Dominoes began to fall this week.
The Ivy League canceled its fall football season on Wednesday. The Big Ten announced a conference-only schedule on Thursday and the Pac-12 did the same Friday. There have been reports the ACC could be next and the other power conferences — the SEC and Big 12 — will at least consider only playing conference games.
The college football season is very much in doubt as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to terrorize the country, positive cases skyrocketing in football hotbeds such as Florida, Texas, Arizona and California. Some believe a spring season is inevitable, the only option as voluntary workouts at schools such as Ohio State, Houston, Arizona, Boise State and North Carolina have been paused due to outbreaks.
The powers that be, though, aren’t the only ones in favor of finding a way to have a fall season. And neither are the fans. Many players — the ones who drive most, if not all, of the athletic department revenue for their respective schools, the ones who would be putting themselves and their families and friends at risk — want to have a fall season, too. The increasing rate of the virus hasn’t swayed the players The Post spoke with.
“I hope there’s a season,” West Virginia wide receiver Sean Ryan, a Temple transfer, told The Post. “Honestly, it saves a lot of lives. A lot of college kids come from poverty, a lot of poor living. It’s a struggle back home. We do this to [help] our family. Us not having the platform to do that, and not having the season, forces us to go back home. It puts us at risk.”
Ryan understands what the virus can do. The Brooklyn native out of Erasmus Hall High School lost his 55-year-old uncle, Carl Ryan, to COVID-19 and knows others who have dealt with it. But Ryan still wants to play. He has been on campus working out for a few weeks — with a mask on — and is comfortable with the precautions the school is taking. He gets tested weekly. His workout groups are small, just six players he lives and isolates with. He doesn’t think playing games would jeopardize his health, or that of anyone close to him.
“They’re taking the cautious steps that are necessary to get us back so we can have a season,” he said of West Virginia. “I know everything is done here genuinely and they do everything to look out for the players’ best interests.”
Rutgers wide receiver Aron Cruickshank, who played with Ryan at Erasmus Hall, echoed his high school teammate, praising the safety measures taken by the Scarlet Knights. He feels safe and comfortable on campus and working out in “very small” groups. He gets tested every week and has confidence he isn’t at risk.
“I know they wouldn’t put somebody with coronavirus on the field with us,” said Cruickshank, a Wisconsin transfer.
Unlike Ryan and Cruickshank, Tylik Bethea hasn’t been to campus yet for voluntary workouts. The date has been pushed back twice now by Delaware State, first from July 1 to July 13 and now to July 23. In the meantime, he’s been staying in shape on his own, waiting to rejoin his teammates, completing workouts given to him by the coaching staff. Bethea believes he will have a season, but it will be delayed and without fans. He would be comfortable playing if that’s the case.
“If all the athletes are cleared before the games, we should be good,” the Staten Island native and former Lincoln High School star said.
Bethea did raise some concerns. He doesn’t believe a full allotment of students would be a wise choice for his school. There are too many wild cards, students who aren’t taking the necessary precautions and getting tested on a regular basis, for him to be 100 percent comfortable. Before returning to campus, every player has been asked to get tested, and they will be tested again when they return. There will also be daily checkups and social distancing during meetings.
“I’m just concerned how they are going to manage us being around with the virus going on,” Bethea said.
Chris Chernak Jr., an offensive lineman at Stony Brook from Brooklyn, has similar concerns to Bethea’s. He hasn’t been back on campus yet, either. One of his close friends lost his father to the virus. He’s aware of how it can spread. And yet like so many others, Chernak wants to play despite the risks, and he understands why players are willing to do so. Of the four players The Post spoke with, they said all of their football-playing friends are hopeful of a fall season as well.
“They know what the game can do for them in the future,” Chernak said. “I just pray we have a season.”