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Thursday, September 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A Grip on Sports: As Pac-12 and Big Ten halt football for the fall, questions and opinions are impossible to hold back

Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal reacts during second half of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game against Wisconsin Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020, in Pasadena, Calif. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal reacts during second half of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game against Wisconsin Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020, in Pasadena, Calif. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • The central theme of many 1950s-era science fiction movie revolved around the end of the world. People in haz-mat suits walking deserted streets as curtains swing in the wind. Well, for college football fans, the apocalypse is now.

•••••••

• The hammer fell yesterday, swung first by the Big Ten and then by the Pac-12. Crushed under the blow were college football fans’ hopes of life returning to something akin to normal this fall. Even if no other Power 5 conference postpones their season, as the two Rose Bowl partners did Tuesday, the fall won’t be the same.

We covered this ground in yesterday’s column, in anticipation of what seemed inevitable from this vantage point. So we’re not going to dig in that dirt again this morning. But we are going to make one statement and it concerns not the schools or the players or the conferences. It’s about the fans.

Two things can be true for you folks. You can absolutely believe this is the right decision, to push football to the spring (or skip a year altogether) in the midst of a pandemic that shows only minor hints of abating, and still be heartbroken their will not be college football in the fall.

It’s OK to be of both minds. They are not mutually exclusive.

As more and more research into the effects of COVID-19 on even asymptomatic victims emerge, the idea of putting college kids – any kid, actually – into positions in which they are at greater risk of being infected becomes more and more unthinkable. At least for those who think and not just react. The powers that be in the Big Ten and Pac-12 seem to be in the former group.

Was their decisions the right ones? From our vantage point, they were the only ones possible. But others see things differently. And will probably until the end of time. Fine. Between now and then, we’ll probably be able to discern who had it right.

• As one might guess, the news the two conferences had postponed the 2020 football season (and the Pac-12 had canceled all sports until the first of the year) was a big deal from here to Derry, Maine.

(For the record, each day it seems as if we are living in the middle of Stephen King’s latest horror novel, which makes me hope he’s figured out a way to give most of us a happy ending.)

We’ll share links about the news, sure, but we thought our time today would be better spent giving you access to opinions about the Pac-12 and Big Ten’s decisions, from columnists and commentators up and down the West Coast. As well as a smattering of thought from around the nation.

Not everyone thinks the decisions were the right ones, though most in the Pacific time zone see it as an inevitable outcome of the issues we’ve faced – or not faced, at least not well, to be precise – dealing with the coronavirus.

•••

WSU: The Spokesman-Review’s longtime columnist, John Blanchette has his opinions on the matter, so we will lead off the Cougar section with them. … Theo Lawson delves into the nuts and bolts. … Larry Weir also delves into the decision to postpone the football season in the latest Press Box podcast. … Around the Pac-12 and college sports, before we move on, we want to make sure everyone understands it’s not just football players impacted by yesterday’s decision. All sports are on hold. … The news hit Utah’s program hard. … Oregon State has had few if any virus cases since workouts have resumed. The person in charge of the school’s response also played a key role in the conference’s decision. … Colorado’s players wonder what spring will be like. … USC’s athletic director blames the nation’s response to the virus. … There are questions about the future from UCLA. … Arizona’s president was willing to talk. … Arizona State coach Herm Edwards may be the most well-balanced person in college sports. … That the decision included basketball came as a surprise to most, including coaches.

Gonzaga: The Pac-12’s decision to halt all sports competitions until at least Jan. 1 impacts a lot of non-Pac-12 schools on the West Coast. One, of course, is GU, which had three high-profile nonconference basketball games scheduled with Pac-12 opponents. Jim Meehan talked with Mike Roth about the impact of those games disappearing from the Bulldogs’ schedule.

EWU: The Eagles have known for a while they won’t be playing football this fall, and have been dealing with it. Ryan Collingwood touched bases with Aaron Best and athletic director Lynn Hickey to get a better understanding of what the Big Sky’s postponement means.

Mariners: The bats were off last night and the M’s lost 4-2 at the Rangers. … Dylan Moore has been stroking the ball and playing more. … Here’s a scary thought. What if the M’s rebuild doesn’t work? Well, there will be a new general manager and another rebuild, I suppose.

Seahawks: As training camp ramps up, there are handful of things to watch. Actually, maybe even more. And questions to answer as well.

Sounders: Portland scored midway through the second half and went on to a 2-1 win over Orlando to grab the MLS is Back tournament title.

•••       

• Yesterday was a weird day. There was a lot going on, with sports news flying around from early morning until late in the afternoon. And yet, with the sun beating down, the temperatures hovering in the mid 80s, a light breeze blowing and the streets pretty empty, it almost seemed as if time was standing still. Oooh, I think I have stumbled upon a great sci-fi plot. Time standing still. That’s never been done before, has it? Until later …

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