After uncertainty surrounding the possibility of having fall sports, BGSU made the decision to postpone them throughout the Mid-American Conference in 2020. Coaches and players are now grappling with what their fall semesters are going to look like.
The news came on Aug. 8 and, while some may have seen it coming, the Falcons’ head football coach, Scot Loeffler, had trouble telling his team they wouldn’t be playing football in the fall.
“It was really difficult standing up in front of those guys, particularly the seniors, knowing that it would be a totally different fall than what we expected. It was a lot of emotion, and I really felt bad for the players and coaches,” Loeffler said.
It wasn’t the fact they learned they wouldn’t be able to play that hurt, it was how long they had to wait to figure out whether the practices they had been doing for months were going to pay off.
“It definitely struck a nerve and a lot of us were angry just because we felt like we did so much and we felt like the MAC waited so long just to tell us that we weren’t going to have a season,” redshirt junior running back, Andrew Claire, said.
While there was some anger, there was also other emotion coming from Claire and some of the other players.
“To be honest I kinda felt empty but at the same time I kinda felt relieved just because the team and I had so many different concerns whether or not we would be protected. So in my mind a lot of our minds just weren’t in the right place,” Claire said.
Protection is the primary reason the MAC decided to try and move fall sports to the spring. The combination of not being able to financially afford the protocols and testing set forth played into the postponement.
Bowling Green athletic director Bob Moosbrugger notes that this, among other reasons, was the overall deciding factor.
“No question that there are a multitude of factors that go into this decision, the ability to get the tests and get the results back in a timely fashion, I think we have seen a number of schools struggle with that so how are we going to be able to maintain a good, safe environment if we couldn't fulfill that type of testing regimen,” Moosbrugger said.
Moosbrugger knows those involved in sports want to compete, but he also believes in a time like this, they need to lean on the advice of those in the medical field.
“It is an extremely difficult decision from the perspective of what our student-athletes need from a physical and mental wellness perspective. They want to compete, our coaches want to compete but at the end of the day you have to depend on the medical advice experts because the athletic director is not a medical expert,” Moosbrugger said.
After the MAC made their announcement, other conferences made the same decision, like the Big 10 shortly after. This seemed to be the end of college football in the fall, but as players started to speak, many believe that the momentum has changed.
Conferences such as the ACC, Big 12 and SEC made it clear they still had plans to play football in the fall. Some could attribute this to voices such as Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.
And if these conferences can foot the bill for testing, their chances of playing this fall might be higher.
The MAC more than likely won't see a fall season, but Moosbrugger still appreciates student-athletes speaking up for what they believe in.
“The students have a bigger voice than any time in our history and we have done our best. Every other week we have had a call with our leaders to try and get their input on some of the things that we are implementing for our student athletes. They obviously have a lot riding on participating in intercollegiate athletics too so I feel like they should have a voice,” Moosbrugger said.
The MAC will look toward playing in the spring, but what that looks like is uncertain right now.
Many feel that the first hurdle needs to be protecting players from what would be a quick turnaround if a spring season does become a reality.
Some, including Claire, believe because of current circumstances, a spring season would be almost impossible.
“In my opinion, I kind of do see it as almost impossible no matter if we have a short season or we have a long season in the spring. Having that quick turnaround for a lot of people to play that coming August, people won’t be healed, people won’t be fully 100%-type healthy,” he said.
Moosbrugger, however, believes a spring season would be possible with a shorter schedule.
“It’s probably the same case as what we are dealing with now in the fall that it would probably be a shortened season and you would have to allot for that recovery time. I think it is doable, I think there still is certainly a lot of challenges to it but I think if you are talking about a smaller schedule,” he said.
Despite Claire's skepticism, he knows that Moosbrugger and other decision makers will do what is best for them.
“It could be impossible but at the end of the day I know the MAC, I know our coaches, I know our AD, all of them are going to work hand in hand to give us the best possibility, the best scenario at the end of the day,” Claire said.
All skepticism aside, if a spring season does happen, Loeffler believes that there are some positives — specifically for the freshmen.
“There’s good and bad about playing as a freshman, the good thing is you are playing as a freshman, the bad thing is you are playing as a freshman. There’s a lot of learning curve and the strength and the power that you don’t have when you are 18 years old opposed to when you are in a program for a couple of years,” he said.
He believes that another few months of preparation would get these freshmen even more ready to play then they would originally be in the fall.
The players know this as well, and players like Claire will use this extended time off to grow as a player.
“Right now we are all using it as a time of learning, we got the extra year so learning what to eat, learning how to stretch, learning what to work on one-on-one type stuff, what do you need to do to get better,” Claire said.
Keeping your current players ready to play is important, but so is enticing high school players to come to Bowling Green. If other conferences play in the fall some might think that recruiting in the MAC could take a hit.
Loeffler, though, isn't thinking about it like that.
“The one thing that we have done a great job with over my year-and-a-half of being here is that we have made a priority of recruiting the four-hour radius and those kids were going to come to Bowling Green, or Toledo or Miami of Ohio regardless,” he said.
No one really knows what the future of sports in the MAC will look like. While there will be no sports in the fall, it seems for now that players, coaches and athletic directors alike will be focused on trying to keep everyone safe for the time being, and keep the hope for fall sports to happen in the spring alive.