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BRAD ROBICHAUX — Pandemic looms larger on sports world

What would it mean if the Big Ten Conference canceled its football season?

News reports on Monday and over the weekend revealed the presidents of the Big Ten schools — the University of Maryland, University of Nebraska, Rutgers University, University of Michigan, Northwestern University, University of Wisconsin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Penn State University, Ohio State University, Michigan State University, Purdue University, University of Minnesota, Indiana University and University of Iowa — met Saturday and discussed cancelling fall sports, according to ESPN.com.

The presidents apparently also wanted to gauge how the other Power 5 conferences — the Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern — will handle their seasons.

No official votes were cast yet.

As much as everyone wants to return to normal however possible, and a normal fall includes a season spent with football, extraordinary times are making everything change.

For my part, it would be nice to go out and get that first good cup of gumbo of the fall from my favorite place to get it in Lake Charles. I don’t think that’s going to be happening this year, though.

I can’t begrudge the Big Ten for their concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it’s actually safe to even play football in the middle of a pandemic is a question that coaches and school officials have been grappling with for the entire year.

For all the time I’ve spent in Texas, it now feels like a fall without football is an unthinkable proposition. But I can’t get away from it.

Talk to coaches, and they’ll tell you that until the higher-ups make the decision to kill the season, they’re moving on as if nothing else is going to change and the schedule is set in stone. There’s little else they can meaningfully do except hope for the best and roll with the punches if they land.

“We’re going to abide by the UIL guidelines of wearing a mask, keeping players separated, washing hands,” Sabine Pass head football coach Jason Thibodeaux said when I paid the school a visit last Thursday. “We’re in an area we’ve never really dealt with before. Keeping kids separated, we can do that now with nine, it’s no problem. We hadn’t really been out on the football field. We’ve been lifting and doing cardio this whole time, which is important.”

Sabine Pass is still in need of more players in order to field a team to play in District 12-2A Division II. Thibodeaux, and the players that are there, expect more to come once school starts, which is typical of the Sharks every year. He wants the kids to play, and so do the kids, but he also knows what it’s like to be forced to weigh priorities like health.

“I’m going to back the parent if they decide not to let the kid play, because they’re watching out for their kids, just like I would for my kids, too,” he said. “It’s every kid’s dream to play high school football in Texas, and I hate to keep them from the opportunity to do that.”

What if the Big Ten is considering canceling the season, though? A meeting is scheduled today, and announcement may come from it.

If the Big Ten cancels (or, slightly better, postpones until spring perhaps) how far will the domino effect reach? Is Texas in that row? Should it be?

Do what you can for now. Keep practicing for the season, whether it’s football, volleyball, basketball, cross country, team tennis, or any competition. Keep taking the proper precautions to keep the pandemic from spreading.

Hope for the best and brace for those punches.

 

Brad Robichaux is a reporter for Port Arthur Newsmedia. He can be reached at brad.robichaux@panews.com.