To Play or Not to Play?

Caleb Pollema – Staff Writer

To play, or not to play, that is the question.

This simple conundrum has transfixed the sports world for the past six months. Should sports be allowed? Can leagues put pro sports teams in a bubble? Can universities accept legal liability if they allow collegiate athletes to compete?

These questions in their endless forms and fashions has been presented to top executives in pro sports all the way down to collegiate athletic directors.

The NBA found a way to put its competition inside a “bubble” in Orlando, Florida. The MLB was less restrictive and have seen the occasional postponement of games due to COVID-19. The NFL is set to kick-off in a week’s time.

With all the pro sports seemingly finding a way to “make it work”, the Power Five athletic conferences of the NCAA and their decisions to play in the fall have been shrouded in mystery.

There is no unified decision across the NCAA. Instead, the choice has been left up to the conference commissioners resulting in the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 moving forward, but the Pac-12 has postponed altogether.

However, one conference has quite literally sat on the fence for the past two months. They were quick to jump onto one side of the argument and then quickly decided for no clear reason to climb back over to other side.

Who are they? You guessed it, the Big Ten.

This situation has me frustrated. There is clearly a lack of leadership and transparency on behalf of the Big Ten commissioner, Kevin Warren.

As an athlete myself and a beloved Nebraska Cornhusker fan, I can empathize with having your season abruptly postponed. It happened to me as a Dordt baseball player last spring.

It is the worst feeling imaginable. It is hard to put into words. You feel angry, sad, hurt, and so many other emotions. The work you have put in for months and even years to play a game you love is taken away with the snap of a finger.

For many people in Big Ten country, no sports—especially no football—is a pill that cannot be swallowed.

The sidelines will remain silent and the stadiums empty, college towns that boomed on Saturdays in the fall will turn into ghost towns, and their economies will take a huge hit.

For coaches, players, businesses, and fans,

this is something that you cannot get back.
The University of Iowa already cut four entire sports programs. The University of Nebraska furloughed and cut pay within their

athletic department.
The economic devastation that will occur

across the Midwest will be severe but also one many fail to find reason with.

High school teams can play football in Nebraska, yet the Huskers cannot.

The Cyclones will get a season, but the Hawkeyes will not.

To be sure, people are disappointed and angry, but their feelings are not baseless. The above statements do not make sense.

If science were truly the deciding factor, then the above statements would not hold true. To play football at Iowa State, but not University of Iowa makes no sense.

To be clear, COVID-19 is, of course, a very real threat. I also believe members of the media have oversaturated the news with its coverage.

Throughout history, sports have been steady. Sports have been the constant that brings much needed relief and entertainment amidst the stresses of life.

The powers that be have failed to consider the athlete.

What about the athlete who needed sports as their motivation to get their degree?

What about the overlooked high school football player from small town Iowa who needed one more season to get one more look from a college or pro scout?

What about the girl who dreamed of playing collegiate volleyball, but will not get the chance because her high school season was cancelled?

What about the athlete who has no family structure and already struggled with their mental health before the pandemic?

With all that many athletes are going through, I am thankful the GPAC has moved forward to offer fall sports, despite the Big Ten and other conferences cancelling.

For every conference commissioner who has had the audacity to cancel the season without consulting their athletes first: why don’t you go ask them what their thoughts are?

I think you would be amazed with their answers.

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