Remember back in January and February when we were gearing up for the FCS spring season, and we kept reminding each other on social media that the season was going to be messy, but everyone should just relax and enjoy being able to watch football?
Conferences had different scheduling formats and start dates, so just relax when it comes to the Top 25 polls because it will be impossible to rank teams.
There will be teams starting and stopping, and there will be postponements and cancellations, so just relax when it happens because it’s expected.
There will be teams with bad records deciding to opt-out midseason, but just relax and don’t be shocked or angry when it happens.
The playoff committee only has six at-large bids to work with, so just relax on Selection Sunday.
There will be injuries to players that impact the spring and fall seasons, maybe don’t relax on that because it’s incredibly unfortunate, but something the 92 teams that committed to the spring season knew could happen.
Remember talking about that?
Yet here we are, seeing social media overreactions because all the things we expected to happen are happening. A few late-season games involving highly-ranked teams get called off due to COVID plus a few programs deciding to end their season, and all of a sudden, the season isn’t worth finishing? According to some in the FCS internet community, it’s time to pull the plug.
My main question (as you’ll probably notice while reading this column) is why?
With 89 teams still playing and 84 percent of the games through seven weeks happening as scheduled, why would the FCS call off the season now? How would the players who suffered injuries this spring feel about getting hurt in a season the NCAA gave up on more than halfway through? For the players who were in my DMs in the preseason saying they want to play, or for the players in my mentions tagging their conferences in quote tweets saying it’s time for them to announce their intention to have a spring league schedule, how would they feel about their year getting cut short?
How would the players who didn’t enter the transfer portal back in August because they were told they wouldn’t lose a season feel about calling it quits? How would teams in the playoff picture for the first time in years like Murray State, VMI, Missouri State, Idaho, and Rhode Island feel about the NCAA saying the playoffs aren’t going to happen because a couple of top 10 teams have COVID issues?
How would the seniors, who plan to graduate and move on after this semester, feel about their careers ending sooner than expected?
I wasn’t sold on playing a spring season and turning around and playing again in the fall. Hindsight is what it is, but the FCS should’ve tried to play in the fall when the FBS flipped its decision. My mindset on the spring changed after hearing from players from November-February — whether directly or through interviews — across all conferences saying they wanted to play. Judging from my recent Twitter interactions (whether it’s DMs, mentions, or seeing who’s liking and retweeting particular tweets), it appears a majority of players want to finish the season.
Heck, a Samford player on a 3-3 team out of playoff contention even publicly tweeted at me asking if any FCS teams are looking for games this weekend or next weekend.
If I had players telling me they don’t think it’s right the coaches and administrators are making them play two seasons in one calendar year, or if I had FCS officials telling me the season and playoffs are on shaky ground, the tone of this column would be very different. I’d also be questioning if the season should finish. And while I obviously can’t speak for 100 percent of the players and every locker room, indications are most players want to play.
No one is saying the FCS season has been smooth or that everything is going fine. It’s a mess, but a mess we expected. Maybe this “cancel the season” narrative shouldn’t be a surprise, though. Social media overreactions and FCS COVID news go together like middle-aged NDSU fans and Frisco breastaurants.
When the Ivy League opted out of the spring season, some said the other conferences would quickly follow their lead. Why? The Ivy League doesn’t influence what conferences like the Big Sky, CAA, MVFC, Southland, OVC, Big South, and SoCon do.
Every time a team opted out of the spring season in January and February, folks would tweet the domino GIF and say, “here we go” or “the spring season is screwed.” Why? Conferences continued to stress they were on board for the spring, and only a small handful of teams opted out during those months.
When No. 1 James Madison had its first game called off in mid-March due to a COVID outbreak, some questioned if the Dukes would finish their season. Why? They got it under control, were back in action two weeks later, and have a chance to finish the regular season 7-0.
When COVID caused a couple of cancellations in the MVFC last week, some started calling for the season to end. Why? A week prior, we were all talking about how NDSU is back to being a national title favorite. One cancellation involving the Bison and now the conversation changes to end the season?
When Illinois State became the first team to opt-out midseason on March 21, some thought there was going to be an avalanche of teams doing the same because all it takes is one to get the train going. Admittedly, I thought there would be a small batch of teams to opt-out soon after, but it’s been nine days, and only two more teams — Cal Poly and Chattanooga — opted out.
A year ago, when the COVID pandemic began, we had no idea the next time we’d see a college football game. Remember in April 2020 when we knew very little about the virus, and it became apparent it wasn’t going away, and the concern was sports might not be back for a long time? Remember when we said we’re never going to take live sports for granted again?
And now, with a unique and entertaining FCS spring season, some want to say it doesn’t matter, it’s irrelevant, no one cares, crowning a national champion is dumb, and it should just end right now? Why? Try telling the players who are putting it on the line every week that none of this matters. Try telling the players who would have gone 20 months without playing a game if not for this spring season that no one cares.
And the silly part about this “cancel the season” stuff is that there is no basis behind it, and it’s not even a discussion among conferences. But here I am writing a rare column about it, so maybe I’m overreacting to the overreactions.
As one league higher-up told me on Monday, “No concern at all. We are 100% committed to the 16-team playoff and crowning a national champion. We knew there would be bumps along the road.”
So there you have it.
Will there be more midseason opt-outs? Yes. Will there be more COVID postponements and cancellations? Yes. Will this season continue to be messy? Yes.
But will the season finish, and will the playoffs happen? Yes.