America doesn’t need college football or any sport right now. What America needs above all else is to save lives by mitigating the novel coronavirus pandemic. With over 5 million positive cases and many well respected public health officials asserting the numbers are likely up to 10 times higher due to a lack of nationwide testing, and nearly 164,000 confirmed deaths as of yesterday (Wednesday, Aug. 12) morning, having sports is a luxury, not a priority.
On Tuesday, presidents of Big Ten schools voted to postpone the college football season for the fall as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pac-12 soon followed by also delaying the start of their season until at least 2021.
“I’ve said it from the first day that I started at the Big Ten, that the health, the safety, the wellness—both physical and mental—for our student-athletes was going to be at the top of my list,” Kevin Warren, commissioner of the Big Ten, stated to the Big Ten Network after the decision by the schools’ presidents. “The Big Ten will always put the mental and physical health and safety and wellness of our student-athletes at the center.”
The Big Ten and Pac-12 are part of the Power Five conferences, the most prominent and highest revenue-generating conference in college football. The remaining Power Five conferences—the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big 12 and Southeastern Conference—have not yet joined the Big Ten and Pac-12 in tabling the fall season.
Not all coaches agreed with the decision, including University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. “We have shown over the weeks since returning to campus that we could meet the challenge and provide our student-athletes the opportunity of a fall football season,” wrote Harbaugh in a tweet in response to the Big Ten’s determination. He went on to say, “I am extremely proud, thankful and appreciative of our team and how they have conducted and represented our program and university.”
Conversely, there are ominous examples in which coronavirus has already proved to be a vicious and relentless opponent of strict protocols. On July 25, Rutgers University, a Big Ten school, shut down all football related activities and quarantined the entire program after 10 members—players and staff—tested positive for COVID-19.
It came on the heels of another Big Ten school, Michigan State, sending its football program into quarantine on Friday, Aug. 7, after one student-athlete and one staff member tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Ohio State also shut down its voluntary offseason workouts briefly last month.