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The Football Gods are Angry, but Pac-12 did Right Thing

Calls for 'courage' in the face of a coronavirus pandemic are irresponsible and insane

Posted on August 15, 2020

  By Mik Dietlin, SuperWest Sports

Outside my house there’s a smokey hue to the morning light, faintly tinged in a pastel reddish pink. A warning of impending doom, perhaps?

The rain began with intermittent spitting, but now plunges to the ground in rapid, thick drops. For the past ten minutes a deep thunder has rattled the walls like a dozen orchestral bass drums. An occasional flash of lightning pops in the distance.

The College Football Gods are angry.

Woody Hayes, who infamously punched a player in the 1978 Gator Bowl, may be the angriest of all the football gods. | AP

Ara Parseghian, John McKay, Joe Paterno, Bear Bryant, Bo Shembechler—all have made 180 degree turns face down in their graves, unable to watch the travesty unveiling across the American collegiate football landscape.

Woody Hayes remains on his back as always, trying to punch his way out.

And if Woody can somehow scratch and claw his way free from his eternal resting place—I’m well aware there’s not even one square foot of Solar System real estate in which Woody’s soul can rest—everyone should head for the hills and batten down the hatches.

What? The Pac-12 and Big Ten are opting out of football? Who’s running the show over there…Commies?

In my last column published on August 1st, “We know CFB Will Happen & We Know it Shouldn’t,” I suggested plowing toward a new season this fall was a bad idea. I held the belief, though my reference centered on football, that all collegiate sports should be postponed until spring, or later.

Now, my perspective has changed a bit. I may have been hasty in my commentary. Suddenly, I’m feeling a lot more militant in my anti-fall-football stance, especially after reading Rivals National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell’s column yesterday.

Here’s a quote from the preeminent guru of player evaluators in America: “Dear Pac-12. Get a spine and stop following the lead of the Big Ten. Shame on you.”

He then pleaded with ACC, Big 12, and SEC presidents. “Don’t listen to the above quitters (Pac-12 and Big Ten).”

Holy Crap!


Hey, Commissioner Scott and Pac-12 presidents—are you going to let The Mind of Mike speak to you like that? He just tried his best to embarrass you in front of the college football world!

The reality is, the Pac-12 upper brass couldn’t care less about what sludge oozes from Mike’s Mind. They’re too busy pouring over scientific data from various sources monitoring the tragedy, some of which includes the high-transmission rates in specific conference areas.

If they did care, they might remind Farrell about the other conferences bailing before the Big Ten. Does that make the Big Ten spineless for canceling fall football after the MAC, Mountain West, and Ivy League chose to?

Additionally, many would find it reasonable to assume that due to the unique difficulties controlling the virus in California, the Pac-12 was likely to be among the first Power Five conferences to pull the plug.

As you might suspect, Farrell is certain he knows what this horribly flawed decision is based on.

“As I’ve stated before, this isn’t about player safety. It’s about fear of litigation and poor optics.”

The manner in which Pac-12 officials have delved into COVID-19 and its complex ramifications in conjunction with top medical and scientific communities leaves little doubt their decision to postpone the season is largely based on safety concerns. Are there other influencing factors? Sure. Always.

But to callously state the sole motive for the Pac-12 here is simply to avoid an avalanche of lawsuits is pretty short-sighted, and mean spirited. Does anyone really believe Pac-12 and Big Ten officials aren’t concerned with the health and welfare of their students and student-athletes?

Apparently there’s at least one.

It’s senseless to raise questions of ulterior motives regarding a pandemic and the continued postponement of large gatherings, when it’s determined too difficult to adhere to proper guidelines, especially when following those guidelines are solidly backed by the majority of the scientific community.

Why do safety concerns and fear of litigation have to be mutually exclusive? Two disparate entities can co-exist. It’s called nuance.

Seriously, when you think about it, behaving in such an overprotective way toward our youth is in fact reprehensible. We really ought to be worried about maintaining our entertainment stream without interruption rather than shielding them from the worst pandemic since the 1918 Spanish Flu…or 1917, I forget which year.


Isolation, quarantine, personal hygiene, and limitations of public gatherings were used to beat the Spanish Flu.

Anyway, it killed anywhere from 20 to 100 million people worldwide. How dare we deprive the children of their natural inclination to play outside (or indoors with a retractable roof) with all their friends?

Exactly what kind of monsters have we become?

The #WeWantToPlay “movement” have adopted the same words I once used on my parents after they separated me from my buddies for not doing my homework.

“But we want to play!”

I was around 8 years old. College football players are much older, plus they take college level courses. Nevertheless, it seems they may have some maturing to do yet.

And I’m certainly not about to pound my chest like King Kong bellowing over the radio air waves as one ESPN host did that players aren’t being given the opportunity to “stare down” the virus and come out victorious, becoming heroes in our nation’s desperate hour of need. This is why I can’t watch or listen to sports talk shows anymore.

There’s more where that remarkably astute observation came from.


Last month, Lou Holtz did an interview with Fox News in which he said all kinds of intelligible, wonderful things.

“The way it is right now, they just don’t want to have sports and there’s no way in this world you can do anything in this world without a risk. People stormed Normandy… They knew there was going to be casualties, they knew there was going to be risk, but it was a way of life.”

Sure coach. The Pac-12 and Big Ten don’t want sports anywhere near them. They’ve actually been scheming up an easy way to flush billions of dollars down the toilet for years now, and finally have their golden opportunity.

As for Normandy, just to set the record straight, “people” didn’t storm those beaches. Highly trained soldiers did.

The inference is that any average Joe or Jane would have been willing to sacrifice their life because that was the greatest generation in American history, that’s what Americans did back then. Our country was packed with tough S.O.B.’s who knew how to do the right thing.

Need I point out the obvious?


Allied troops stormed the beach at Normandy on June 6, 1944, known as ‘D-Day.’

Fighting the spread of Nazism and fighting the spread of a pandemic are two completely different enemies requiring two very different approaches. But in Lou Holtz’s world, it’s either black or white, no matter what ignorant analogy is offered as valid argument.

More Holtz: “People want to be a part of something. That’s how gangs came about. When they started deemphasizing athletics in schools, people started joining a gang because young people want to be part of something. And you’re taking that away from them?”

Dalai Lama

With all the wisdom and insight of the Dali Lama, Holtz has zeroed in on the matter at issue.

No football equals crime in the streets, leaving us all at a much higher risk of harm than some silly pandemic. If we’d just play football, ensuring that our kids won’t stray into gang culture, society would be safer in general.

It’s amazing the consistent defunding of Arts programs in high schools and colleges for the past 50 years hasn’t resulted in total bloodshed in all factions of American life.

All this idiocy is more than I can bear. What exactly are we all afraid of?

Several years ago the rock band Porcupine Tree released an album called “Fear of a Blank Planet,” a clever twist on Public Enemy’s “Fear of a Black Planet.” Lyrically, the main theme is adolescent obsessiveness with social media and the technology driving it.

The reliance on sense gratification via noise overload, seeking comfort in relentless mental stimulation to the degree consciousness becomes crippled in the face of silence, is quite a heavy message humanity would rather not seriously examine.

The potentially devastating effects to the psyche not only apply to social media, but to every other form of stimulus snatching our attention in our day and age, sports included.

The college football world is now providing more silence than it ever has, and many of us are behaving like zoo animals starving for food. We must have it. We must have what we want and expect when the whistle blows.


LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence are among the biggest names still planning to play. | Getty Images

If the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 play on as scheduled, and Trevor Lawrence, Derek Stingley Jr., or some other big-name player were to contract COVID-19, and then be diagnosed with lung scarring or heart damage that will ail him the rest of his life, would the consensus of opinion be “At least he stared down the virus and lived to tell about it?”

If proponents for playing college football in September (including the players and coaches themselves) are willing to sacrifice the players health for the sake of their own amusement, they have to be willing to sacrifice the health of their loved ones as well.

I love college football, but I don’t need college football. If stadium lights are shut off throughout the country, then I’ll enjoy the silence.

Maybe you will too.

—More from Mik Dietlin—