My Two Cents: Once Again, No One Listening to College Football Players

Presidents and school chancellors appear to be on the verge of blowing up the fall college football season, and they're doing it without even talking to the guys who play the games.
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — There is one constant, and one truth, that spans through every business from A to Z. From accountants to zookeepers and all jobs in between, there is often a similar stream of thought early on Monday mornings.

This week is going to suck.

Guaranteed.

When you're a journalist covering college sports, the weekend's troubling events have set the stage for a week from hell. The powers that be are ready to pull the plug on the college football season, blow it up completely and — as much as I hate to say it — change the landscape of college sports forever.

They're changing lives, too.

It's been a bad weekend. When Connecticut cancels football for the fall, you understand it because the Huskies were the odd man out in conference realignment and they didn't really have anyone to play once all the major leagues re-did their schedules with internal foes only.

But it gets worse when the Mid-American Conference bails on a fall season. They were the first of the 10 FBS conferences to say no to football in the fall, and they aren't guaranteeing football in the spring, either. What they've done, though, is throw down the gauntlet. They are telling every other league that it's not safe to play, and you're idiots if you do.

Other conferences are listening. There were reports all weekend that the Pac-12 is ready to blow up the fall. They would be the first Power 5 conference to do. And close to home, the Big Ten might not be far behind.

On Saturday, while Indiana was out practicing in pads for the first time, the Big Ten put a pause to the practice schedule. The 14 Big Ten presidents said no to padded practices, and told — didn't ask, but told — its member schools that practices can continue now only in shorts and helmets.

More phone calls followed over the weekend and it's very likely that these presidents — all very smart people — will blow up the season any minute now.

And they would be wrong for doing it.

Wrong, mostly because there are two groups that these Big Ten presidents didn't even consult with before making their decisions on Saturday. And they likely won't consult with them on Monday before turning off the football faucet.

They haven't talked to the players, whose voices — once again, amazingly — are not being listened to. How many times does this have to happen?

They also aren't even listening to the medical experts on their own campuses. Let's start there, and we'll get back to the players in a minute.

Since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit in a big way, the Big Ten has gathered the finest medical minds on their campuses to put plans in places that kept student-athletes safe and healthy. They've done that, and in April created the Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases, and Indiana's Dr. Larry Rink is a big part of that. They have specific designs to stay socially distant when they can, to be tested regularly and, most importantly, to react quickly if someone does test positive.

These medical experts know what they're doing, and at Indiana, both athletic director Scott Dolson and football coach Tom Allen have said repeatedly that ALL DECISIONS on sports have been made only with medical staff approval. They are calling the shots, as they should be.

For nearly four months, Rink and other medical experts in Bloomington have devised plans for guiding athletes back to campus for voluntary workouts. They've done the testing, watched everything that goes on closely, and made sure that the return to football practice could go on without incident.

Sure, there have been positive tests, and that's never good. But the reaction has been swift, and the medical care for those who are sick has been off the charts. Even Indiana freshman Brady Feeney, who was sicker than anyone, is now back with the team and has tweeted that "a season needs to happen.''

The conference presidents hit pause and likely will hit stop as soon as Monday. They are doing that WITHOUT a complete consultation from their own medical experts.

My gut tells me that Rink and his counterparts wouldn't feel the same way if they were asked to vote on having a season. They aren't available to the media, of course, but they wouldn't have all these plans in place — and they wouldn't have let players back on the field — if they didn't think a season could happen safely.

They have, without question, the players' safety in mind. So do the presidents, of course, but at least the medical staff had a plan.

Where the presidents are also going wrong is by — once again — not listening to the players. Sure, some athletes, especially those with certain NFL futures, have opted out of this season, but an overwhelming number of college football players throughout the country want to play this fall.

When all this bad news surfaced over the weekend, players and parents of some of college's biggest stars went to social media. They did that because that's the ONLY PLACE where their voices can be heard. 

Presidents don't talk to players — but they should. Before that Big Ten presidents meeting on Saturday, Indiana president Michael A. McRobbie should have talked to a dozen leaders on IU's football team, to hear out what they have to say. That didn't happen.

And that is the problem. It always is. College football players have NO VOICE in what goes on in college football. 

Here's what the two biggest voices in college football — quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence of Clemson and Justin Fields of Ohio State — had to say.

Ohio State's Justin Fields: #WeWantToPlay

And these threads were common everywhere. Players want to play. They want safety measures in place, but they also like what they see so far in the plans. Lawrence said it best, too. Players are much safer in a controlled football environment that many of them would be back at home. 

Players much prefer to comforts of the team environment. They want to be around their coaches, their teammates, their medical staff.

And mostly — they want to play. That #WeWantToPlay hashtag went viral Sunday, with tweets by the thousands. Those voices, they matter. And it's not even about the money to them, at least not right now. They just want to play.

And it's a shame that no one is listening. 

So Monday will begin today with all sorts of concern. For the moment, as the sun rises, we are 24 days away from football.

And when the sun sets? I'm guessing we won't have any college football this fall.

And why is that? Because the people who make the decisions really don't care what the kids who play the game have to say.

#WeWantToPlay is real. And, per usual, it won't mean anything to the powers that be. And that's so sad.