McFeely: Hate to break it to you, but spring football not guaranteed

With no signs of the pandemic abating, and no national strategy to fight it, chances of FCS have spring schedule aren't great

North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance fires a pass during the opening day of practice on Friday, August 7. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — So, just one question as the focus on the Football Championship Subdivision and North Dakota State has turned from a fall season to the spring.

What makes anybody think a college football season in the spring is going to happen?

Because, gotta be honest here, the way this nation has handled the coronavirus pandemic thus far doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

We're more than five months into this thing and we're no closer to a solution than we were in March.

The Trump administration ignored warnings about the virus, then minimized it to the point that a public health emergency became politicized. There was no national strategy. States were left on their own to deal with it, meaning there were 50 different approaches ranging from serious to comically laissez-faire.


We're fighting over whether people should wear a mask in public, for goodness sake.

Scientists and drug companies are working on vaccines, thankfully, but anything deemed effective, safe and available for wide distribution remains many months away.

There is no silver bullet that's going to make COVID-19 "just go away," as the president of these United States keeps saying it will. Every indication from the last few months is that millions of Americans aren't willing to take serious steps to curb outbreaks of the virus.

And, as the northern states begin to head inside to hunker down for the cold winter, it's likely to make things worse.

This nation has, quite literally, wasted five months and accomplished little in terms of fighting the virus. More than 250,000 people will soon gather in the Black Hills of South Dakota for the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally. In the middle of a global pandemic.

It's a joke. The United States stands alone in that department.

And so what gives anyone an ounce of confidence that by January or February, when it appears FCS teams want to begin practice for a possible spring season and championship playoffs, the outlook for playing games and having fans in the stands will have markedly improved?

Somebody point out a shred of evidence that we're headed in the right direction. Something. Anything.


The Big Sky Conference and the Missouri Valley Football Conference were right to call off their fall conference seasons this week and turn their focus to the spring. There was no way football, and other fall sports, were going to be able to compete with a full schedule this fall, even though mighty NDSU opened fall camp with a practice Friday morning.

North Dakota State head football coach Matt Entz watches his team during the opening day of practice on Friday, August 7. David Samson / The Forum

In announcing its move to the spring, the Big Sky said it was taking the lead in lobbying the NCAA and other FCS leagues to get behind a spring championship playoff.

This offered optimism in a week that desperately needed it. Maybe, somehow, FCS teams could push their season down the line and maybe, somehow, the pandemic would be under control enough to pull off a season.

After further review, what would give anybody optimism the nation is disciplined enough to drastically change the trend? With the presidential election coming up three months, Trump and his administration are not going to suddenly turn their focus to fighting the pandemic. The president has never taken it seriously. There will be no national strategy.

Colonial Athletic Association commissioner Joe D'Antonio hinted Friday that fans maybe shouldn't get their hopes up too high for a spring season, saying "we as a country need to be in a different position (medically) by the spring."

And we haven't yet mentioned the cost of COVID testing, which would have to drop significantly for the majority of FCS schools to afford it. That will still be an issue, just like it was going to be this fall.


Believe the virus is serious or overblown, that's where we are. Health and safety have to come first and college administrators are not willing to, simply cannot, put student-athletes at unnecessary risk.

Friday was a day for realism with a touch of optimism looking ahead, maybe. But perhaps it's wise to not get too excited for a spring football season.

And if that doesn't depress you enough, we haven't even begun to talk about the 6-foot-3, 225-pound elephant in the room. Will Bison quarterback Trey Lance even play in the spring, or will he declare for the 2021 NFL draft?

North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson grabs a pass reception during the opening day of practice on Friday, August 7. David Samson / The Forum

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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