It took a pandemic to show us what we should have known all along. There is a complete and utter lack of leadership in college athletics.

I’ve railed ad nauseam on the NCAA and its impotent ruler, Mark Emmert. They are basically useless, and quite frankly powerless, when it comes to college football. They don’t control the conferences and they have nothing to do with the playoffs. Consequently, the Power Five conferences run roughshod with no one in charge.

If you are my age, you remember the smaller, more manageable, and much more regionalized conferences that used to exist. The ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Pac 8, Big 8, and SWC. There could have been an Eastern conference, oh let’s call it The Big East, had Joe Paterno gotten his wish. Who wants to see a conference dominated by one team, right Clemson? Anyway, these conferences made sense. They made travel easier, and allowed for far more and far better intersectional games.

Then the money grabs began, and universities scrambled for their seat at the table in one of these new mega conferences that formed. It is why a team like West Virginia has to traverse the country just to play its conference games in the Big 12.

There was little common sense, and far less planning involved. It was simply about the money. Ah, allow that statement to propel us forward to present day. There is a pandemic. There is no leadership, common sense and planning has been severely lacking, and sprinkle in a grand loss of money. Shake, stir, and you have a cocktail full of trouble.

What’s the deal with the Big Ten and Pac-12?

Last week, as expected, the Big Ten and Pac-12 pulled the plug on college football. At least for the fall. Spring football will now actively be looked at, like it should have been all along. Again, people in leadership positions such as Sandy Barbour kept referring to it as a “last resort”. Yet, planning for fall was somewhere between lacking and nonexistent. Thus, we have reached last resort.

The Pac-12 and Big Ten have been attached at the hip for a long time, with the Rose Bowl being their biggest bond. The decision that was reached last week should have surprised no one.

It may not have surprised people, but it sure did irritate them. Players and coaches took to social media, claiming it is safer at the football facilities than at home. There would still, however,  have to be some personal accountability. They can’t be at the facility all the time. And let’s not forget, we don’t know whether a contact sport like football increases the chances of a spread of COVID-19. Lastly, no guarantees for increased testing could be made. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott freely admitted as much. Most of these schools did want players to sign waivers, you know, to alleviate liability. Lack of leadership. Lack of planning.

Justin Fields started a petition attempting to influence the Big Ten conference to reverse their decision. The petition has 80,000 signatures. Most players signing the petition did so because they think it is safe and it should be their decision to risk playing.

Some on the petition, like Benjamin St. Juste of Minnesota, admitted they thought it was a rational decision to cancel the season. St. Juste said, “We just have to go with what they say at this point because time was working against us and the plan was not well structured.” See, even the participants realize there was no planning and no leadership.

The parents of the players realize it, too, and want answers and explanations. They seem overwhelmingly in favor of playing football this fall. Mainly, they are confused. Why announce the dates for each team’s schedule and start fall camp, to only cancel shortly thereafter. It made no sense. It was almost like their was no plan and no leadership.

ACC, SEC, and Big 12 say let’s go…for now

The other three Power Five conferences are moving forward with the fall season. They claim to be looking at the same medical data as the other two conferences. Maybe they will make it through the season unscathed, but that seems unlikely. The leadership in these conference is no better.

Actually that may not be entirely true. These three conferences, if my theory is correct, were at least smart enough to play a better optics game. Instead of announcing a schedule then canceling almost immediately, like the PAC-12 and Big Ten, they will take this down the road another week or two before joining the PAC-12 and Big Ten on the sidelines.

There is no end game for these three conferences. If I trusted their leadership more, I would assume they would figure this out. Maybe they are hoping the Big Ten and PAC-12 will reverse their decisions. After all that is what the planning has been based on so far. Hope. Short of that misguided hope, there would be no meaningful championship at season’s end. Players also may find playing without fans feels, well, meaningless. The whole thing would feel like an exhibition. Is that what leadership planned for?

This almost has a Civil War feel to it. You have the South, comprised of most of the ACC, SEC, and Big 12. On the other side you have the North, comprised of the Big Ten and PAC-12. The point is our country has always had different thinking and different ways of doing things. Usually leadership guides us through troubling times. During this pandemic, not so much. At the highest levels of government we’ve had failed leadership, and at the highest levels of college football they have followed suit. No plan. No leadership.

I happen to think the Big Ten and PAC-12 is making the correct decision. Of course I could walk down the street, and the first five people I encounter would disagree. This virus has just been such an unknown. It is, after all, a novel virus. The data, at this time, from the medical community threw up a lot of red flags.

The biggest flag is the unknown of Myocarditis, a heart complication being dealt with by as many as  ten Big Ten players. That, rightfully so, caused some real panic among decision makers in those two conferences. USC AD, Mike Bohn, said, “In my view, no reasonable-minded individual could have listened to the facts presented by our medical experts and believed that we had any other option at this time.” Yet, the ACC, SEC, and Big 12 did not. Did they really have the same data? Are they not reasonable? Where is the transparency with the data points? No plan. No leadership.

The best quote I saw came from Boris Lushniak, a member of the Big Ten COVID-19 advisory committee. Lushniak stated, “They(ACC, SEC, Big 12) think they can deal with it. Do they have the answer to the unknowns? They really don’t, which means it’s on the spectrum of risk-taking behavior. I can’t tell people, ‘You are doing the wrong thing.’ What I can tell people is, ‘You’re doing a risky thing.’” That’s it in a nutshell. What is the risk? What is the reward?

The reason we are in this predicament of split decisions is failed planning and failed leadership.

Want one more example?

Late last week the idiot running the NCAA said they would look at bubble models for championships the rest of the year. The idiot running the PAC-12 said bubbles are impossible in college athletics.

Clearly too many idiots in leadership positions that have few leadership skills and lack planning and preparation.

Enjoy those fall Saturdays at the wine tasting, farmers’ market, and pumpkin patches. Hold back the tears and tell them Mr. Emmert sent you.

Two Cent Takes

College Football

~Before you completely rule out spring football remember that Alabama played 30 games in 16 months, with a full spring schedule in between a couple years ago. It’s not ideal, but doable.

~Here is Purdue coach Jeff Brohm‘s solution for spring football.

~With this whole fiasco of play or no play, we sometimes forget the non Power Five schools. Here is a tweet from Yahoo’s Pete Thamel after speaking with one AD.

NHL

~One day after speaking these words at a press conference, Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask opted out of the NHL bubble.

Ive said it a million times, and now it has been confirmed by Rask. You can’t stop playing for five months then come back and say these are the playoffs to go with the season that ended five months ago. For hockey fans I’m glad they are playing. Heck, I enjoyed watching the humiliating four Pens games, but this bubble is contrived and silly.

~Speaking of the Pens, GM JI’m Rutherford fired three assistant coaches. They included Mark Recchi and Sergei Gonchar, two player favorites. Maybe the GM should look in the mirror. The core is getting older, and he has done nothing to surround them with some youth and speed.

~The Flyers got smacked around by the Canadiens in game two. The Canadiens winning another series would be so 2020. Gritty doesn’t agree.

A scintillating 1-0 win by the Flyers last night may have soothed Gritty a bit.


Baseball

~Speaking of meltdowns in Philadelphia, check out our buddy Ricky Botallico’s reaction to the sweep at the hands of Baltimore.

Ricky is now officially my favorite guy in Philly. The fact is, as I said a week ago, the Phillies are an average baseball team. One positive is they were smart enough to bring up their best prospect Alec Bohm. If ever there was a season to check out some prospects at the MLB level, this would be the year.

~The Pirates have stemmed the tide of losing a bit, playing .500 ball since August 10. The pitching only gave up 14 runs all week, it’s best stretch of the season. Sure they had 5 games postponed, but those are still facts.

The Pirates problem is twofold. One, they are kicking the tires on some players who have historically not been very good to see if they are better than the other players who aren’t very good. Second, the players who the club was banking on being the core group have been total duds so far. Josh Bell, Bryan Reynolds, and Kevin Newman are off to lackluster seasons to put it mildly.

~Cincinnati became the third team to have a positive COVID-19 test, requiring cancellation of games. All in all that isn’t as bad as it could be, but it sure puts teams in a jam for makeups. There are a lot of 7 inning double headers in our future.

NFL

~At age 36, Alex Smith will take the field for Washington. He nearly lost his life due to complications from a broken tibia. Joe Theisman even said it was a worse injury than his own horrific broken leg. It’s hard to get a competitor off the field, but after that injury, and at his age, and with a family waiting for him at home, it’s hard to figure why Smith wants to risk another injury.

~Hard Knocks is in LA this year to visit the Chargers and Rams. My first impression is that Anthony Lynn is quite impressive, while Sean McVay is less than impressive. In reality, both have a lot to prove. Lynn will have an uphill climb with Tyrod Taylor under center. McVay, on the other hand, has to prove the Rams weren’t a one hit wonder.

~Mike Tomlin made a great observation the other day when he said there won’t be any “gamers” this year. With no preseason games and limited contact in camp, it will be next to impossible for young players to catch they eye of coaches. We all hate preseason football except for guys trying to make an NFL roster. As Tomlin said, “They better be good practice players.”

A Penny For My Final Thought…

I took my son and his friends to Hersheypark this weekend. Just like when we were at the Jersey Shore a couple weeks ago, I felt perfectly safe. Masks and distancing were strictly enforced, and I do mean strictly. If a mask wasn’t worn properly, a park staffer would kindly tell you to pull it up.

It reminded me, once again, that you can do the things you want to if you are willing to follow the rules. I firmly believe that the reason we aren’t going to see college football, or the threat of not seeing football, is because far too many people still refuse to follow the science.

This is all a hoax. This is a political stunt. Masks are less healthy because you aren’t breathing fresh air. Or just the good old standard masks don’t work. People go mask free at parties, picnics, and at the mall. Some schools that have started back up are making masks optional. All of those places are becoming super spreaders for the virus. The numbers continue to rise.

Yet, I’ve been to the beach where it was flat out a requirement. It was safe. Few cases are being traced back to the Jersey Shore. We still had a lot of fun, even with masks on.

Now I’ve been to Hersheypark where it was even more strictly enforced. Few, if any cases, have been traced back to the park. We still had a bunch of fun, even with masks on.

The restrictions weren’t a big deal. Life would be far closer back to normal if people would be willing to accept the safety requirements. The governors of both New Jersey and Pennsylvania have been ultra cautious. They have taken tons of heat from their states’ citizens. Yet the facts say they have done a good job of controlling the virus, especially since both states had a high number of cases early on.

On a lighter note, sports came into play at Hersheypark. Shooting baskets to win team basketballs to the quick shot basketball game in the arcade kept sports on the mind. And then there was the football style arcade game that spits out player cards worth bonus points. I managed to get this card.

A #CrazyAB card has to be a sign. Probably a sign of the apocalypse, but a sign nonetheless.

Even at an amusement park sports are all around us. You could enjoy the park and the sports if you would just stop fighting the safety requirements.

#CrazyAB may be a hoax, but the virus is not. Mask up and go enjoy something you normally would, or don’t and continue whining and complaining about your kid not getting to play sports.

Just my two cents…