- The Mid-American Conference (MAC) has canceled all sports for Fall 2020 including football.
- They are the first FBS conference to ‘opt out’ of playing football this fall.
- The MAC is planning to move the canceled fall sports to spring 2020.
What might be a disturbing harbinger for things to come was announced on Saturday as the Mid-American Conference made public their plan to cancel all Fall 2020 sports including football. The reasoning of the decision should be obvious enough–the concern over the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it could have on students and athletes. The MAC intends to move the fall sports schedule to Spring 2021 assuming that circumstances surrounding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic allow such a move.
MAC Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher gave this explanation in a press release announcing the decision:
“The decision is grounded in the core values of the Conference that prioritize student-athlete well-being, an area the MAC has traditionally taken a leadership role. Clearly, we are charting a conservative path – and it is one that has been recommended by our medical advisory group. It is a decision that affects roughly 2,500 student-athletes who live for the moment to compete. Those opportunities and moments are fleeting, and our student-athletes have a limited window in which to showcase their talent, passion, and drive for excellence. I am heartbroken we are in this place. However, I take comfort and want to give assurance to our student-athletes, coaches, and fans that we have their best interest at heart, and we will make every effort to provide competitive opportunities in the spring.”
The sports impacted by the move are football, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey and women’s volleyball. As of yet, no decision has been made on winter sports including men’s and women’s basketball.
MAC Chair of the Council of Director of Athletics and Miami Director of Athletics David Sayler gave his thoughts:
“This was not an easy decision but one that we had to make in the best interest of our student-athletes, coaches and institutions. It is our responsibility to give our student-athletes an experience that allows them to participate at the highest level in the safest manner possible. After consulting with our Medical Advisory Panel, we felt there were just too many unknowns surrounding the pandemic for us to proceed with the fall season.”
According to the press release, the conference ‘has begun formalizing plans for the 2021 spring semester’ and will continue consulting with their Medical Advisory Panel as well as monitoring “developments surrounding the pandemic with state and local health officials, the CDC, WHO and governmental entities.”
Several reports have indicated that there was at least some external pressure from MAC teams. In particular, it has been reported that Northern Illinois and its president, Lisa Freeman, had been strongly advocating the decision announced Saturday. Reports further suggest that had MAC decided to build a schedule with the intent to compete in the fall NIU would have followed UConn’s lead and chosen to ‘opt out’ of the campaign.
There is also a strong sentiment that the MAC’s decision could quickly reverberate throughout the college football world. CBS Sports is reporting that two unnamed ‘Power Five’ conference athletic directors have characterized the decision not to play football this fall as ‘inevitable’:
A cancellation of the 2020 college football season this fall is unavoidable after the MAC canceled its season earlier in the day, two prominent Power Five athletic directors told CBS Sports on Saturday. Both reacted to the MAC becoming the first FBS conference to cancel its fall season while also referencing a lack of progress fighting the coronavirus, according to their medical professionals.
“It’s not fair what we’re doing to our coaches and student-athletes,” one long-time Power Five AD said. “The sooner we can come to a finality, the better.”
“I think it’s inevitable [the season will not be played in the fall],” said another veteran Power Five AD.
Neither AD wished to be identified due to the sensitivity of the situation.
As the calendar closes in on mid-August and the college football season draws closer you can definitely expect some more ‘dominoes to fall’ in the days and weeks to come.