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THE FRONT ROW WITH DYLAN GREENE: Obstacles for fall football getting bigger

| August 9, 2020 1:12 AM

Day by day the college football season continues to collapse.

On Thursday, the Big Sky Conference put an end to the fall football season and it’s looking like the NCAA is going to move the FCS championship to the spring.

Around the county, players have formed conference unity groups and outlined a list of demands related to health and safety, racial injustice and economic issues.

The Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference and others are moving forward with delayed and modified schedules, but at this point does anyone really believe those plans will go on without a hitch.

Fall without college football. That sounds like a nightmare, but it’s becoming more and more likely.

I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but the obstacles for universities are growing by the day.

THE FIRST domino to fall came last Sunday when #WeAreUnited, the Pac-12 players’ unity group, published an article on the Players Tribune threatening to opt out of the season if their list of demands weren’t met. The conference had released its updated 2020 schedule just days before the players went public with the piece.

Immediately, rumors began swirling on social media that schools, including Washington State, were cutting players who supported and helped form the unity group. Those rumors were proven to be false, but since a handful of players from universities in the area have decided to opt out of the season due to health concerns.

On Tuesday, Brett McMurphy from Stadium reported that 62 of 80 players on the University of Idaho football team that took part in a confidential poll indicated they didn’t want to play this fall due to COVID-19 concerns.

This is an issue. No players, no team. But Idaho is still trying to find a way to play some non-conference games this fall while the Big Sky works to put together a plan for football in the spring.

No one should be upset with a player that chooses to opt out of this season and put their health and safety first. They put their bodies on the line week after week for our entertainment and receive no compensation. Us outsiders have no place to criticize.

SOME OF the demands the Pac-12 unity group is making, including distributing 50 percent of each sport’s total conference revenue evenly among athletes in their respective sports, are a bit unrealistic given the current fiscal situation athletic departments are facing in the midst of a pandemic, but they are coming from the right place.

The players recognize this is a unique time where they have more leverage than ever before. If they choose not to play this fall, they could crumble athletic departments. Football carries most athletic departments around the county due to the amount of revenue it generates and after losing the spring season, schools need football now more than ever.

Players shouldn’t have to go to these lengths to demand change, but exploiting athletes is what the NCAA does best. The NCAA, a “non-profit,” makes billions off of the achievements of student-athletes every year and the athletes don’t see a single penny.

I’M NOT saying the NCAA should pay athletes, but they should at least be able to profit off of their own name and likeness, just like everyone else in the world.

Ultimately, the root of all these issues comes down to health and safety. And right now players are concerned schools aren’t taking their concerns seriously enough.

At Colorado State University, the athletic director is looking into allegations from coaches and players that people within the athletic department have encouraged them to ignore COVID-19 protocols and avoid getting tested.

The bottom line is that players should feel comfortable making a decision that benefits their health and safety. If they choose to opt-out, they should be reassured their scholarship will be honored and they should retain that year of eligibility.

So far schools are doing just that, but who knows what will happen over the coming weeks and months because the coronavirus isn’t done ruining our sports.

Spring football? Yeah, it’s happening.

Dylan Greene is the sports editor of the Bonner County Daily Bee in Sandpoint. Follow him on Twitter @DylanDailyBee.