While the Big Ten and Pac-12 bailed yesterday, the Big 12 announced it’s still hanging in there.
That leaves three of the P5 hoping to play ball in 2020. The question for the moment is whether the decision is on, for want of a better phrase, life support.
Before their presidents OK’ed to continue the season, Big 12 athletic directors got briefed for 90 minutes by a medical panel, which led to vigorous debate. Some thought it too unsafe. Others thought it safe enough. It was a back-and-forth between administrators, all the while with the season somewhat on the line. The decision among Big 12 leaders came down to ramifications of not playing a season (player mental health, structure, etc.) vs. uncertain risks of playing a season.
They settled on the former. According to league sources, the conference also decided to add an extra layer to their COVID-19 protocols, requiring more intensive, mandatory heart imaging tests—a decision rooted in virus-related cardiac issues.
But let’s not celebrate too much so quickly. Maybe this is only delaying the inevitable. After all, most medical experts are expecting August and early September to be some of the highest hurdles yet. Thousands of students will return to campus while teams begin, for the first time, colliding with one another during fall camp. It’s a recipe for viral outbreaks, which are ingredients for more interruptions and delays. You can only kick the can so far down the road before you run out of road.
“This doesn’t mean we’re going to play,” a Big 12 source told SI on Tuesday night. “Students are coming back to campus…”
That echoes something Greg Sankey said.
The return of the general student population and the immersion of football players into that mix is obviously the wild card now. Sadly, what this sounds like is a continuation of the hope for the best strategy that hasn’t actually served college football too well up until now. But when it’s all you’ve got, all we can do is hope along with them.