On Monday, the Mountain West Conference announced its decision to postpone fall sports. There’s a lot to digest here, but to me, there’s one major thing that I can’t figure out: Why now?
It has been a rocky past few months in the sports world, and it just got even worse. On Monday, the Mountain West Conference announced its decision to postpone fall sports, with the possibility of resuming in the spring semester.
There’s a lot to digest here, but to me, there’s one major thing that I can’t figure out: Why now?
Wyoming and other MW programs were set to begin fall camp this past week and had held voluntary workouts for almost a month. With the exception of Colorado State, Mountain West teams had kept the case numbers at a minimum. Heck, the Cowboys went several weeks without recording a single positive test.
This postponement comes just days after the conference updated its return-to-play plan, outlining procedures to keep student-athletes safe in the midst of the pandemic. The plan included structural changes to the schedule, delaying all competition to start the week of Sept. 26 at the earliest.
So, with the modest number of cases and the pushed-back start, why did they have to decide on this now? That’s what really puzzles me.
The Mountain West isn’t alone, though, as the Pac-12, Big Ten and Mid-American Conference have all joined as FBS leagues to postpone their football seasons.
Commissioners from the various conferences have decided the risk is too high, despite literally every other major sports league — NFL, MLB, NBA, WNBA, NHL, PGA, LPGA, MLS, horse racing, NASCAR, etc. — having already returned or returning in the coming weeks.
Each of these college conferences has come up with a fallback idea: playing in the spring.
For smaller, non-contact sports, this could be a viable option. But there isn’t a logistical way to play football in the spring semester.
If they did, teams from these conferences would play roughly 24 games in an eight-month span. These conference higher-ups claim to care about player safety but want student-athletes to play two full seasons in that short of a time frame? Hmm.
Plus, who knows what the state of the virus will be at that point? If I’ve learned one thing about the coronavirus, it’s to expect the unexpected.
Then there are still other obstacles, ranging from weather concerns, the NFL Draft and prospects opting out of a spring season.
The COVID-19 protocols at FBS programs are exceptional, too, which also makes the postponements hard to understand. Student-athletes and personnel have better access to testing and medical care on campus than most places off it.
Canceling the season will also be mentally taxing. Without college football on the schedule, some players may deal with mental health struggles, which could lead to substance-abuse issues, in turn.
When you consider the verdict’s odd timing, the factors that make a spring season nearly impossible and the fact that these affected programs had diligent COVID-19 procedures in place, the conferences’ rushed decree feels more like a political statement than a sound decision.
Admittedly, it is very possible that the season may have been axed midway through if it were held. As I previously stated, this pandemic is anything but predictable, so it could easily flare up and make college sports unplayable.
But that’s not where most programs are at yet.
Other major conferences — Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 12 — are planning to play football in the near future. This makes it seem like those conferences care more about football, which — true or not — could have a trickle-down effect later on.
Will recruits prefer programs from these conferences down the road? Will these schools become popular transfer destinations? Time will tell, but it’s hard to think these programs won’t benefit from at least giving the season a chance.
Obviously, there are risks with this season, and if a player wants to opt out, they should be able to do so with no penalty, no questions asked. But to throw out an entire season for everyone seems dramatic, at least as of now.
College football has been played every year for the last century and a half. That timeline has included two world wars, multiple global pandemics and several other world crises.
If the game went on during those times, there’s a good chance college football will be played somewhere, in some fashion, this fall. And if I’m right, those programs will be winners, while Wyoming and other schools from the Mountain West will be losers.