Greeson: Of course the SEC continues to win during college football's fight against the coronavirus

Jay Greeson cropped

Not sure many of us are surprised, but the Big Ten and the Pac-12 made Tuesday the worst day in college football history – and potentially the last day of college football as we knew it.

The Big Ten and the Pac-12 announced that they will aim for a spring football season, which is hard to envision in almost any circumstance.

I'm tired of using this phrase, but it seems appropriate when discussing this: There are no right answers, there are only the best bad options because the risks and the unknown are real and changing.

But as bad as the pandemic is - and it's historically bad - the lack of bold leadership in so many areas makes it worse.

The hypocrisy of the Big Ten - which is allowing teams to practice and still plans on having on-campus learning - is staggering. If football players - who can isolate way more than regular students - are deemed to be at risk, then how is The Ohio State going to welcome back 40,000-plus students in dorms and such?

This brings us back to the motivation for canceling the season. Was it because of possible litigation concerns? Was it because some numbers cruncher figured out that even with the monster TV deals of the Big Ten, that playing without fans was going to be a money-losing proposition? Or was it the down-the-road realization that actually listening to the players is the first step toward players having way more control in the process?

But quotes about players' safety - after they have been quarantined and done everything asked of them - ring hollow if students are coming back. Because I completely agree with what Alabama Coach Nick Saban had to say: Players, he observed, are not going to catch the coronavirus "on the football field. They're going to catch it on campus."

Speaking of Saban, man, it's tough to see SEC leaders or ACC leaders not seriously asking themselves if they can handle the optics of the Big Ten and the Pac-12 pulling the plug and those leagues pushing forward. And how those news conferences and Zoom meetings will turn out when an outbreak happens or, goodness forbid, a player or coach dies.

Tuesday's decisions by the Big Ten and the Pac-12 were less about player safety than college presidents' protecting their reputations and avoiding lawsuits.

If the Big Ten is concerned about player safety, well, the notion of a spring-fall double dip in 2021 will result in way more injuries than playing this fall amid the threat of coronavirus.

These decisions were made to protect the schools and their endowments way more than to protect the players, who overwhelming have said they want to play.

How can anyone explain it's unsafe to play but it's safe to practice? How can anyone explain that traveling to Ann Arbor is more dangerous for a secluded college football player at The Ohio State than opening up the campus to students from all over the country and the world?

I heard several talking heads praise the Big Ten for being strong. Say what? That's poppycock.

Canceling is not the strong decision. It's the easy one. And yes, the SEC and the ACC may have to make it, too, but their commitment to patience and making every effort to give it a go should be commended.

Trying to make it work for the players takes guts in the age of finger-pointing and hindsight Twitter second-guessers.

We are fighting the rampant fear of this virus every bit as much as we are fighting the virus itself.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

photo Jay Greeson