Two men with Minnesota connections spoke on the state of college football on Tuesday.
Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren, the former Vikings executive, announced the postponement of the conference’s football season until the spring.
Former Gophers football coach Lou Holtz said that college football players should be allowed to play because, “When they stormed Normandy, they knew there were going to be casualties.”
As college football goes on hiatus, it’s not hard to spot the adults in the meeting rooms.
Tuesday, University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel and athletic director Mark Coyle conducted a virtual news conference. Gabel repeatedly said “Safety first,” and both cited the obvious problems of conducting fall sports with hundreds of athletes and support staffers on a campus.
It’s also not hard to spot the eternally childish. Most of them are highly paid college football coaches.
Holtz produced the kind of pep talk that can work only on unpaid 21-year-olds dependent on their coach for playing time who are without legal representation within the confines of a locker room.
He wants a bunch of kids to risk their health so he can be entertained. What’s sad is that he represents too many of his peers — including Nick Saban, Scott Frost and Dabo Swinney — who think that players exist to enrich them.
Warren, Gabel and the Big Ten didn’t face a difficult decision, just an expensive one. Minnesota and the Big Ten and college football in general will lose, cumulatively, hundreds of millions of dollars.
Don’t get mad at those charged with making the only rational decision available to them.
Get mad at those who killed college football: Americans who haven’t been willing to make the grand sacrifice of wearing masks or socially distancing during a pandemic.
Sadly, there appears to be a massive overlap in fans screaming that they need their college football and those whose behavior killed the fall schedule.
Meanwhile, millionaire college football coaches continue to embarrass themselves. Saban said that players would be safer at the football complex at Alabama than conducting their normal lives, which is at best a wild guess, and probably a bad one.
Coyle said that he hasn’t even heard talk of running a football program in a bubble. He didn’t say, “Because that would be crazy,” but you could guess that’s what he was thinking.
College football might yet remain in the news in the coming months. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence at once promoted the hashtag #WeWantToPlay and the notion that college football players should form a players association.
The response of his coach, Swinney: “I think it would be great to have a players association, that’s different from a union, I’ll say that.”
No, it’s not. Swinney might be good with X’s and O’s, but letters used in combinations seem to give him fits.
Lawrence has it right: College football players should take this opportunity to organize, to demand better treatment and decent pay. Luckily for him, he can form a union without his coach having a clue.
As so many college football figures have embarrassed themselves, here in Minnesota we have been blessed with rationality.
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck, whose strength appears to be his relationships with his players, hasn’t earned any comparisons to Dabo, and his only public comments of late have been to support the decision of star receiver Rashod Bateman to skip the season and prepare for the NFL draft — a decision that now seems even more logical.
Gabel and Coyle, like Warren, distinguished themselves from the likes of Nebraska coach Scott Frost, who is threatening to play football this fall without the Big Ten.
There are a lot of dumb people on the sidelines in college football, and there are a lot of dumb people in America whose irresponsibility caused the postponement of college football.
Be grateful for voices of reason and caution. Be grateful for Warren, Gabel and Coyle. And be wary of anyone, such as Swinney, who is determined to put young athletes at risk for his own enrichment.