LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- Dawn broke on Monday in the Louisville area stormy and gloomy, which in today's bizarro sports world is a perfect analogy for the current state of college football.
After a turbulent week in which Connecticut shut down its football program, NCAA Divisions II and III canceled their fall sports and the Mid-American Conference became the first FBS school to declare it won't play football this fall, this week started with reports that two schools from the Power 5 are also planning to spend the rest on 2020 on the sidelines, fueling further skepticism that there will be college football on any level this season.
According to published reports, Big Ten presidents voted to cancel its season, and the Pac-12 may not be far behind as the dominoes continue to fall. During his Monday show, Dan Patrick reported that the Big Ten and Pac-12 will formally announce their decisions Tuesday. Patrick said the Big 12 is "on the fence" and the SEC is trying to "buy time" to see if any other Power 5 league would join it in playing.
So where does that leave the ACC? Patrick said it is also a fence-sitter, but Louisville coach Scott Satterfield said during a media teleconference Monday morning that he believes the ACC is still planning on its teams kicking off the season the week of Sept. 5-12 as previously announced. Satterfield also ripped the Power 5 conferences that are discussing shutting down the season for "a lack of leadership," citing their wavering response on the Covid-19 issue.
"Some of the leadership in some of these leagues, to me, are lacking in the fact that when we set a plan and said this is what we're moving forward with, let's stick to it," he said. "That's the frustrating part.
"We're playing with these 18- to -22-year-olds' minds by some of these leagues doing these things, this yo-yo, saying we're going to do one thing one day and two days later tell them we're going to do this right here. That's not leadership. We had months to plan out how we're going to come back, how we're going to do this, and we've been doing it.
"And all of a sudden, we get negative talk coming in here this weekend, and it's hurtful, actually. It really is. For us the mental anguish has been the hardest thing to maneuver. We had players crying this morning in our meetings. They're crying, because they want to play. 'Coach, we've done everything we're supposed to do. What's this talk about these leagues? What's that going to do to us?'
"Other people don't have to see that, but we're dealing with this on a daily basis. We need leadership to stand up, say 'here's our plan, here's what we're doing' and move forward with it."
Satterfield said he is in daily contact with UofL administrators and that he has been assured the ACC remains committed to its 15 teams playing their scheduled 10 league games each, plus one non-conference game. The Cardinals, who began fall camp last Tuesday, are to open on Sept. 12 against Western Kentucky in Cardinal Stadium, then host Miami in their ACC debut on Sept. 19.
"What we understand is the ACC is moving forward," Satterfield said. "We're relying on our medical group at the ACC, and that's what they're are projecting to us. The latest I heard this morning is that the ACC is moving forward no matter what any other conference does because of the advice we're getting from our Medical Advisory Board. So that's where we are today. We know how things change and how fluid it is, but that's where we are."
However, asked how confident he is that a football season with actually happen, Satterfield said:
"I have no idea. We'd love to get something definitive for our mental state, but our guys want to play, they've voiced that a lot. They put that out there on social media and they told that to us as coaches."
Indeed, a number of Louisville players have joined hundreds of players across the country in a #We Are United X #We Want To Play movement on Twitter. Some sample tweets:
*Tutu Atwell, wide receiver: "My team and I have been working very hard this spring and summer ???? WE WANT A SEASON. Lets come up with a plan don't matter what it is anything just something so we can all play the game that we love????"
*Micale Cunningham, quarterback: "We have put in way too much work to just throw it all away!! LETS COME UP WITH A PLAN."
*Evan Conley, quarterback: "Being in the football facility is honestly when I feel safest from COVID-19."
*CJ Avery, linebacker: "This game means everything to us. #WeWANTTOPLAY."
Defensive end Dayna Kinnaird's parents, Amanda and Gary, even got in on the act, tweeting their support of their son playing this season. "As parents of a DI football player the ONE place we are NOT worried about our son being at risk is when he'as at @UofLFootball. @Matt Summers (head trainer/director of sports medicine) and the staff care about our guys and have worked SO hard to keep them safe. Take FB away and that's when we'll be worried. #LetThemPlay."
Like the Kinnairds, Satterfield believes the players will have a better chance to remain healthy if they're playing football. He noted that the football program has avoided positive coronavirus tests.
"Our guys are doing things right, that's why we've had no cases," he said. "Our guys are coming over here and they have purpose in their lives right now. They're practicing, they're meeting, they're lifting, they're running, they're doing all those things. They don't want to jeopardize all that, so when they leave here they're doing the right things."
"In my opinion, if they end up opting out of this fall, what are our guys gonna do? What's gonna be their purpose at that point? These guys have been playing football most of their lives and we're in the fall and in the fall we play football, that's what we do. So what are we gonna do at that point?
"We have all these protocols, we're testing, we're doing all these things to prevent any spread of this virus. But they're 18-22-year-olds. Do we think they're just gonna sit in their room 24 hours a day? It's not gonna happen, that's the reality of it. (Football) gives them purpose, it gives them structure and it enables them to stay safe."
SPRING FOOTBALL NOT ATTRACTIVE
Satterfield is opposed to moving football season to next spring, as the Big Ten and others have floated as an option.
"I really haven't thought about that," he said. "I'm really trying to focus on this fall plan and doing everything we can right now to play ball. There's a lot of things that would have to happen if we're going to move into that model, there's so many tentacles off of that.
"I really don't want to go down that road unless we have to. Right now, we're focused on doing the things we need to do to play this fall. If you lose your focus and start thinking about other things, then we're going to screw this thing up right now. I think it would be extremely difficult for that to happen, a lot of logistics would have to happen, so we'll have to cross that bridge if and when we come to it."
Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org