Well, folks … it’s official. If you were holding out hope that maybe the 40 or so FCS schools still remaining as of this morning would play ball this fall? Well, with the exception of maybe a handful of non-conference games — which honestly are in jeopardy — it appears we’ll be waiting until the spring to see the usual FCS routine. This morning, the Southland parachuted out of the 2020 football season as a conference, then the SoCon took the leap, and lastly — according to reports — the Ohio Valley Conference became the 13th and final FCS conference to try to postpone to the spring.
Again, we may see a few fall payout games played by FCS teams … maybe. We might even see one or two matchups pitting two teams from different conferences. What we won’t see is any teams competing for conference titles, we won’t see a selection Sunday right before we eat turkey and cranberries, and we won’t have a final four just days before Christmas … with the winners getting a few days off to spend the holidays with family before returning to fine-tune things for Frisco.
We won’t have a Walter Payton Award for the best offensive player in the FCS, or the Buck Buchanan Award for defense … etc etc etc. We won’t get Montana and Montana State fans screaming at each other, at least not over Cat-Griz. We won’t have NDSU fans poking fun at the other 126 schools that haven’t owned the past decade, nor will we hear James Madison fans call a certain rival “The Ticks”, at least not prior to a game. No tailgates while the leaf canopy changes, no grabbing a hot coffee on a Saturday morning on the way to a parking lot to meet up with a bunch of good friends. Most likely, none of this will take place in 2020.
We’ve known about not having FCS playoffs for several days now, since the level went below the 50% participation mark for the fall mandated by the NCAA. Even the NCAA seemed to officially throw in the towel today, as president Mark Emmert put it bluntly at about 5 p.m. ET: “We cannot, at this point, have fall NCAA championships”. The official deadline for an announcement is Aug. 21, but we all knew Frisco in January wasn’t going to happen anyway.
And so, this death spawn has taken one more thing from us. First of all and most importantly, it has taken a lot of lives out there, many loved ones. For many of us, it has taken away household income or entire jobs, and it has taken away our freedom to move around and be “normal”, whatever your definition of that is. It has taken away our kids’ sense of normalcy when it comes to school, and it took away the senior proms and typical graduations of high school seniors, and it has affected college careers — including those of student-athletes at FCS schools.
Now, it officially takes away a highly anticipated annual recreational activity for thousands of fans of 127 FCS schools scattered from Maine to Florida to San Diego, Calif. to Cheney, Wash. Every one of those 127 FCS football programs have been affected, nearly 10,000 young men in pads are cursing something they weren’t even aware of one year ago today — COVID19.
But you know what? I’ll echo something every coach at the FCS level has said through all of this, though even they … off the record … have admitted frequently that they don’t have the answers for any of this, yet have dozens of pairs of eyes looking up at them for guidance.
Here’s the echo: There is no other option than to get your chin up, grab a calendar for 2021, and begin to focus on the potential for spring football, conference championship runs, and a shot at a national title. Do we know when it would all start if it can happen? Hell no. Do we know when the playoffs would be, or the national title game, and would it be in Frisco? We don’t know anything, just like nobody knew how exactly how to react to a certain pandemic when it cranked up in March.
As an avid historian (nerd level), I’ll also drop this little nugget … and hopefully this will whack us all upside the head and give us some perspective. And I’m only going to speak in terms of my family’s background because ours has had challenges over the years that many of yours had, and many had worse than ours.
When I think about this year, I try to remember what my grandparents went through after getting married in 1942. They saw each other for a total of about 30 days the first three years of their marriage, thanks to war. Then, when they began to build a life, their second son came down with Polio and nearly died in the early 1950s (that was another tough death spawn that tore through our country). They had to rehab my uncle daily for more than two years just to get him back to be able to walk correctly (but he went on to Davidson and was a runner there — FCS plug plug). Then, just about the time my family whipped Polio, my Grandpop had to go lead troops in the snow in Korea, leaving his family of five behind for another year with zero visits — again because of war.
I try very hard to remember that kind of stuff when I’m feeling a little low, like I did today.
Everything is about perspective. Today’s news sucked, who are we kidding? This summer has sucked. Hell, this year has sucked … we’re not even finished with 2/3rds of it yet and I think we can say that.
But it’s not the end of the world. Grab that Spring 2021 calendar. Life will go on. We all love our football, but life will go on and many before us have had it much, much worse in so many ways than we’ve had it this year. We’re all bummed, but we’ll be fine.
Chin up. Spring is right around the corner.