President Donald Trump and several Republican congressmen are pushing universities to save the college football season as the coronavirus dampens hopes for the sport this fall.
“Play College Football!” the president tweeted Monday afternoon, earning tens of thousands of “likes” in a matter of minutes.
“The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled,” Trump also tweeted, hours after prominent athletes began a social media campaign calling for universal health and safety protocols, as well as the creation of a college football players association to respond to the pandemic.
Sens. Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Marco Rubio of Florida, along with Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, are also pressing for the show to go on, while a growing number of conferences, schools and two of the NCAA’s three divisions have already upended their seasons or canceled competitions.
“This is a moment for leadership,” Sasse wrote in a letter to the Big Ten Conference, one of college sports’ five wealthiest and most powerful institutions, as the the Detroit Free Press reported that conference officials voted to cancel this year’s contests. “These young men need a season. Please don’t cancel college football.”
The Big Ten’s reported decision comes days after the conference held back on authorizing full-contact football practices for the season and the Mid-American Conference postponed its fall competitions until at least the spring. Virginia’s Old Dominion University also announced the cancellation of its fall sports season on Monday.
“We concluded that the season — including travel and competition — posed too great a risk for our student-athletes,” Old Dominion University President John Broderick said.
Still, the question of holding fall sports competitions is beginning to roil federal lawmakers.
“America needs college football,” Jordan tweeted on Monday. Rubio, meanwhile, used his own Twitter feed to repost messages from players and coaches who support proceeding with the football season.
“The risks of going back to school & sports are significant,” Rubio tweeted. “But so too are the risks of not going back … We need to at least try to get to the safest YES possible by identifying what it would take to lower the risk to students, teachers & high risk family & then put that in place.”
“Life is about tradeoffs,” Sasse wrote on Monday. “There are no guarantees that college football will be completely safe — that’s absolutely true; it’s always true. But the structure and discipline of football programs is very likely safer than what the lived experience of 18- to 22-year-olds will be if there isn’t a season.”