This story was updated Monday, August 10, 2020, at 10 p.m. with more information.
College football players are way more unified than college administrators right now when it comes to staging a 2020 season.
Players from Power Five conferences have coalesced on social media through a "We are united. We want to play" message that includes requests for health and eligibility securities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Tennessee players are voicing their desire to play this season, which for the Southeastern Conference is scheduled to start Sept. 26 and will have a league-only schedule of 10 games.
"Let us play! We want to play!" Volunteers senior defensive lineman Darel Middleton posted on Twitter. "I don't care if we have to play a top-10 team every week."
Said sophomore linebacker Henry To'o To'o: "Worked way too hard for this. We want to play."
Tennessee senior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano simply tweeted, "#WeWantToPlay," a phrase that was used by so many athletes and college football supporters that it has been trending nationally on Twitter.
Yet Monday was incredibly chaotic on the football versus coronavirus front, with the Detroit Free Press reporting the Big Ten had voted to postpone the season and with Fox Sports Radio reporting the postponement had transpired by a 12-2 vote with Iowa and Nebraska as the dissenters. Yahoo Sports then received word from the Big Ten that "no vote has been held by presidents and chancellors."
Once the unconfirmed news of a Big Ten shutdown started circulating, the league's most recognized coaches quickly bristled. Ryan Day questioned postponing football now with all the flexibility built into the Big Ten schedule, which has Day's Buckeyes opening Sept. 3 against Illinois.
Michigan's Jim Harbaugh pointed out that only two Wolverines players have tested positive in the past 417 tests administered, while Nebraska's Scott Frost went so far as to say his Cornhuskers would be playing this season whether in the Big Ten or not.
"People need to understand the carnage and aftermath of what college athletics looks like if we don't play," Frost told reporters. "This isn't as simple as canceling a little league game and playing the next Saturday. If we don't play football, we're not going to be able to pay for anything until we start making money again."
One Ohio State player, linebacker Teradja Mitchell, asked on Twitter if there was a way he could play this season in the SEC.
While the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences are viewed as the least likely to stage a season, the SEC and the Atlantic Coast Conference appear to be the most driven to play, with the Big 12 somewhere in between. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey responded to the Big Ten's calamity by posting on Twitter that the best advice he has received since the coronavirus outbreak is to be patient.
"We know concerns remain," Sankey said. "We have never had a football season in a COVID-19 environment. Can we play? I don't know. We haven't stopped trying. We support, educate and care for student-athletes every day and will continue to do so every day."
LSU athletic director Scott Woodward said student-athletes deserve the opportunity to play in the safest environments possible, while Tennessee chancellor Donde Plowman visited with Vols players on Monday and said she received a resounding "Yes" when she asked if they wanted to play.
Among Group of Five conferences, the Mid-American and Mountain West are postponing football, while the Sun Belt and Conference USA desire to play. C-USA will move on without Old Dominion, which has postponed all fall sports.
The dramatic push by Power Five players to compete was accompanied by a unified desire for the following measures to be implemented:
— Establish universal mandated health and safety procedures and protocols to protect college athletes against COVID-19 among all conferences throughout the NCAA.
— Give players the opportunity to opt out, and respect their decision.
— Guarantee eligibility whether a player chooses to play this season or not.
— Use our voices to establish open communication and trust between players and officials.
— Ultimately create a College Football Players Association that would be representative of the players of all Power Five conferences.
College football's most recognized player, Clemson junior quarterback Trevor Lawrence, has been very outspoken on social media about the importance of keeping football teams together in the weeks and months ahead and that doing away with the fall season could be disastrous.
"Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract COVID-19," Lawrence posted on Twitter.
The most powerful Twitter message recently may have come Sunday from Florida running back Lorenzo Lingard, a former five-star prospect from Orange City, Florida, who began his career with the Miami Hurricanes before transferring to Gainesville in January.
"I want to play, even if we've got to be locked in," Lingard posted. "There is nothing at home for me."
Bowers picks Georgia
Georgia picked up its 12th commitment for the 2021 signing class Monday, receiving a nonbinding pledge from Brock Bowers, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound tight end from Napa, California. Bowers, who took visits to Notre Dame, Penn State and Michigan in early March before the coronavirus outbreak, is rated by 247Sports.com as the nation's No. 3 tight end and the No. 92 prospect overall.
Of Georgia's 12 commitments, seven are ranked among the top 150 nationally.