Getty Images

The Fifth Quarter: Week 3 Rewind

22 Comments

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

SHUT. YOUR. HOLE.
In the week leading up to the Auburn-LSU game, at least one AU defender seemed to think “it shouldn’t be difficult” containing Leonard Fournette.  Yeah, that didn’t exactly work out as planned.  At all.

In the first half alone, Fournette, further embedding himself in the Heisman race, rushed for a career-high 169 yards.  His first carry of the game set the tone as he raced 71 yards for a touchdown on the opening play from scrimmage.  The super sophomore running back would finish the day with 228 yards (on 19 carries) and three touchdowns, but not before a display of speed and power that showed just how gifted an athlete he truly is.

If Fournette can continue at or near this level… if the Tigers can get just average play from the quarterback position… if the defense stays stout… if all three of those things happen, LSU will be a season-long challenger to Ole Miss (?) for SEC West supremacy.  Well, at least until a Nov.21 showdown in Oxford that could very well be for more than just the edge in the division.

FIRST. TIME. EVER?
While generally speaking the BYU-UCLA game was a late-night matchup of ranked teams, it was the young-gun specifics that dominated the run-up to the game.

Both teams are led by true freshman quarterbacks, the 10th-ranked Bruins with The Rosen One, Josh Rosen, and the 19th-ranked Cougars with The Miracle Maker, Tanner Mangum.  Based on multiple conversations with several different individuals, it’s believed this was the first game in FBS history involving ranked teams in which both started true freshmen under center.  For quite awhile, though, it appeared that the ongoing coming out party of Mangum was going to continue at the expense of the top quarterback in the Class of 2015.

Trailing 20-10 early in the fourth quarter and struggling mightily — three first-half interceptions — Rosen impressively got up off the mat, dusted himself off and tossed a touchdown pass and directed a lengthy drive that lead to another score, the latter of which came with 3:21 remaining to give the Bruins a 24-23 lead.  Mangum had a shot at his third straight game-winning drive to open the season, but was intercepted by Myles Jack to ice the game and keep the Bruins unbeaten on the season.

Statistically, Mangum won the head-to-head matchup, going 30-47 for 244 yards, one touchdown and one interception while Rosen went 11-23 for a paltry 106 yards, one touchdowns and the trio of aforementioned picks.  Here’s to guessing, though, that Rosen will take winning on the scoreboard over the stat sheet any day of the week and twice on Saturdays.

UNLV v MichiganFIRST. TIME. EVER.
There may have been some doubt regarding the above, but there’s none on this one.

Last year at this time, Jim Harbaugh was the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, while Tony Sanchez was the head coach at national powerhouse Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High School.  Saturday, those two were on the opposite sidelines with Harbaugh as Michigan’s head coach and Sanchez UNLV’s.

Based on my research — and thanks to a subsequent confirmation from the crack sports information department in the Mountain West Conference — that’s the first time such a thing has ever happened in the history of college football, that an NFL head coach the year before had squared off against a head coach a year removed from high school.

Unfortunately for Sanchez and his Rebels, they were taken to school by the Wolverines in the Big House, dropping to 0-3 on the year courtesy of a 28-7 loss to UM.

BAKER HAS A (MAY)FIELD DAY
If Baker Mayfield wasn’t in the Heisman discussion before, he is now.

In a Saturday afternoon blitzkrieg of Tulsa, the Oklahoma quarterback accounted for 572 yards of total offense in the Sooners’ 52-31 win over the Golden Hurricane.  Of that, 487 yards came through the air and 85 came on the ground.  Both of those totals are career-highs for the transfer quarterback from Texas Tech.

The total offense also set a school record, breaking the old mark of 554 yards set by Landry Jones.  For good measure, Mayfield added six touchdowns — four passing, two rushing.

STATE OF THE U
It was fair to say that Al Golden was on the hottest seat in America entering the 2015 season.  Three games in, and not much has changed on that front.  In fact, after today’s events, his ass is en fuego.

With less than nine minutes remaining, Miami held a seemingly insurmountable 33-10 lead on Nebraska.  Less than 480 seconds later, the Cornhuskers had tied it up and sent it into overtime.  Forget the fact that the ‘Canes were able to win in that first extra session; the meltdown at the end of the game was hauntingly reminiscent of the late-game meltdowns last season that put Golden on the hot seat in the first place.

Yes, the Hurricanes are 3-0 for the second time in Golden’s tenure and the second time since 2004, but fan unrest might be at an all-time high.

SATURDAY RESET
Below is a list of links for all of the Week 2 gamers posted by the CFT crew, placed in one handy and convenient space for you, our beloved and dear readers.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Sunday if I, ya know, had a real vote.

1. Michigan State — Take the totality of their three-game résumé, especially the Week 2 win over Oregon, and MSU is the best team in the country and have earned the right to move into the top spot this week.  I doubt they do the same in the “real” polls, but it certainly wouldn’t shock me if they did. (Last week: No. 2)
Next up: vs. Central Michigan, Sept. 26

2. Ole Miss — You beat the No. 2 team in the country, on the road, after surviving a pair of comebacks and showing some serious stones in doing so, you go from the ranks of the unranked and right into the No. 2 hole. (Last week: unranked)
Next up: vs. Vanderbilt, Sept. 26

3. TCU — Minnesota’s struggles in a close call with Kent State takes some of the shine off TCU’s 3-0 start, as did Week 3’s close call with SMU, but there’s little doubt the Horned Frogs are one of the top three or four teams in the country.  With non-conference play in the books, TCU’s competition level will decidedly increase most of the next nine games. (Last week: No. 3)
Next up: at Texas Tech, Sept. 26

4. Ohio State — Defensively, OSU is playing like the defending national champs.  Offensively, they’re playing like the defending national chumps.  Until they get the quarterback situation untangled… and the offensive line squared away… and the play-calling in line, the Buckeyes aren’t even remotely deserving of the top spot in any poll. (Last week: 1)
Next up: vs. Western Michigan, Sept. 26

5. Oregon — Up until the loss to Stanford, I was ready to put USC in this spot.  Almost pulled the trigger on Georgia, then LSU, then Alabama even with the loss, but just couldn’t.  Even as they’ve already gone down in defeat, I just don’t believe there are five better teams in the country right now than the Ducks, especially as I happen to think their one loss came to the best team in football right now. (Last week: No. 5)
Next up: vs. Georgia State, Sept. 19

(Dropped out: No. 4 Alabama)

KARMA

BACK FAT TATS OF THE MILLENNIUM
This Miami fan, apparently a card-carrying member of the plumber’s union, is indeed all in when it comes to his Hurricanes.

I guess you could say The U is back?

EDWIN MOSES MEMORIAL AWARD
Ezekiel Elliott‘s as dangerous a man in college football with both feet on the ground.  With both feet in the air?  The Ohio State running back’s equally as dangerous.

JAMEIS’D
Jeremy Johnson hasn’t exactly lit the college football world on fire as Auburn’s starting quarterback, and he was at his dumpster-fire best again against LSU Saturday — much to the dismay and/or chagrin of his head coach.

CO-CATCHES OF THE DAY
I couldn’t pick just one, so up first is Nevada’s Hasaan Henderson

… followed by Michigan State’s Aaron Burbridge

DIRTY PLAY OF THE DAY
There’s playing hard, and then there’s what Central Michigan defensive lineman Mitch Stanitzek did to Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey in the first half of the Orange’s overtime win.

Stanitzek was flagged for targeting and ejected from the game. Dungey left the game with what was described as an upper-body injury and did not return.

PHOTOSHOPPED TWEET OF THE DAY
If you’re on Twitter and not following @celebrityhottub, you’re doing Twitter wrong.  Case in point?

AN URBAN STATE OF MIND
It’s been five years since Urban Meyer coached in the SEC but he’s obviously not been forgotten, at least by a certain segment of the Alabama fan base.

MIZZERY, THY NAME IS MIZZOU
As back-to-back SEC East champions, Missouri has yet to garner the national respect you’d think they would; Saturday, they offered a glimpse as to why.  Trailing 6-2 at halftime, Mizzou “bounced back” in the second half to outlast 14-point underdog UConn 9-6.  That said, it was a squalid performance for the Tigers, which this fan encapsulates in nail-on-the-head fashion.

Adding insult to the fan’s mental injury, Mizzou may have a quarterback controversy on its hand.  Starter Maty Mauk was benched and replaced by freshman Drew Lock, although the latter wasn’t much more effective than the former.

MIFFED?
It doesn’t appear that Cardale Jones is very happy with what was, at least for the moment, a one-game demotion as Ohio State’s starting quarterback.  Or he’s having a little fun with his in-game move behind J.T. Barrett.  One of the two.

Shortly after Ohio State’s win over Northern Illinois, Jones changed his Twitter profile to the following:

Cardale Twitter Profile

A short time later, after that had gotten quite a bit of attention, Jones changed it to the following:

Cardale Twitter Profile II

HE SAID IT
“Good question. And I don’t know that right now. I haven’t had time to think about it.” — Urban Meyer, when asked if he knew who his starting quarterback is after both Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett struggled in the closer-than-expected win over Northern Illinois.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“We’re going to evaluate everything after today. Every position. We got to get better. It ain’t just him, it’s all positions and that’s the way we’re going to operate.” — Gus Malzahn, when asked if Jeremy Johnson is still Auburn’s starting quarterback.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“He got ejected out of the game, so that answers that right there. I don’t know why he did that. I don’t condone that to any team, let alone to my team. I feel like it’s excessive and unnecessary, but it happened.” — Syracuse offensive lineman Omari Palmer, when asked if he thought the hit on his quarterback shown above was a cheap shot.

HE SAID IT, BONUS EDITION
“Even you all can see that.” — Gary Pinkel, to the media when asked about Missouri’s offensive struggles in the win over UConn.

HE SAID IT, THE FINAL ONE
“Offensively, we’re a mess right now.” — A succinct Jerry Kill stated following Minnesota’s 10-7 win over Kent State in which the Gophers produced just 288 yards of offense.

Meads Cup Final - North Otago v WanganuiSTREAKING
Three wins to start the 2015 season have pushed Ohio State’s nation’s best winning streak to 15 straight.  Up next are TCU (11), Memphis (10), Michigan State (seven) and Navy (six).

On the other side of the won-loss ledger, New Mexico State owns the nation’s longest losing streak at 13 straight.  UNLV is next at nine in a row, followed by FAU (eight) and Wyoming (six). Kansas, on a bye this weekend, is the not-so-proud owner of the longest losing streak amongst Power Five conference members at five straight.

MY ANNUAL REMINDER THAT…
… this remains one of the greatest notes ever from a sports information department: On Dec. 5, 2010, TCU became the only team in college football history to receive an invitation to the Rose Bowl and implode its stadium on the same day.

S.I.D NOTE OF THE WEEK
Saturday marked the first time an unranked Stanford team met a ranked USC squad since 2008, and the first such matchup at the Coliseum since 2007. It was the 14th consecutive meeting in which at least one team has been ranked.

S.I.D. NOTE OF THE WEEK II
Georgia Tech’s 134 points in the first two games set an ACC record for most points scored through the first two games of a season. The previous mark was held by Florida State in 2012 (124).  The 134 points are also the most for Tech in back-to-back games since scoring 139 in 1921 wins over Davidson and Furman.

S.I.D. NOTE OF THE WEEK III
Minnesota is the only team scheduled to play both No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 TCU (L, 23-17 on Sept. 3) in the regular season (TCU ranking at time of game). The last time Minnesota played the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the same year was 1986. Minnesota lost 63-0 at No. 1 Oklahoma, but then won 20-17 at No. 2 Michigan.

S.I.D. NOTE OF THE WEEK IV
Toledo’s Week 2 win over Arkansas marked the first MAC win against an opponent from the SEC since 2004 (Ohio 28-16 win at Kentucky on Oct. 2, 2004).

S.I.D NOTE OF THE WEEK V
Winning on the road is always special for college football teams, but for Eastern Michigan the Week 2 48-29 victory at Wyoming was even sweeter. No player on EMU’s roster was even born the last time the squad returned to Ypsilanti with a non-conference road victory – a streak of 57 games. In 1988, the then-Hurons led by Jim Harkema posted a 17-12 non-league triumph at Football Championship Subdivision foe Youngstown State University, Sept. 10.  EMU, though, has never beaten a team that was an FBS member at the time in a regular season non-conference road game.

OFF THE CHARTS
Courtesy of the Mountain West Conference sports information department

Road Win Precentage

OFF THE CHARTS, PART II
Courtesy of the MWC sports information department

Consecutive Scoring Streaks

OFF THE CHARTS, PART III
Courtesy of the Cincinnati sports information department

Best Records Since 2007

OFF THE CHARTS, PART IV
Courtesy of the Georgia Tech sports information department

Shutout Streaks

OFF THE CHARTS, PART IV
Courtesy of the Georgia Tech sports information department

All-Time Bowl Wins

OFF THE CHARTS, PART V
Courtesy of the Alabama sports information department

GameDay Appearances

SAY WHAT?
Georgia Tech (69, 65) and Ole Miss (76, 73) are only the fifth and sixth Power Five teams since World War II to score 65 or more points the first two games of the season. The others are Baylor (2013), Kansas State (1998), Ohio State (1996) and Florida (1994).  Baylor actually hit or exceeded that mark the first four weeks of 2013 season before being “held” to 35 in a 10-point road win over K-State.

DULY NOTED
Minnesota’s first two opponents this year (TCU and Colorado State) combined for a 22-4 record last season. That mark for wins is the most that any team faced in its first two games of the 2015 season. Only five other schools (Arkansas State, BYU, Michigan State, Oregon and Tulane) opened their season against two opponents who combined for 20 wins last year.

on September 19, 2015 in Annapolis, Maryland.DID YOU KNOW THAT…

… with five rushing touchdowns today, Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds now has 70 for his career, which is fourth on the FBS’ all-time list?  With 10 games plus a likely bowl to go in his career, Reynolds trails Wisconsin’s Montee Ball (77), Miami of Ohio’s Travis Prentice (73) and Texas’ Ricky Williams (72).

… Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson has thrown for more than 400 yards in all three games this year?  He totaled 424 in the opener against Tennessee, a career-high 491 in a win over Maryland and 443 in yesterday’s loss to Memphis.

… true freshman Jake Browning has thrown for 300-plus yards in back-to-back Washington wins, including a school-record 368 in Saturday’s win over Utah State?

Jeremy Johnson has as many interceptions this season through three games (six) as Nick Marshall had in Auburn’s 14-game run to the BCS title game in 2013?

Aaron Burbridge, Kalon Baker, Dexter Walker… the three touchdown receptions for Michigan State’s Aaron Burbridge in the Week 3 win over Air Force matched his career total entering the 2015 season?  The wide receiver now has four touchdown catches on the year.

… Michigan’s Jake Rudock has thrown five interceptions in 91 attempts this season, the same number he had in 345 attempts all of last season as Iowa’s starting quarterback?

… Kansas State’s Joe Hubener made his first career start at quarterback at either the collegiate or varsity high school level last weekend in a win over UT-San Antonio?  Hubener’s last start came when he was playing junior varsity football.

… last season, North Carolina did not make a field goal longer than 30 yards? This season, kicker Nick Weiler has made all five attempts from 32, 38, 47 and 48 yards (twice) in the first three games.

… Stanford wide receiver Christian McCaffrey‘s parents were both student-athletes on The Farm?  Ed McCaffrey was a star wide receiver for the Cardinal who went on to star in the NFL, while Lisa McCaffrey played soccer for the Cardinal.

… with a win over Arkansas last week and one over Iowa State this week, Toledo has defeated two teams from one of the Power Five conferences in the same season for the first time in the program’s history?

… Tennessee had not scored a touchdown on both a kickoff and punt return in the same game since 1950 before doing it today against Western Carolina?

… Nebraska is the only FBS program to have at least two players selected in every NFL Draft of the Common Draft Era (since 1967)?  There has also been at least one former Cornhusker on a Super Bowl roster each of the last 22 years, the most of any team in the nation.

… LSU has played its first two games this season against SEC teams for the first time in school history?  The opener against McNeese State was cancelled due to weather, leaving LSU with games against SEC West rivals Mississippi State (Week 2) and Auburn (Week 3) to open the year.

… the MAC has now won a regular-season game against the Big Ten for 10 straight seasons — the longest streak in MAC history — and has 21 wins over 10 different Big Ten teams in that period?

… the 459 wins Georgia Tech has accumulated at Bobby Dodd Stadium makes it the winningest active venue in college football?

… a Minnesota quarterback has rushed for 150-plus yards eight times in the program’s history, and five of those games have happened since Jerry Kill took over in 2011?  MarQueis Gray was responsible for three of those, while Chris Streveler and current starter Mitch Leidner had the other two.

… the Mountain West Conference officially refers to the Power Five conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC) as the autonomous 5 in its press releases?  And, yes, the “a” in autonomous is not capitalized in said releases and, yes, that’s just spectacular.

… Cincinnati-Miami (Ohio) is the second-oldest rivalry in the FBS, starting in 1888? The Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry predates that series by one year (1887).

… San Diego State’s Rocky Long is the only head coach serving as his own defensive coordinator, and has done so for each of his five years heading the Aztecs?  On the flip side, there are five FBS head coaches who also serve as their own offensive coordinators.

… Ohio University is the only team in the FBS to have kept the same head coach (Frank Solich), offensive coordinator (Tim Albin) and defensive coordinator (Jimmy Burrow) for at least the last 10 seasons? In fact, Albin has been a part of a Solich-led staff for 15 seasons (11 at Ohio, four at Nebraska) and Burrow 13 (11 Ohio, two Nebraska).

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

7 Comments

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.”

___

Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.westwoodonepodcasts.com/pods/ap-top-25-college-football-podcast/

___

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Players unite in push to save college season, create union

3 Comments

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.”

___

Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.westwoodonepodcasts.com/pods/ap-top-25-college-football-podcast/

___

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

After MAC surrenders to pandemic, will other leagues follow?

MAC football
Getty Images
5 Comments

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”