Monday, August 17, 2020

The B1G Gamble

By Jean Neuberger

The Power Five have split when it comes to playing this college football season.

One would see the SEC, Big 12, and ACC willing to forge ahead with the season and believe they're the ones making a big gamble during this pandemic.

I'd venture to say the complete opposite. It's the Big Ten and Pac-12 who are making the biggest risk of them all.

The early cancellations so far have brought several doctors disputing the paper the Big Ten used in making their decision (notably, a cardiologist from the University of Michigan). It's brought football parents from Iowa, Ohio State, and Penn State forward to ask the conference to reconsider. It's brought a petition from Ohio State QB Justin Fields to change their minds. It brought a strong disapproval from the University of Nebraska administration.

Bottom line, it hasn't made a lot of people in the Upper Midwest happy (save Iowa State, the one school in that region that's preparing to take the field). At least, for the Pac-12, their fan bases seem to be in complete lockstep with their decision.

It's clear that there's some people who believe everything should stay locked down and cancelled. It's clear that there's another group who want to return to normal.

Which side is right? It's hard to say one side is 100% right over the other. However, OU's positive tests over the weekend did illustrate that the players are much safer in their own bubbles on campus than without them. Lincoln Riley gave his team time off of campus and that's when positive tests showed up.

Yes, COVID-19 is everywhere. But teams following the strict guidelines, while on campus, have been really successful at avoiding the spread.

Whether they play or not, the Big Ten and the Pac-12's rash decision will cost them in years to come.

If the SEC, Big 12, and ACC complete a successful season, it'll be as if the Big Ten and Pac-12 took a year of SMU's infamous death penalty. It will damage their recruiting, put them significantly behind financially and damage their status as a power player at the head table. It'll also hurt the NCAA, who has cancelled all Division I fall championships. If the three Power Five conferences standing have a successful season, it could send a message that they don't really need the NCAA.

If the remaining conferences end up cancelling their seasons, they still come out looking better. The reason? They tried. They made a real effort.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 are letting kids come back to campus, let these teams practice and follow strict protocols, only to yank the rug out before they could even think of hitting the field.

The SEC, Big 12, and ACC are cautiously moving forward, learning from new discoveries (the new saliva test could be a huge game-changer), making calls as they gather more information each day.

Let's repeat that: advancing a stated goal. Learning from discoveries. Making conclusions based on as much information as they can gather. Isn't that what you want college kids to learn while in college?

Shouldn't we expect our collegiate leaders to adopt the same principles that we want our students to learn?

The SEC, ACC, and Big 12 have shown that they're willing to do so. Recruits see they care about sports; but students should see that they're willing to practice the basic principles that they preach. And alums, though shaking their heads at what happens sometimes on their respective alma maters, should be proud of this stand.

September 26 is five weeks away. Football-crazed fans in the South, along the Atlantic coast and in the heartland are holding their collective breaths.

The fans along the Great Lakes and Pacific coastlines? They should be sweating bullets. The risk, though calculated, is squarely on their shoulders.

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