Indiana signs 22 on National Signing Day

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(Below is Indiana’s press release on the players added as part of its 2013 recruiting class.)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana head football coach Kevin Wilson announced Wednesday the signing of 22 student-athletes to National Letters of Intent to play for the Hoosiers in 2013.

“We executed our plan very well and are excited about this class,” Wilson said. “We are very fortunate to have a good amount of returning starters, but we backed that up with, what on paper, is a very, very strong class, which is critical in building our program. There is potential to help on the defensive side, up front, at linebacker and on the perimeter. Offensively, we have 14 returning linemen and three quarterbacks. With those returners, we were able to concentrate on some other positions, including running back, wide receiver, tight end and the defense.”

IU signed 13 defensive players, five offensive players and four athletes. The Hoosiers added six defensive linemen, four linebackers and three defensive backs on defense and two tight ends, two wide receivers and one running back on offense.

The class features players from eight different states, including five from Indiana, five from Florida, four from Georgia, four from Ohio, one from Illinois, one from Louisiana, one from Nebraska and one from New York.

“We recruit as a team,” Wilson said. “There was not one lead recruiter on any one student-athlete. We had multiple coaches going to schools over and over, whether it be the areacoach, the assistant coach, the position coach, the coordinator or me. We also had tremendous behind the scenes administrative help and support. It was a great team effort that put together what is a very strong class.”

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 22 members of Indiana’s 2013 recruiting class.)

Antonio Allen
DB – 5-10, 205
Indianapolis, Ind./Ben Davis H.S.
Prep/Personal: Safety for head coach Mike Kirschner at Ben Davis High School … played in the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl … first Indiana student-athlete to ever participate in the game … won the push-up contest with 76 in one minute … collected 74 tackles, two tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, two interceptions and one fumble recovery as a senior … Indiana Associated Press Class 5A All-State as a junior and senior … Indiana Football Coaches Association Top 50 and All-State as a junior and senior … selected to the 2012 Indianapolis Star Super Team and named Position Award winner (defensive back) … two-time all-conference selection … finished his career with 241 tackles, three interceptions, eight pass breakups, four tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery… rated the No. 5 prospect in Indiana and the No. 231 prospect overall by Rivals.com … rated the No. 19 safety nationally by ESPN.com … high school teammate of IU redshirt freshman wide receiver Caleb Cornett … threeyear letterwinner … parents are Antonio and Althenia Allen … born on Nov. 19, 1994, Antonio Lee Allen, Jr., intends to study business.

Daryl Chestnut
RB – 5-10, 190
Miami, Fla./Christopher Columbus H.S.
Prep/Personal: Running back for head coach Chris Merritt at Christopher Columbus High School … rushed 111 times for 1,208 yards (10.9 average) with 14 touchdowns as a senior … first team All-Dade County selection … team earned regional championship in 2011 and 2012 … collected 526 yards on 44 rushes with eight TDs as a junior … rated the No. 8 all-purpose back nationally by Rivals.com … three-year football letterwinner … parents are Daryl Chestnut and Alva Strachan … born on Dec. 31, 1994, Daryl Chestnut intends to study communications.

Christopher Cormier
DL – 6-2, 315
New Iberia, La./Arizona Western C.C.
2012 (Sophomore): Defensive tackle for head coach Tom Minnick at Arizona Western Community College … ranked third on the team with 44 tackles and added three tackles for loss … first team All-Arizona Community College Athletic Conference selection … second team All-Western States Football League honoree … team won the El Toro Bowl and conference championship. 2011 (Freshman): Defensive tackle at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas … played in three games and made seven tackles with two tackles for loss. Prep/Personal: Defensive tackle for head coach Greg Alexander at Alief Hastings High School in Houston … named Old Spice Red Zone Player of the Year … fouryear football and two-year basketball letterwinner … uncle is Larry Johnson … Christopher H. Cormier was born on Sept. 6, 1991.

Patrick Dougherty
DL – 6-5, 260
Aurora, Ohio/Aurora H.S.
Prep/Personal: Defensive end and offensive tackle for head coach Bob Mihalik at Aurora High School … posted 120 tackles, 12 sacks, including one safety, 50 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and 15 pass breakups over his junior and senior seasons … first team all-state selection as a senior … two-time all-district and all-conference selection … team advanced to the state semifinals in 2011 and 2012 … also played basketball … averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds as a junior … parents are Frank and Lynn Dougherty … born on Sept. 3, 1994, Patrick Dougherty intends to study business.

Chase Dutra
ATH – 6-1, 205
Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg H.S.
Prep/Personal: Safety and wide receiver for head coach Brett Comer at Brownsburg High School … Indiana Associated Press Class 5A All-State and Indiana Football Coaches Association (IFCA) Top 50 and all-state as a senior … team captain was selected to the 2012 Indianapolis Star Super Team … runner-up to signee Antonio Allen for the Indianapolis Star Position Award (defensive back) … IFCA Top 50 and all-state and Associated Press honorable mention all-state as a junior … two-time all-conference selection … closed his career with 1,827 rushing yards on 183 carries (10.0 average) with 22 touchdowns … made 54 receptions for 1,033 yards and eight scores … added a school record 883 yards on 34 kick return yards (26.0) … also holds single-game record with 210 kick return yards … recorded 327 yards on 21 punt returns (15.6) with three TDs … collected 72 tackles with one interception, one forced fumble and 15 passes defended … rated the No. 9 prospect in Indiana and the No. 51 athlete nationally by Rivals.com … team captured conference championships in 2011 and 2012 and ranked in the top 10 all four years … four-year football and three-year basketball letterwinner … born in Turkey and grew up in Alaska … parents are Jim and Tammy Dutra … Chase Michael Dutra was born on Jan. 19, 1994.

Rashard Fant
DB – 5-10, 165
Atlanta, Ga./Our Lady of Mercy H.S.
Prep/Personal: Athlete for head coach Mike Earwood at Our Lady of Mercy High School … three-time all-state, all-region and all county selection … named the team’s offensive and special teams player of the year twice … played in the 2013 Offense-Defense All American Bowl … rushed for 614 yards on 33 rushes (18.6 average) with five touchdowns as a senior … recorded 303 yards on 21 receptions with five scores … added a pair of kick return and punt return TDs … made 36 tackles, four interceptions and nine pass breakups at cornerback … carried the ball 33 times for 543 yards (16.5 average) and nine touchdowns as a junior … brought in 21 balls for 361 yards and four scores … returned one kick and two punts for TDs … collected 41 tackles with one INT touchdown return … compiled 826 rushing yards and 11 scores to go along with 24 catches for 461 yards and six TDs as a sophomore … posted five kick return and six punt return touchdowns … rated the No. 14 athlete nationally, the No. 16 prospect in Georgia and the No. 147 prospect overall by ESPN.com … four-year football, three-year basketball and one-year track and field letterwinner … starting point guard since freshman season … holds school record for most career touchdowns (63) and all-purpose yards … posted a school record 4.37 40-yard dash time … parents are Randy Fant and Donna Wilson-Fant … born on Jan. 8, 1995, Rashard Ahmad Fant intends to study business.

Danny Friend
TE – 6-5, 240
Morris, Ill./Morris Community H.S.
Prep/Personal: Tight end and defensive end for head coach Alan Thorson at Morris Community High School … made 15 receptions for 283 yards and four touchdowns as a senior … added 56 tackles, 33 solo, seven sacks, three interceptions (one touchdown), one fumble recovery, one forced fumble and one blocked field goal … a 2012 Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Class 5A All State selection … named the 2012 Herald-News Defensive Player of the Year and the 2012 Northern Illinois Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year … two-time all-conference honoree … team went 12-2 and advanced to the state championship game … as a junior, recorded 18 catches for 262 yards and five TDs … posted 34 tackles, two sacks, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles … rated the No. 24 player in Illinois by 247Sports.com and the No. 26 tight end nationally by Scout.com … three-year football, three-year basketball and two-year track and field letterwinner … recognized on the 2011 and 2012 Class 5A All-State Academic team … high honor roll student … parents are Patrick and Sherry Friend … David Patrick Friend was born on Jan. 15, 1995.

Steven Funderburk
LB – 6-3, 231
Port St. Lucie, Fla./Iowa Western C.C.
2012 (Sophomore): Linebacker for head coach Scott Strohmeier at Iowa Western Community College … tallied 49 tackles, a half-sack, 7.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions (88 yards), both returned for touchdowns, and one fumble recovery … first team all conference selection … team went 12-0 and won the 2012 National Junior College Athletic Association national championship … teammate and defensive lineman Jordan Heiderman also a member of the signing class.
2011 (Freshman): Played in 11 games and posted 13 tackles at Tulane University … tallied seven stops at Army. 2010: Redshirted the 2010 season at Tulane University.
Prep/Personal: Linebacker for head coach Will Kelley at Treasure Coast High School in Port St. Lucie, Fla. … made 69 tackles, 52 solo, with nine tackles for loss, three interceptions, seven pass breakups and one fumble recovery as a senior … first team all district selection also named the team’s most valuable player … four-year football, basketball, baseball and track and field letterwinner … parents are Magdaline Funderburk and Charles Pauldo … born on July 5, 1991, Steven Funderburk intends to study education.

Myles Graham
ATH – 6-0, 215
Miami, Fla./Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory
Prep/Personal: Running back for head coach Tim Tyrell at Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory … rushed for 852 yards on 75 carries (11.4 average) with 14 touchdowns in seven games as a junior … also added five receptions for 113 yards and one score … a second team All-Broward County selection … missed senior season with an injury … rated the No. 93 running back nationally by 247Sports.com … two-year football letterwinner … parents are Mario and Teresa Graham … born on Aug. 20, 1995, Myles Alexander Graham intends to study business or criminal justice.

Isaac Griffith
WR – 6-0, 180
Fort Wayne, Ind./Homestead H.S.
Prep/Personal: Wide receiver for head coach Chad Zolman at Homestead High School … finished his career with school records in receptions (119), yardage (2,453) and touchdowns (37) … set school single-season marks in points scored (162) and receiving TDs (22) … owns school single-game records for most scores (six), most points (36) and most receiving touchdowns (five) … also has the longest punt return TD (80 yards) … Indiana Associated Press Class 5A All-State and Indiana Football Coaches Association Top 50 and all-state as a senior … honorable mention Associated Press All-State as a junior … two-time all-area and AllNortheast Conference selection … team won four conference championships … rated the No. 12 prospect in Indiana by ESPN.com … first commitment in the 2013 signing class … four-year football letterwinner … parents are Kim and Shannon and Kim Griffith … Shannon is the head football coach at Division III Manchester (Ind.) College … born on July 31, 1994, Isaac William Griffith intends to study sport marketing and management.

Jordan Heiderman
DL – 6-3, 280
Norfolk, Neb./Iowa Western C.C.
Junior College: Defensive tackle for head coach Scott Strohmeier at Iowa Western Community College … collected 43 tackles with 4.5 sacks (38 yards) and nine tackles for loss in 2012 … earned second team all-conference honors … team went 12-0 and won the 2012 National Junior College Athletic Association national championship … posted 42 tackles, three sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss in
2011… team went 9-2 and won the Graphic Edge Bowl … redshirted in 2010 … teammate and linebacker Steven Funderburk also a member of the signing class.
Prep/Personal: Defensive tackle for head coach Tom Olson at Norfolk (Neb.) High School … two-year football and four-year wrestling letterwinner … parents are Rick and Ann Heiderman … born on Sept. 3, 1991, Jordan Heiderman intends to study sport marketing and management.

Evan Jansen
TE – 6-4, 245
Mason, Ohio/Moeller H.S.
Prep/Personal: Tight end for head coach John Rodenberg at Moeller High School … caught 14 passes for 180 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a senior … team won the state championship for the first time in 27 years and the eighth time in school history … Moeller also has five national championships … rated the No. 41 tight end nationally by ESPN.com … three-year football letterwinner also played basketball … honors student … parents are Norbert and Karen Jansen … born on Dec. 22, 1994, Evan Jansen intends to study pre-medicine.

David Kenney
DL – 6-2, 250
Indianapolis, Ind./Pike H.S.
Prep/Personal: Defensive end for head coach Derek Moyers at Pike High School … selected to the 2012 Indianapolis Star Super Team and named Position Award winner (defensive line) … Indiana Associated Press Class 5A All-State and Indiana Football Coaches Association (IFCA) Top 50 as a senior … IFCA AllState selection as a junior and senior … played in the 2013 Offense-Defense All-American Bowl … posted 76 tackles, nine sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss, 29 quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and four pass breakups as a senior … two-time allconference selection and Pike defensive most valuable player … made 68 tackles, 11 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, nine quarterback hurries, three fumble recoveries and one forced fumble as a junior … honorable mention all-state Associated Press in 2011… rated the No. 6 prospect in Indiana, the No. 11 weak-side defensive end nationally and the No. 244 prospect overall by Rivals.com … two-year football letterwinner … parents are David and Kristen Kenney … born on Feb. 6, 1995, David Khristopher Kenney intends to study biology.

Darius Latham
DL – 6-5, 291
Indianapolis, Ind./North Central H.S.
Prep/Personal: Defensive and offensive lineman for head coach Keith Shelton at North Central High School … Indiana Football Coaches Association Top 50 and all-state as a junior and senior … Indiana Associated Press Class 5A All-State as a senior and honorable mention as a junior … selected to the 2012 Indianapolis Star Super Team … runner-up to signee David Kenney for the Indianapolis Star Position Award (defensive line) … nominated for the 2013 U.S. Army AllAmerican Bowl … made 62 tackles with eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in 2012 … two-time first team all-conference and All-Marion County selection … team captain as a senior and the defensive lineman of the year his final two seasons … posted 42 stops with 4.5 sacks and six TFLs as a junior … added 37 tackles with three sacks and four tackles for loss as a sophomore … rated the No. 3 prospect in Indiana and the No. 160 prospect nationally by 247Sports.com … rated the No. 14 defensive tackle nationally and the No. 239 prospect overall by Rivals.com … four year football and basketball letterwinner … teammate of IU redshirt sophomore quarterback Tre Roberson in youth football league … started all four seasons he has played basketball … currently averaging 16 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 assists … team’s most valuable player was selected to the Hoosier Basketball Magazine North/South All-Star team as a junior … North Central won the state championship his freshman season … parents are Cori Latham and David Turner … born on Nov. 9, 1994, Darius Kyree Latham intends to study sport marketing and management.

Clyde Newton
ATH – 6-1, 215
Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte H.S.
Prep/Personal: Linebacker and running back for head coach Binky Waldrop at Charlotte High School … made 108 tackles, 74 solo, with two sacks, one interception and one forced fumble as a senior … rushed for 1,938 yards with an 8.4 average and 23 touchdowns … named the 7A District Player of the Year … twotime all-district selection also recognized as the team’s most valuable player … holds school records for most 200-yard games (seven) and most yards in a game (299) … rushed for 1,033 yards and a 7.4 average as a junior … team won four district championships … four-year football letterwinner also earned letters in track, wrestling and weight lifting … mother is Barbara Ann Bryant … brother, Leonard Bryant, played defensive back and lettered at IU from 2002-04 … Clyde Newton was born on Sept. 20, 1993.

Marcus Oliver
LB – 6-1, 220
Hamilton, Ohio/Hamilton H.S.
Prep/Personal: Linebacker and running back for head coach Bob Jacoby at Hamilton High School … made 135 tackles, 92 solo, with one sack, 10 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, one blocked kick and one defensive touchdown in 2012 … also rushed for 587 yards with six scores … all-state, all-district and Greater Miami Conference Player of the Year … two-time first team all-conference … posted 131 stops, 88 solo, four sacks, six TFLs, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, with one INT (TD), one blocked kick and one rushing touchdown … rated the No. 39 inside linebacker nationally by Rivals.com … named to the J. Kyle Braid and Wilks Leadership teams … threeyear football, two-year basketball and two-year baseball letterwinner … parents are Lonnie Oliver and Kimberly Gibson … born on Feb. 8, 1995, Javier Demarcus Oliver, intends to study athletic training.

Noel Padmore
DB – 5-11, 175
Flowery Branch, Ga./Flowery Branch H.S.
Prep/Personal: Cornerback for head coach Chris Griffin at Flowery Branch High School … teammate and linebacker Kris Smith also a member of the signing class … first team all-state, all-region and all-area selection as a senior … posted 101 tackles, five tackles for loss, four interceptions, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and 17 pass breakups from 2011-12 … named the team’s outstanding defensive back as a junior and senior … played in the 2012 East-West Metro Atlanta All-Star Game … team captured the Region 8-AAAAA championship in 2011 and 2012 … rated the No. 48 cornerback nationally by ESPN.com … fouryear football letterwinner … also lettered in track and field … parents are George and Christine Padmore … Noel was born in Monrovia, Liberia … born on Nov. 2, 1994, Noel Padmore intends to study communications.

T.J. Simmons
LB – 6-0, 230
Lakeland, Fla./Lakeland H.S.
Prep/Personal: Linebacker for head coach Bill Castle at Lakeland High School … finished his career with 325 tackles … made 121 tackles, three sacks, 32 tackles for loss, two interceptions and one fumble recovery as a senior … first team allstate selection and two-time all-county selection … Top 16 player in Polk County and Bright House Top 30 player … rated the No. 53 inside linebacker nationally by ESPN.com … also lettered in weight lifting … mother is Pamala Willis … Timothy B Simmons was born on Oct. 24, 1994.

Kris Smith
LB – 6-2, 215
Flowery Branch, Ga./Flowery Branch H.S.
Prep/Personal: Linebacker for head coach Chris Griffin at Flowery Branch High School … teammate and cornerback Noel Padmore also a member of the signing class … made 103 tackles, 12 sacks, including one safety, and 21 tackles for loss as a senior … first team all-state and all-region selection … named the team’s most outstanding linebacker … played in the 2012 GACA North-South All-Star Game and the 2012 East-West Metro Atlanta All-Star Game … participated in the 2012 U.S. Army National Combine … team won the Region 8-AAAA championship in 2011 and 2012 … rated the No. 41 outside linebacker nationally by ESPN.com … played two years of football at Flowery Branch and also lettered in track and field … 2012 Flowery Branch Scholar-Athlete … parents are Sean Smith and Pam Smith … born on Nov. 18, 1994, Kristopher Bryce Smith intends to study law.

Laray Smith
ATH – 6-0, 185
Staten Island, N.Y./Xaverian H.S.
Prep/Personal: Running back for head coach Joe DeSiena at Xaverian High School … rushed for 1,700 yards with 16 touchdowns and added four receiving scores over his junior and senior seasons … two-time all-borough, all-city and allconference honoree … a Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl selection … rated the No. 2 prospect in New York and the No. 12 all-purpose back nationally by 247Sports.com … three-year football letterwinner also runs track … currently owns the fastest indoor 300m time nationally and the second-fastest indoor 200m and 400m time nationally … two-time high school All-American sprinter on the track … placed third at the USA Track & Field Junior Olympics in the 400m … two-time, top-five finisher at New York state championships … took eighth at the New Balance High School Indoor National meet in the 200 … has run 10.43 in the 100m, 21.4 in the 200m, 47.3 in the 400m and 6.55 in the 55m … parents are Lawrence Smith and Sandra Burnett … born on Oct. 31, 1994, Laray Smith intends to study communications.

Maurice Swain
DL – 6-5, 305
LaGrange, Ga./Troup H.S.
Prep/Personal: Defensive lineman for head coach Lynn Kendall at Troup High School … two-year all-state selection … made 65 tackles with seven sacks, 15 tackles for loss, 33 quarterback hurries, two fumble recoveries and one fumble return TD as a senior … all region honoree played in the Georgia vs. Florida Bowl … three-year captain named the team’s most valuable defensive lineman … 43 tackles, eight sacks and 16 tackles for loss as a junior … played in the 2011 Rising Senior Bowl … rated the No. 56 defensive tackle nationally by ESPN.com … fouryear football lettterwinner … parents are Maurice Swain and Shani Garrett … born on July 25, 1995, Maurice T. Swain intends to study business or graphic design.

Anthony Young
WR – 6-1, 175
Lakewood, Ohio/St. Edward H.S.
Prep/Personal: Wide receiver for head coach Rick Finotti at St. Edward High School … made 35 catches for 520 yards (14.9) and 10 touchdowns as a senior … returned four kickoffs and one punt for scores … All-Ohio selection and special teams athlete of the year … holds school records for the most career receiving TDs (14), most receiving touchdowns in a game (three) and the longest kick return score (99 yards, twice) … three-year football and three-year track and field letterwinner … All-American sprinter in four events … won 10 state titles in Ohio … owns Ohio’s indoor state records in the 60 meters (6.80 seconds) and 200 meters (21.34) … led team to indoor and outdoor track and field state team titles in 2012 … three-year honor roll student … parents are Michael and Jackie Young … born on July 19, 1994, Anthony Young intends to study special education.

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”