state championship teams at Lake Travis High School.

Matthews is ranked as the sixth-best pro-style quarterback in the nation and the 174th-best player. The No. 1 overall prospect in the state of Kansas, he passed for 6,541 yards and 62 touchdowns with just eight interceptions in his prep career.

TCU’s two incoming safeties are both Georgia natives in Moore and Zach Jackson (Snellville, Ga.). Moore has been ranked by ESPN as the No. 15 safety nationally. has Perry tabbed as the No. 6 punter/kicker in the nation. He had three punts for a 44.3 net average in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Matthews, tailback B.J. Catalon (Houston), cornerback Keivon Gamble (Dallas), athlete Kolby Listenbee (Arlington) have already enrolled at TCU and will take part in spring practice.

Catalon was ranked as the top all-purpose back in Texas and No. 7 in the nation. He’s the No. 44 overall player in the Texas Top 100. He rushed for 2,269 yards and 32 touchdowns, averaging 12.2 yards per carry, his senior year.

Joining Catalon in the offensive backfield is LaDarius Anthony (Kilgore). Rated as the No. 42 running back in the nation and No. 5 in Texas, Anthony was the District 14-4A Offensive Most Valuable Player after rushing for 1,296 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Gamble played at Trinity Valley Community College after a standout career at Lincoln High School.

Listenbee is ranked as the No. 31 athlete in the nation and No. 8 athlete in Texas. Rated No. 65 in the Rivals Texas 100, he passed for 1,202 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior while adding 746 yards and nine scores on the ground.

Also coming in as an athlete is Derrick Kindred (San Antonio), who rushed for over 1,300 yards in addition to playing strong safety at Wagner High School.

TCU’s three offensive tackles are Chad Childs (La Grange), Aviante Collins (Houston) and Halapoulivaati Vaitai (Haltom).

Childs was a four-year starter and all-state selection. Collins is ranked as the No. 175 recruit in Texas and the No. 91 offensive tackle in the nation. Vaitai is the No. 40 offensive tackle in the country and No. 3 in Texas. He’s rated 46th in the Texas Top 100.

Joining Matthews at the quarterback position is two-sport standout Austin Aune (Argyle), who passed for 3,411 yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior. Also slated to play on the diamond at TCU, Aune is a shortstop ranked by ESPN as the ninth-best high school baseball prospect in Texas.

Bolstering the tight end position with Gilbert is Gerren Ballard (Whitewright), who had 40 receptions for 619 yards and seven touchdowns his senior year.

The lone wide receiver in the 2012 class is Deante’ Gray (Houston), a Westside High School teammate of Catalon. Gray is ranked as the No. 98 receiver in the nation and No. 13 in Texas.

Josh Carraway (Flower Mound) and Joey Hunt (El Campo) will be newcomers on the defensive front. Carraway, at end, was a first-team all-district selection for Marcus High School. Hunt, selected to play in the 2012 International Bowl, totaled 210 tackles, including 66 for loss, with 16 sacks in his high school career.

A.J. Hilliard (Klein) and James McFarland (West Monroe, La.) are TCU’s signees at linebacker. Hilliard, ranked as the No. 21 inside linebacker in the nation and No. 5 in Texas, recorded 143 tackles as a senior. McFarland, rated as the No. 36 outside linebacker in the nation and No. 5 in Louisiana, was listed 16th in the Louisiana Top 40.

Defensive end Terrell Lathan (West Monroe, La.) was a teammate of McFarland at West Monroe High School. Lathan is ranked as the No. 29 defensive end nationally and No. 17 player from Louisiana.

Placekicker Jaden Oberkrom (Arlington) recorded 36 touchbacks on 62 kickoffs as a senior. He also nailed a 60-yard field goal to earn Star-Telegram Special Teams Player of the Week honors. He made all his extra-point attempts on the season.

LaDarius Anthony (TB, 6-0, 192, Kilgore, Texas; Kilgore HS)
A three-star recruit by … rated as the No. 42 running back in the nation and No. 5 running back in Texas … District 14-4A Offensive Most Valuable Player as a senior … rushed for 1,296 yards and 19 touchdowns his senior year … had 1,508 yards and 24 touchdowns as a sophomore … chose TCU over Baylor and Tennessee.

Austin Aune (QB, 6-2, 185, Argyle, Texas; Argyle HS) three-star recruit … passed for 3,411 yards and 33 touchdowns while adding 538 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground his senior year … threw for 2,484 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior … an all-state selection in baseball … will also play baseball at TCU … a shortstop ranked by ESPN as the ninth-best high school baseball prospect in Texas … chose TCU over Texas Tech and Kansas.

Gerren Ballard (TE, 6-6, 250, Whitewright, Texas; Whitewright HS)
A three-star tight end by … had 40 receptions for 619 yards and seven touchdowns his senior year … six of his 12 receptions as a junior went for touchdowns … chose TCU over Baylor, Arizona State, Missouri and Miami (Fla.).

Josh Carraway (DE, 6-3, 225, Flower Mound, Texas; Marcus HS)
First-team All-District 8-5A as a senior … honorable-mention all-state … totaled 51 tackles, including 13 sacks, as a senior … chose TCU over Louisiana-Monroe and Colorado State.

B.J. Catalon (TB, 5-8, 190, Houston, Texas; Westside HS)
A three-star recruit … ranked as the No. 7 all-purpose back in the nation and the No. 1 all-purpose back in Texas … the No. 44 overall prospect, for all positions, in the Texas Top 100 … rated as the third-best running back in the state and one of top 100 players overall by the Houston Chronicle … an All-State and All-Greater Houston first-team selection … rushed for 2,269 yards and 32 touchdowns, averaging 12.2 yards per carry, his senior year … also caught seven passes for 106 yards and a touchdown … chose TCU over Baylor, Missouri and Texas Tech.

Chad Childs (OT, 6-5, 280, La Grange, Texas; La Grange HS)
Three-star offensive lineman … a three-time all-district selection … was all-district on both sides of the ball as a sophomore with 55 unassisted tackles and two interceptions … named to the Central Texas All-State Team … a four-year starter … chose TCU over Missouri and Wake Forest.

Aviante Collins (OT, 6-6, 310, Houston, Texas; Willowridge HS)
A three-star offensive tackle … ranked as the No. 175 recruit in Texas and the No. 91 offensive tackle in the nation … a three-year letterman in football who lettered all four years in track and field … his brother, Lavon, is a sophomore sprinter and hurdler for the TCU track and field team … his father, Bill, is in the TCU Hall of Fame as a legendary sprinter for the Horned Frogs, capturing Southwest Conference titles in the 100 meters in 1974 and 1975 while also winning the 60-yard dash at the 1975 SWC Indoor Championship … chose TCU over Houston and Arizona State.

Devonte Fields (DE, 6-4, 240, Arlington, Texas; Martin HS)
Rated a four-star recruit by and the No. 171 prospect in the nation … ranked as the No. 12 defensive end in the country … the No. 22 prospect in the Texas Top 100 and the No. 3 defensive end in Texas … participated in the Under Armour All-America Game … received second team ESPN High School All-America honors … tabbed the District 4-5A Defensive Player of the Year … named to the Associated Press 5A All-State team … totaled 73 tackles and 13 sacks while intercepting two passes his senior year … collected six sacks and 66 tackles during his junior campaign … chose TCU over Oklahoma, Michigan, Tennessee and Texas A&M.

Keivon Gamble (CB, 5-10, 190, Dallas, Texas; Trinity Valley CC; Lincoln HS)
A three-star cornerback … recorded 36 tackles, four interceptions and 20 pass breakups in the 2010 season for Trinity Valley Community College … also forced a fumble … an All-District 12-4A selection as a senior at Lincoln High School … totaled 39 tackles, six interceptions, 15 pass breakups and two fumble recoveries his senior year.

Griffin Gilbert (TE, 6-5, 215, Austin, Texas; Lake Travis HS)
One of two Texans named to the 2011 Sports Illustrated High School All-America team … earned a four-star rating at tight end by … ranked as the No. 10 tight end in the nation and the No. 1 tight end in Texas … ranked No. 35 in the Texas Top 100 … a first-team All-American … also ranked as the sixth-best tight end in the nation by … a four-year letterman as Lake Travis captured four straight 4A state championships … caught 54 passes for 1,012 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior … totaled 1,198 yards on 74 catches as a junior … chose TCU over Texas, Texas Tech and Clemson.

Deante’ Gray (WR, 5-10, 180, Houston, Texas; Westside HS)
A three-star recruit … ranked as the No. 98 wide receiver in the country and No. 13 in Texas … totaled 24 receptions for 354 yards and two touchdowns as a senior … averaged 16.6 yards on 15 rushing attempts … had a 22.2 punt return average and a 30.2 mark on kickoff returns … had 38 catches for 400 yards and five scores his junior year … recorded 46 receptions for 509 yards and four touchdowns as a sophomore … also lettered in track and field … chose TCU over Stanford, Baylor, Vanderbilt and West Virginia.

A.J. Hilliard (LB, 6-2, 215, Klein, Texas; Klein Oak HS) three-star recruit at inside linebacker … ranked as the No. 21 inside linebacker in the nation and No. 5 in Texas … included in the Texas Top 100 at No. 72 … a second-team all-state selection and third-team All-American … first-team all-district and the district’s defensive most valuable player … recorded 143 tackles, including 110 solo, with three sacks and two forced fumbles as a senior … totaled 101 stops and four sacks as well as two interceptions and a fumble recovery his junior year … named second-team all-district as a junior … had 13 tackles and three sacks as a sophomore in a game against district champion Klein Collins … totaled 289 tackles in his prep career with eight sacks, two interceptions and three fumble recoveries … his older brother, Cedric, played football at Notre Dame and for the Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens … chose TCU over Texas A&M, Michigan State, Baylor, Louisville and West Virginia.

Joey Hunt (DT, 6-3, 285, El Campo, Texas; El Campo HS)
A three-star defensive tackle … ranked by as the nation’s third-best center … selected to play for the United States in the 2012 International Bowl … an all-state selection on offense as a senior … was an all-state pick on defense his junior year, when he was also named the District 23-4A Defensive Most Valuable Player … totaled 210 tackles, including 66 for loss, with 16 sacks in his high school career … forced 15 fumbles while recovering 10 … recorded 240 pancake blocks while allowing just one sack … a three-time selection to the Victoria Advocate’s All-Area team, including twice as the Lineman of the Year … also named to the Houston All-Area team … a member of the National Honor Society and an Academic All-State honoree … chose TCU over Stanford and Texas Tech.

Zach Jackson (S, 6-0, 185, Snellville, Ga.; Brookwood HS)
Three-star safety by … member of the Class 5A state championship Brookwood team as a senior … recorded 85 tackles in addition to five interceptions and three pass breakups as a junior … has an older brother, Josh, who is a defensive back at Army … chose TCU over Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Illinois and Georgia Tech.

Derrick Kindred (ATH, 5-10, 180, San Antonio, Texas; Wagner HS)
Utilized at both running back and strong safety as a senior … rushed for over 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns … totaled 106 tackles, including eight for loss, to go with two interceptions, four pass breakups and a fumble recovery his senior year … chose TCU over Iowa State and Houston.

Terrell Lathan (DE, 6-5, 260, West Monroe, La.; West Monroe HS)
A three-star prospect by … ranked as the No. 29 defensive end nationally and the No. 17 player overall from the state of Louisiana … helped lead West Monroe to the Louisiana state title as a senior … had 40 tackles to go with four sacks as a junior … totaled 38 stops and four sacks his sophomore year … chose TCU over Louisiana Tech and Arkansas.

Kolby Listenbee (ATH, 6-0, 170, Arlington, Texas; Bowie HS)
A three-star athlete … ranked as the No. 31 athlete in the nation and No. 8 athlete in Texas … rated No. 65 in the Rivals Texas 100 … passed for 1,202 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior … added 746 yards rushing and nine scores on the ground … ran for 1,100 yards as a junior … named to the State 7-on-7 All-Tournament team … named the 2010 Newcomer of the Year … invited to the Offense-Defense game … a district champion, regional qualifier and state qualifier in track and field … chose TCU over Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas A&M.

Tyler Matthews (QB, 6-3, 205, McPherson, Kansas; McPherson HS)
A four-star pro-style quarterback … ranked as the No. 6 pro-style quarterback in the nation … rated No. 174 in the 250 … the No. 1-ranked player in the state of Kansas … played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl with TCU teammate Ethan Perry … passed for 6,541 yards and 62 touchdowns with only eight interceptions in his high school career … a first-team all-state selection as a senior when he completed 163-of-257 attempts (63.4 percent) for 2,836 yards, 24 touchdowns and only five picks … rushed for three touchdowns … was a third-team all-state pick as a junior … an all-league selection and Offensive Most Valuable Player his junior and senior years … chose TCU over Kansas and Kansas State.

James McFarland (LB, 6-3, 240, West Monroe, La.; West Monroe HS) three-star outside linebacker … ranked as the No. 36 outside linebacker in the nation and No. 5 at the position in Louisiana … rated No. 16 in the Louisiana Top 40 … led his team to the 5A State Championship his senior year … all-district and all-state as a junior and senior … recorded 83 tackles and six sacks as a senior … totaled 63 stops with 10 sacks his junior year … his father, James, played football at Alcorn State and his mother, Joan, played basketball at Grambling State … chose TCU over Oklahoma, Mississippi State and Arkansas.

Jordan Moore (S, 6-3, 210, Lithonia, Ga., Martin Luther King HS)
Ranked by ESPN as a four-star recruit and the No. 15 safety nationally … utilized at both wide receiver and safety his senior year … returned an interception 68 yards for a touchdown on his first play on defense … picked off two passes in playoff action … also a track and field standout who received a scholarship offer from LSU in that sport … the two-time defending state champion in the 110-meter hurdles with a personal-best time of 13.69 … was two-tenths of a second off the world record in the 55-meter hurdles … has been clocked at 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash … chose TCU over Auburn, USC, Florida, Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State.

Jaden Oberkrom (PK, 6-3, 170, Arlington, Texas; Martin HS)
Recorded 36 touchbacks on 62 kickoffs as a senior … also nailed a 60-yard field goal to earn Star-Telegram Special Teams Player of the Week honors … had 29 touchbacks on 58 kickoffs his junior year.

Ethan Perry (P, 6-4, 220, Spring Branch, Texas; Smithson Valley HS)
A three-star recruit … ranked as the No. 6 punter/kicker in the nation and No. 1 in Texas … played for the West team, with TCU teammate Tyler Matthews, at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio … had three punts for a net average of 44.3 yards in the game.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai (OT, 6-6, 265, Haltom, Texas; Haltom HS)
A three-star offensive tackle … ranked as the No. 40 offensive tackle in the nation and No. 3 in Texas … rated No. 46 in the Texas Top 100 … Named to the 2011 Star-Telegram Offensive Super Team … graded out at 90 percent or more in nine of 10 games as a senior … totaled 24 pancakes and 56 knockdown blocks … chose TCU over Arkansas, Utah, Michigan State and Texas Tech.

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


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


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”