LINCOLN — The college football season — at least for fall 2020 — teetered on the brink of ending as multiple national news outlets, citing anonymous sources, reported that Big Ten presidents were meeting Sunday night to discuss postponing all fall sports until at least 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
ESPN reported that the commissioners of the Power Five conferences — the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC — met Sunday to discuss the possibility of sports this fall, just days after the Big Ten schedule and additional SEC opponents were announced. Sports Illustrated, also citing anonymous sources, reported that the Big Ten presidents are moving toward postponement, with an eye on convincing other Power Five leagues to join them in a joint announcement.
By Sunday night, the same national outlets, citing anonymous sources, said no final decision had been made by the league presidents.
Reached by text, Husker Athletic Director Bill Moos said there may be “more to discuss” Monday after the Big Ten athletic directors, as they have more than 100 times this summer, have a conference call.
“Should know more by then,” he said.
World-Herald requests for comment from two key decision-makers at Nebraska — NU President Ted Carter and UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green — were not immediately answered Sunday evening by the university’s communications office. Nebraska coach Scott Frost is scheduled to talk to the press at 1:30 p.m. Monday.
Reported talks to end the season accelerated quickly after the Mid-American Conference announced the postponement of its season on Saturday. Already, several FCS leagues had announced their decision to move seasons to the spring. Also on Saturday, the Big Ten voted to keep teams in helmets-only practices until further notice. Most teams were scheduled to move to padded practices Monday or Tuesday.
As news poured in Sunday, a group of college football players on social media, led by Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, lobbied the leaders of the sport to let the 2020 football season happen using the hashtag #WeWantToPlay, which, by Sunday night, was trending on Twitter.
Lawrence suggested that players might be more likely to contract COVID-19 outside the structure of a daily football regimen.
“Players will be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on families if they were to contract COVID-19,” he said. “… Football is a safe haven for so many people. We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football.”
Lawrence said having a season also incentivizes players to stay as safe as possible, echoing comments made by Nebraska football coach Scott Frost in June.
“Whether our kids are playing football games or not, or whether our kids are practicing football or not, they’re at just as high risk — or even a higher risk — of getting it without that structure,” Frost said. "That’s another reason we allowed kids to come back — because of the structure and things to do.”
Last week, after the Big Ten released its schedule and testing protocols — and after two Big Ten players, purporting to represent thousands of league athletes, called for even more stringent testing regimens — a group of Nebraska football players also took to Twitter calling for a season.
“Nebraska has done a great job of doing things the right way and has protected us players,” quarterback Adrian Martinez said. “We’ll find a way to play here!”
Sunday night, NU strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval tweeted "#LetsPlayFootball,” a sentiment retweeted by some Husker football players.
Late Sunday night, players who had been using the #WeWantToPlay hashtag began a new social media campaign organized by the National College Players Association, the group behind the Pac-12 United movement from the previous weekend. Unlike that movement, this new movement called for the establishment of a college players union, a step the NCPA tried and failed to enact in 2014, along with safety protocols and eligibility protections.
If the news keeps trending in the same direction, the Big Ten will stop a season before it gets close to starting.