The Fifth Quarter: Week 10 Rewind

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

WINNERS

Barner emphatically states his trophy case
Matt Barkley begat Geno Smith, who begat Collin Klein in the progression of Heisman front-runners from the preseason through Week 9.  In Week 10, an Oregon running back not named DeAnthony Thomas made his Heisman presence felt.  And what a presence it was.  In the Ducks’ 62-51 win over USC, Kenjon Barner rushed for 321 yards and five touchdowns, the former shattering a school record in the process.  Barner’s 143.9 yards rushing per game are second nationally, as are his 19 touchdowns; both of those totals would be exponentially higher if the Ducks didn’t perform a first-half evisceration of their opponents on a weekly basis, as evidenced by his full-game performance against the Trojans.  While some voters might hold the “product of the system” argument against Barner, there’s little doubt that, bare minimum, the back has earned a mid-December trip to New York City.

Not your father’s Bruins
In its first year under Jim Mora, and in just nine games, 7-2 UCLA has already won more games than it has since 2009 and is on pace for its best season since 2005.  Hell, if they win out they could break the school record (10, multiple times) for wins in a single season.  The latest example of the Bruins being “back” came Saturday, with UCLA putting a 66-10 woodshedding on then-No. 24 Arizona.  As a result, and for the first time since the 2001 season, UCLA holds a higher ranking than its crosstown rival USC (Obligatory pause for our NBCSports.com editor to throw up a little bit in his mouth) (Still pausing)  (And he’s good)  (For now).  Just as it is for the Trojans, the remainder of the season is really very simple for the Bruins: win out and represent the South — for the second straight season, mind you — in the Pac-12 championship game.  And anyone who says they saw this early-November development coming in the offseason?  Yeah, OK.  Liar.

Huskers slightly tighten Legends stranglehold
On the strength of its win over Michigan last weekend, Nebraska had one simple task: win out and claim its first-ever spot in the Big Ten championship game.  Consider the first of four tests passed.  Barely.  Thanks to yet another conference comeback courtesy of a Taylor Martinez touchdown pass with six seconds left, the Huskers claimed a 28-24 win over free-falling Michigan State to push its conference mark to 4-1.  Three tests remain, however, with home games the next two weeks against Penn State and Minnesota, and then the regular-season finale on the road against Iowa.  Pass all three — or hope for a loss by both Michigan and Northwestern if the Huskers stumble once —  and it’s an early-December road trip to Indianapolis for Husker Nation.

And he won’t… back… down
It’s not too often that a quarterback who barely hits the century mark in passing yards in a 20-point loss lands in the winners section of the Fifth Quarter.  Shawn Petty, though, is no ordinary quarterback.  Hell, he’s not even a quarterback —  literally.  Thanks to an incomprehensible four season-ending injuries at the position in about two months, Petty was moved from linebacker to quarterback and started Maryland’s game against Georgia Tech.  And, much to his credit, the true freshman was serviceable.  Petty, in his first collegiate snaps from under center, completed 50 percent of his passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns.  Perhaps most impressively, Petty tossed just one interception.  Yes, the Terps dropped a 33-13 decision to the Yellow Jackets, but, in the loss, Petty showed the type of team player that he is in shouldering the offensive burden under less-than-ideal circumstances.

The Gardner did it
After stating all week that Denard Robinson was probable for the Little Brown Jug matchup with Minnesota, the Michigan quarterback wasn’t mere moments before kickoff as the school announced the senior would be a no-go. Enter Devin Gardner, the quarterback-turned-wide receiver who flipped back to his former position in the week leading up to the Gopher game… and turned in an electric performance in a game that kept the Wolverines in the thick of the Big Ten Legends division race.  In the 35-13 win over Minnesota, Gardner threw for 234 yards and accounted for three touchdowns — two passing, one rushing — in his first action under center since last season.  The good news for UM is that Robinson should be healthy enough to take the field against Northwestern next weekend.  Even better news?  Even if he’s not, or if he’s injured down the road, the Wolverines seem to have found a very viable backup alternative going forward.

Ohio: the heart of it (footb)all
While the eyes of a nation will be focused on the great state of Ohio this Tuesday — an election or something? — there’s something happening on the weekends that deserves some attention as well.  There are eight FBS football teams that hail from the Buckeye State, and five of them — Ohio State, Cincinnati, Toledo, Kent State and Ohio University — are a combined 40-5 in 2012.  Two of them are ranked in the latest Associated Press poll — No. 18 Buckeyes and No. 23 Rockets — while the Bobcats were ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in over four decades prior to suffering its first loss to… Miami of Ohio.  When it comes to recruiting, Florida and Texas and California are still the go-to states for mass quantities of high-quality football players.  This season, though, has shown that there’s still some pretty damn good football being played in the Midwest generally and the great state of Ohio specifically.

[/PSA]
[/send me my money Ohio Tourism Board]

College football fans
Les Miles furiously dug a finger deep into his ear canal following the failed fake field goal in the loss to Alabama, with a look that screamed “what the hell was I thinking?  There is a GIF of said digging.  It is the Greatest GIF of All-Time.  This GGOAT can be viewed in all its glory by clicking HERE.

LOSERS

Not-So-Optimal Klein
Simply put, there’s one blow Kansas State can’t absorb: losing star quarterback Collin Klein for one game let alone an extended period of time.  And yet that might be where the Wildcats find themselves as early as this coming week.  Early in the third quarter of the Wildcats’ win over Oklahoma State, Klein left the game with what appeared to be some type of injury to his wrist and did not return.  After being evaluated by the K-State medical staff, and in a preemptive attempt to keep him from returning to the game, Klein’s helmet was taken from him, an ominous sign in so much as the ongoing speculation is that the senior suffered some type of a head injury during the course of the game and didn’t remember scoring his lone touchdown.  As is Bill Snyder‘s policy and prerogative, no specific information related to the nature of Klein’s injury is being released, which will of course fuel speculation and send the rumor mill spinning wildly out of control.  The reality as it pertains to Klein’s health will likely lie somewhere between the wafts of smoke.  The truth as it pertains to Klein’s health will have a significant impact on how the BcS shakes out in the coming weeks, regardless of whether Snyder wants to discuss it publicly or not.

O-ver-ra-ted (clap clap clapclapclap)
Even as Mississippi State came charging out of the 2012 gates at 7-0, more than a handful of observers questioned whether Mississippi State was as good as their record would otherwise indicate.  The last two weeks, the Bulldogs have answered that questioning with a resounding and emphatic “nope, we’re not!”  Last week, MSU took a 38-7 beating at the hands of No. 1 Alabama.  A week later, it wasn’t much better in a worse-than-it-looked 38-13 trampling at the feet of Texas A&M.  Thanks to their membership in the SEC, MSU was gifted a loftier ranking than what they deserved.  Thanks to the past two weeks, they should no longer be gifted any type of ranking, lofty or otherwise.

Clock ticking on Rocky Top
Yes, Tennessee improved to 4-5 on the season.  And, yes, Derek Dooley‘s tenuous grip on his job slipped even further despite the win.  Playing in front of a sparse Neyland Stadium crowd, and with Jon Gruden-to-UT rumors growing louder in and around Knoxville, Dooley’s Vols defense imploded and added further credence to the speculation that the coach is not long for Rocky Top.  In the 55-48 win over SBC member Troy, the Vols totaled a whopping 718 yards of offense — and gave up 721, the most ever given up by the Vols in the history of the storied program.  Were it not for two touchdowns in the final 2:54, Dooley could’ve been out as UT’s coach as early as Sunday.  The win, as limp as it was, keeps the Vols on the path to bowl eligibility, although even that will likely be too little, too late for the third-year coach.  In fact, if you listen to at least one former Vol, it already is too little, too late.

Winless drumbeat goes on
It’s one thing to be winless through eight games.  It’s another matter entirely to hold a 16-0 lead in the first half… a 19-14 lead in the fourth quarter… only to lose your ninth game of the season.  Yet that’s the position in which Southern Miss finds itself as the Golden Eagles dropped a 27-19 decision to UAB to fall to 0-9.  It’s also a position in which Ellis Johnson has found himself on the hot seat as the speculation goes that, despite it being his first year on the job, USM could be in search of a new head coach if the year ends with the worst season in school history; the school has won just two games twice in a season previously, the most recent being 1993.  Major college football is a results-driven business, and posting the worst showing in program history coming off a 12-win season is not exactly optimal when it comes to job security.

Bobby Hebert
Geaux Bobby!  No, seriously, just Geaux away already.  Jackass.

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT
How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

— No. 4 Notre Dame 29, Pittsburgh 26 (3OT): Why anyone is surprised by the closeness of this game is beyond me.  Of the Irish’s nine wins this season, five have come by single digits, with two of those games extended to overtime.  For better or worse, that’s the modus operandi of the 2012 Domers.

— No. 8 Florida 14, Missouri 7: Just call this the mother of all World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party hangovers, with the Gators’ offense kneeling before the porcelain throne for a full 60 minutes against the Tigers.  An at-large BcS bid is still possible, even as the offense makes it appear improbable.

— No. 13 Oregon State 36, Arizona State 26: After falling behind 19-10 early in the second quarter, the Beavers scored the next 26 points to pull away and bounce back from its first loss of the season.

— No. 14 Oklahoma 34, Iowa State 20: Going into the Ames giant slayer’s den and coming out with a win is impressive, especially when it comes a week after losing a heavily-hyped matchup with a Top 10 team.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Monday if I, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly and meaningless preseason poll.

1. Alabama — A 13-game winning streak dating back to last November, with the latest coming in one of the toughest night environments in all of sports?  Yeah, the Tide is an easy selection for the top spot in our little poll. (Last week: No. 1)
Up next: vs. Texas A&M

2. Oregon — In its first real test of the 2012 season, the Ducks passed with 62-point flying colors.  How would they match up against the likes of Alabama or Kansas State?  I have no clue, but either would have the potential for equal parts viewing intrigue and hellacious fun. (Last week: No. 2)
Up next: at Cal

3. Kansas State — Outside of Alabama, there’s not a more complete or better-coached team in the country in all three phases of game than the Wildcats.  The answer to the injury question when it comes to their Heisman front-runner, however, will make or break K-State’s season. (Last week: No. 3)
Up next: at TCU

4. Notre Dame — The pluck of the Irish indeed.  Sixty minutes and three overtimes later, Notre Dame continues to cling to its unbeaten record after surviving yet another close call. (Last week: No. 4)
Up next: at Boston College

5. Ohio State — Single-minded and shortsighted arrogance will keep the Buckeyes out of any postseason play this year, but Meyer’s charges are improving on a week-to-week basis.  Which is good, as the only tangible thing left to play for is a win over their hated rivals at That School Up North. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: at Wisconsin (Nov. 17)

COACHING HOT SEAT
A weekly look at some of the current head coaches who could most likely be an ex-head coaches by season’s end — if not sooner.

— [space left empty] [pouring one out for Joker]

— Auburn’s Gene Chizik: Yes, the Tigers secured its largest margin of victory of the season (35 points).  Yes, the Tigers snapped a five-game losing streak.  Yes, Chizik is still on the hottest of hot seats as the win came against one-win New Mexico State, an Aggies team that was tied with the Tigers 0-0 at the end of the first quarter and had outgained the home team 131-29 the first 15 minutes.  At the end of the first half, the Tigers held just a 7-0 lead.  Even worse?  When getting over on a one-win WAC team is described as “something that you can build on” in the coach’s postgame.  That, dear readers, is the current state of Auburn football.

HE SAID IT
“I actually had a talk with coach. We were talking about what we wanted to run, me and Coach Stout. I said screens have been there all night. He called it, and it was great.” — current Alabama offensive lineman and future offensive coordinator Barrett Jones, talking about the screen pass-turned-touchdown that kept the Tide’s hope for a third BcS title in four years alive.

HELMETS OF THE DAY
In honor of the 10th anniversary of the Snow Bowl, adidas outfitted Texas A&M and Mississippi State in some new duds for Saturday’s game.  While the uniforms were tastefully understated compared to some of the nauseating fashion statements being made on a weekly basis in college football, the helmets used in the game were utterly spectacular, particularly as it relates to the Aggies:

YOU DON’T SAY?
With the win over Iowa State, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops now has 145 career victories, tying Hall of Famer Bud Wilkinson for second on the all-time OU win list behind Barry Switzer‘s 157.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

Tajh Boyd tied a Clemson record with six touchdowns — five passing, one rushing — then sat out the entire second half.  The Tigers had a school-record 487 yards of total offense, then went out and played the last two quarters.  That’s the kind of day it was for Duke in the 56-20 loss to Clemson.

— In Week 9, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee set a single-game Pac-12 record with 345 yards receiving.  A week later, Lee set another conference standard: his 251 kick return yards were the most in league history.

Kenjon Barner‘s Oregon single-game rushing record of 321 yards is more than Washington State has rushed for (264) in nine games this season.

— Utah’s Reggie Dunn set what’s believed to be an NCAA record with the fourth 100-yard kickoff return of his career for a touchdown.  It was also Dunn’s third such return in the past two weeks.  Here’s a free tip for future Utes opponents: SQUIB IT!!!

Tyler Bray‘s 530 yards passing set a single-game Tennessee record and was the second-most in SEC history.

— With a 33-yard second-quarter completion, quarterback Taylor Martinez (no relation) surpassed Eric Crouch‘s Nebraska record of 7,915 career yards of total offense set between 1998-2001.

— Nebraska rushed for 313 yards in the win over Michigan State.  The Spartans came into the game allowing just 91.2 yards per game, which lead the Big Ten and No. 7 nationally.

— Johnathan Franklin became UCLA’s all-time leading rusher, surpassing the record of 3,731 yards set by Gaston Green between 1984-87.

— Thanks to Alabama snapping LSU’s nation’s best 22-game home winning streak, that honor now belongs to Northern Illinois, who have won 20 in a row at Huskies Stadium.

— SID Note of the Week: Ohio State is 274-0-1 all-time when it scores at least 35 points, as it did in the win over Illinois. The tie was 35-35 against SMU in 1978.

— Notre Dame and Louisville each have won five games this season by seven points or less, tied for the most at the FBS level.

— In the win over Minnesota, Michigan had back-to-back 90-yard-plus touchdown drives in a single game for the first time in school history.

— In a 48-0 win, Stanford limited Colorado to minus-21 yards rushing.  The one-win Buffs had just 76 yards of total offense for the game.

— Louisville’s 45-17 win over Temple pushed the Cardinals to 9-0 on the season, the first time in school history that’s occurred.  The biggest reason behind that historic start is quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who passed for a career-high five touchdowns in the win over the Owls.

— Kent State’s 35-24 win over Akron was the Golden Flashes’ seventh straight, the first time that has happened since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in the White House (1940).

— UMass, in its first season at the FBS level, has lost all nine of its games by an average score of 44-10.  The Minutemen have been shut out in three of those games and have scored in double digits just four times.

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
If Indiana wins its last three games — vs. Wisconsin, at Penn State and at Purdue — the Hoosiers will finish 5-3 in Big Ten play… and represent the Leaders division in the conference championship game.  Those Mayans may have been on to something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump, coaches push for college football as cracks emerge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Players unite in push to save college season, create union

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— We all want to play football this season.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After MAC surrenders to pandemic, will other leagues follow?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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