Sigh of Relief? No MAC Sports this Fall

The MAC Presidents got back together on Saturday to finalize their plans for the upcoming football season. Their decision: Hopefully things will be better in the spring.

It’s been miserable. Talking about it is miserable. There won’t be any sports at Eastern Michigan — or at any Mid-American Conference school — in the upcoming fall. No football, no women’s volleyball, no soccer, and no field hockey. Nobody who gets into athletics one way or another wants this reality to be the reality, but the MAC Presidents ultimately provided a unanimous, responsible decision on Saturday to postpone all of its fall sports to Spring 2021 (if possible) amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in America.

In a Zoom call with the media Saturday, two hours after the MAC’s press conference, EMU athletic director Scott Wetherbee was filled with mixed emotions. He’s been miserable about all of this too, but this news really isn’t all doom-and-gloom.

“I’m gonna put my head on the pillow tonight and feel a little bit of relief, in a way,” Wetherbee said. “Our kids, as disappointed as they are, there are a lot of kids who are having a sigh of relief right now. There was a lot of concern, and there were a lot of unknowns. Yeah, they might not like it, it’s not perfect, but it gives us time to figure out what’s best.”

The MAC was the last league in the FBS to make a formal decision on what they planned on doing with the 2020 football season. Saturday’s vote happened after Thursday’s long day amongst the 12 university presidents. Brett McMurphy of Stadium first reported of the MAC’s decision to move to the spring for its fall sports (again, fingers crossed), in which he singled out Northern Illinois president Lisa Freeman’s unwillingness to budge on the issue. Freeman, a former postdoctoral fellow and research assistant at the University of Rochester, would not let NIU’s athletes play over health and safety concerns.

“The league didn’t like the look of NIU going out on their own and not playing,” said a source, explaining the MAC’s non-vote on Thursday.

Some other bits of Wetherbee’s perspective on display at the media conference:

  • EMU’s football players have been back to campus for workouts and football drills since June 15 and still haven’t been back in the weight room. It doesn’t make sense to ask these footballers to strap up and hit somebody in a few weeks when they can’t even lift weights.
  • Wetherbee recognizes that he’s in a position to ask mostly-healthy young men to take coronavirus tests multiple times a week/month, then make sure there’s a quick turnaround for all of these hopefully-still-negative tests from facilities that could be spending their time and resources on other people in the community that might not be in as healthy as a situation as EMU’s athletes are in.
  • To that note, Wetherbee believes that the athletes on campus are being treated right, and has helped create a safe environment in the face of this pandemic.

It’s miserable, but things could be so much worse. And because the MAC has collectively decided to try its best to not make things worse, there’s not going to be any football this fall.

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