Colby College football coach Jack Cosgrove encourages his players during a a Sept. 15, 2018 game in Waterville. Colby is one of many Maine football programs that will not be playing this fall. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file photo

It’s not looking good, college football fans.

Whether you love watching marquee matchups of Top 25 teams or taking in a contest involving small Division III programs in Maine, the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the gridiron landscape.

Let me take this opportunity to catch you up on where the landscape stands, a mere month before the season begins.

First, let’s start with the Football Bowl Subdivision, or Division I. For weeks, it appeared many big-time programs in big-time conferences would push ahead with a fall season, but now such optimism is waning.

Multiple media outlets, including ESPN, reported that the commissioners of the Power 5 conferences (the Southeastern Conference, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Pac-12) met over the weekend to discuss no football in the fall. According to a Monday morning story by the Detroit Free Press, the Big Ten will announce on Tuesday that it will not have a season. It’s possible that by the end of this week we may not have a college football season in Division I.

Already, the University of Connecticut, which recently left the American Athletic Conference and is now an FBS Independent, canceled its football season last week, citing health concerns. On Saturday, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) canceled all fall sports,  including football. With that decision, the MAC became the first DI conference to end its season before it even began.

The looming decisions come after many Division II and III programs already pulled the proverbial plug on the fall.

Where do things stand in Maine?

Well, there no football will be played on a Maine campus this fall. The New England Small College Athletic Conference — which includes programs like Bates College in Lewiston, Bowdoin College in Brunswick and Colby College in Waterville — announced on July 10 that it was canceling all fall competition.

Other Division III football programs soon followed, including Husson University in Bangor, Maine Maritime Academy in Castine and the University of New England in Biddeford. In mid-July, the University of Maine — a member of the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-AA — announced it would not have a fall sports season.

Nationally, Division II and Division III football is all but dead in the water, the Presidents Council of both divisions announced last week that fall championships have been canceled. It’s a mixed bag nationally in the FCS. As of press time, four conferences — the Missouri Valley Football Conference, the Big South, the Ohio Valley Conference and the Southern Conference are still planning for a season. All other FCS conferences — like the Colonial Athletic Association, which includes UMaine and its rival the University of New Hampshire — have said no to football this fall. With only four conferences remaining, the NCAA decided on Friday that there will not be an FCS playoff or championship this year.

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In this Jan. 7, 2019, photo, Alabama’s Najee Harris reaches for the end zone during the first half the championship game against Clemson in Santa Clara, California. AP photo

Some programs are exploring the possibility of playing in the spring. My own alma mater, Division III Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, announced two weeks ago its intentions of playing a shortened spring season with other teams in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference.

Even if there is football, challenges loom. Players, for example, could opt out. Worse, an outbreak could occur. If you’ve paid attention to the updates, football hotbeds such as Texas, Florida and California also happen to be current hotbeds for COVID-19.

It’s time for us as college football fans to accept the hard truth: There will likely not be a college football season, at least this fall. If we’re lucky, there might be a strong push for a spring season in multiple divisions. But come September, a major hole will be left on Saturday afternoons that cannot be replaced, unless the National Football League can move spread some of its games over the weekend, as has been reported.

And even that isn’t a guarantee. Nothing is a guarantee. Not this year.

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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