Oct 13, 2018; Ames, IA, USA; Students and fans rush the field after the Iowa State Cyclones defeat the West Virginia Mountaineers at Jack Trice Stadium. Iowa State beat West Virginia 30-14. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Last year, we celebrated the 150th birthday of college football.
In those 150 years, there has only been one year that did not feature a regular season — 1871. That’s right, it has been 149 years since the last time we did not play a college football regular season and it would have been the third season ever.
Well, the 151st iteration of college football appears to be on the brink of joining it.
Leaders in the Big Ten have canceled their season as of 2 p.m. on Tuesday and the Pac-12 has reportedly decided to do the same. Meanwhile, the SEC and ACC seem to have turned heel from where they were over the weekend and still intend to play — or at least try.
As for the Big 12, well, that’s anybody’s guess at this point.
College football’s last gasp for air during the COVID-19 pandemic and attempting to play a college football season is so stereotypically college football. Just like college football is so stereotypically American.
There really is not a sport that defines America better than college football.
The differences in people, culture and topography from place-to-place and sea-to-sea are part of what makes our country what it is. Those are the same things that make college football what it is.
You see, people in Baton Rouge, La. do college football differently than they do in Madison, Wis. They do it differently in Tallahassee, Fla. than they do in Austin, Texas.
Hell, we do it differently in Ames, Iowa than they do in Iowa City, Iowa.
That’s what makes it so special.
We all have our own traditions, our own rituals, our own cheers, our own rivals and our own heroes — and the fact that they are uniquely ours is what makes us love them as much as we do.
Without those things, college football is just another corporatized event.
But, this is college football and this is America.
We’re all different here.
Those differences are what make this sport great, but over the last few days, those differences are what have made this sport so frustrating.
The complete inability to come to agreements and the inability to walk in lockstep together in creating plans has become oh so very tiresome — and I’m not just talking about the different conferences. This is happening within individual leagues.
Take the Big Ten, for instance, Dan Patrick reported yesterday morning that the league’s presidents had voted (apparently informally, according to some reports) to cancel the league’s season by a margin of 12-2. The two dissenting opinions came from Nebraska and Iowa, both of which made it clear on Monday they want to play football, and in Nebraska’s case made it blatantly clear to the point of making (more or less empty) threats to find a way to play football no matter what it takes.
You see, this is college football — and we’re all different here.
In the meantime, you saw coaches pushing back against their administrators in an attempt to fight for their players’ ability to play a season. You saw players pushing back against a system that has never given them a place at the meeting table.
You saw media members fighting with media members. You saw fans fighting with media members and each other.
You saw politicians fighting with… well… everybody.
Everybody wants something different. They all want something that will serve their own or their school’s best interests and very little discussion of what is the best thing for college football as a whole.
Because, that’s the thing, this is college football, and we’re all different here.
The reality is this has become what more or less best equates to a war. It is a war fought on Zoom calls, in board rooms, on social media and in national columns citing unnamed high-ranking Power 5 sources.
At this point, we can only wish it was a war being fought on the gridiron.
The biggest problem with this war is who the hell does anybody truly know they can trust? Can the administrators really trust the people inside those meetings with them? Can the coaches trust the administrators making decisions? Can the players trust the people who have always been telling them how things will work if they want to play the game they love?
Can media members trust sources when every source says something different? Can fans trust media members? Can any of us trust politicians?
Wait, don’t answer that last one.
Everybody is looking to save their own ass and looking for someone or something else to blame in making their decisions. There are very few examples of individual conferences giving cohesive messages. Hell, there are only a few examples of individual schools giving cohesive messages from top-to-bottom.
The war over college football has begun — and nobody knows who the freaking enemy is.
It should be the virus that has killed more than 160,000 American citizens, but five months into the COVID-19 pandemic I think it has become blatantly clear we will not be able to stand together to fight that battle.
Our country is so unbelievably divided and who knows what it will take to fix that.
Outside of the general rivalry of sport, it felt like college football was something that had avoided that divisiveness. College football has been something that has brought us together for 150 years. State-to-state from sea to shining sea.
But, college football is the most American sport after all, and in America, we’re divided and different.
This is college football, and we’re all different here.
I don’t know what the right answer is. I hope they play football. The kids want to play football and the coaches seem to want to coach football.
As it stands now, those are the only things I know for certain, which probably should not surprise me as much as it does.
The unfortunate part is those two entities, the players and coaches, have very little say in what eventually will take place and whether or not we will kick off the season next month as scheduled. Those decisions are left to administrators who spent the last five months seemingly coming up with absolutely zero back-up plan, which has put us into what feels like a constant state of college football emergency.
None of those people in those rooms can seem to agree on anything. They can’t agree on anything with the people sitting in other rooms on the other side of the country.
It feels like it is just every man for himself at this point.
Because, you see, this is college football.
And we’re all different here.