August 10, 2020

The average salary for NCAA football coaches in the FBS was $2.67 million in 2019, according to data compiled by USA Today. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was the highest paid in 2019. He made $9.2 million in salary and bonuses. For perspective, the average NFL player’s salary was $2.7 million in 2019. Meanwhile college football players expend their blood, sweat and tears year-round for the mere 1.6% chance of becoming an NFL draft pick. They do not want all their hard work and sacrifices going to waste. And they are making this fact known loud and clear.

The Big 10 indicated today that the entire conference is cancelling the 2020 college football season. Dan Patrick reported that the Pac-12 is also cancelling its upcoming football season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ACC and Big-12 are both “on the fence” about their upcoming football seasons, according to Patrick. Iowa and Nebraska are the only two Big 10 schools to vote in favor of playing the upcoming season, according to various reports.

The response has been loud and vehement by several parties with vested interests. Nebraska head coach Scott Frost told reporters that he is leaving all options on the table, including playing the 2020 season in a different conference. Ohio State head coach Ryan Day tweeted “this isn’t over,” and that he will continue fighting. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh also favors playing the season. He said the virus “can be controlled and handled.”

But it is the response from several high-profile players that has the sports world buzzing.

NCAA football players take a stand

Clemson junior quarterback Trevor Lawrence is expected to be a top-3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. He tweeted the hashtag #WeWantToPlay on Sunday night. He followed that up Monday with a series of tweets explaining, quite eloquently, why it’s better for the NCAA to play the season than cancel it. Among the most powerful tweets was as follows:

“Not to mention the players coming from situations that are not good for them/ their future and having to go back to that. Football is a safe haven for so many people. We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football.”

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields tweeted on Sunday, “There’s been too much work put in!! #WeWantToPlay.” Fields also posted a list of demands from players in the Power Five conferences.

Hundreds more players retweeted or re-posted the foregoing. President Donald Trump also chimed in via Twitter, saying the players have worked too hard to have their season cancelled.

Devastating trickle-down if football cancelled

The last time college football was interrupted for any reason was 1918. That was due to the Spanish flu pandemic and World War I. The season was postponed until November. Some schools, including Army and Navy did not participate,. But ultimately the season was played, culminating in the Tournament East-West (Rose Bowl). But cancelling NCAA football in 2020 would reach far beyond gridiron coffers.

Let’s forget for a minute the $4.1 billion in lost revenue for the NCAA if football is cancelled. College towns rely on football for a huge part of their annual revenues as far as taxes and spending at sports bars and other small businesses. All other college sports (except men’s basketball) rely on college football to fund them. No revenues from football means eliminating several other sports completely, with grim hopes of ever bringing them back. Schools made $1 billion alone in ticket sales in 2019. The futures of college sports and many related small businesses, are on the line if football is cancelled in 2020.

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