Let Us Play

Football players nationwide are begging for their season to go on.

For college sports fans, the cancellation of March Madness was simultaneously unprecedented and devastating. For those holding out hope for a college football season, the past months have not been easy. By July 8, the Ivy League postponed all fall sports and doom rang throughout the college football fanbase. A succession of both postponements and cancellations ensued and since, athletic directors, coaches, conference directors and public health professionals have been making tough decisions nationwide. All these decisions have been contingent on one assumed fact: that the players would play. 

Football student athletes have held an overwhelming majority asking to play. On Aug. 11, both the Big-10 and Pac-12 announced that their football seasons would be postponed until 2021. With two of the Power Five conferences making the decision to postpone the season, smaller conferences like the North East Conference began to wonder if their seasons were next. 

While things look different than players imagined they would, they continue to fight for whatever season they might be able to maintain. The SEC and ACC have both refrained from postponing or cancelling their seasons. College football standout, Trevor Lawrence, from Clemson, took to Twitter to broadcast his feelings regarding playing this fall. Lawrence stated, “People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play. 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 COVID-19.” Returning home after playing could put families at higher risk and for low-income families medical bills from COVID-19 could be decimating. Not to mention the fact that due to budget cuts, many players face losing stipend money which many send home in order to help support their families. 

As is the case with so many athletes, the bond the men on these teams share surpasses selfish motivations that might be easier to fall into when they are home. Lawrence continued, “Having a season also incentivizes players being safe and taking all of the right precautions to try to avoid contracting COVID because the season/teammates’ safety is on the line. Without the season, as we’ve seen already, people will not social distance or wear masks and take the proper precautions.” In the eyes of the players, they have nothing left to lose. Following the rules would not bring their season back and with no reasonable end in sight, it is easy to become discouraged in discipline. 

A year ago, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was beginning to make headlines. Had Burrow been facing down COVID-19 like the players this year, his life would probably look radically different than attending practice in the Bengal’s bubble. Players who have put in relentless work in the off-season now face the reality of their draft stock either significantly diminishing or disappearing altogether. The cancellation of football season puts players in potentially compromising situations. For those with families depending on them, an extra year in college could be difficult. 

Players and coaches alike have begun to form coalitions supporting their popular opinion to play this season. These movements have been comforting to college football junkies and athletes alike. It is hardly a secret that football is the king of the NCAA and if football plays, more sports are likely to follow in its wake. The schools who have opted to play, ignoring their conference’s decision to postpone play, have continued to practice in their bubble so that they are in a position to play when the green light signals. 

It has been over 100 years since college football has not been played. A combination of the Spanish Flu and World War I brought the beloved sport to a grinding halt. COVID-19 now threatens to do the same. While players and coaches are doing their best to make sure a 2020 season happens, the reality of the world may far override desperate attempts to salvage the football season. For now, though, the season remains. Sports have served as a beacon of hope in America. Through the six months of quarantine, the lack of live sports has been felt harshly, but as the sports season rapidly approaches, hope remains that a kickoff will come.