Jul 17 / Rob

CAA Cancels Football, But JMU Leaves the Door Open

There will be no CAA football in 2020. While the official announcement hasn’t been released, multiple media members confirmed that there will be no league competition this Fall. However, reports immediately followed stating that JMU intends to move forward and play if the FCS playoffs are on. As of this morning, Elon is doing the same and Delaware and Towson are considering it.

At first glance, this seems unusually bold for JMU. The school has a well earned reputation for “monitoring the situation” and proceeding cautiously. Maybe this is actually the exact result of careful monitoring and preparation, but the quick reaction surprised many fans. What was not shocking, was the way the news was interpreted dozens of different ways. Predictably, the pro FBS folks viewed it as a sign that JMU was going to load up on FBS games and begin the process of leaving the CAA forever. Fans from other schools who won’t be playing this Fall declared it reckless. But the majority of fans seem to be completely lost and unsure what comes next.

It’s important we don’t ignore the caveat in this scenario. JMU said it will pursue scheduling as an independent, if there will be FCS playoffs. To me, that makes this seem like more like a contingency plan, than a clear decision to proceed. And that’s great. It’s the smart move. This is not a case of JMU ignoring the pandemic and deciding it’s fine to put players, coaches, and fans at risk. It’s not negligent or a blatant disregard for safety. In fact, it’s probably the opposite. It’s recognizing that things change rapidly, it’s still only July, and it would be wise to have a plan in place, should there be an opportunity to play safely in a few months. JMU is a program built to compete for championships. It needs to be prepared if the championship is going to take place.

Now if the JMU admin came out and said “we’re playing football no matter what,” I’d be concerned. There are far too many unknowns right now. Without know what the Covid numbers are going to look like in a few months, it would be kind of crazy to make that decision today. But the admin also would be failing to do its job, if it didn’t prepare for multiple scenarios. And there still is a scenario where a significant number of teams can play this season. Thus far, two FCS conferences (Ivy and MEAC) that don’t compete in the playoffs, and a third (Patriot League) that typically only competes in round one, have shut things down for the Fall. The rest are all in play. While it seems incredibly likely that the playoffs will eventually be cancelled, they haven’t been yet. JMU should be ready.

We’ll see where things stand what JMU does down the road. For now though, it seems crazy to rush to judgment. It doesn’t do anyone any good to start throwing darts at the league office or administration of any individual schools. My personal feeling is that this was a rare sign of strong leadership by the league office. Due to travel logistics, certain states having quarantines for visitors, and the fact that some schools probably just don’t want to play, it was never going to be a “normal” season. The league did a good thing by pulling the band aid off now and freeing the schools to do what’s best for them. As fans, none of us have all the facts. JMU shouldn’t be slammed for creating a contingency plan and schools in different situations, shouldn’t be slammed for sitting the Fall out. It’s a scary situation and I’m still doubtful that JMU will play games. For now though, it’s nice to have some football to discuss during a time when distractions are sorely needed.

6 Comments

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  1. sekudog / Jul 17 2020

    How much you want to bet that NDSU is playing this year? Those who say it is reckless are idiots, there is no evidence that it cannot be done safely and as you said that is over a month away. I say play ball no matter what – put whatever safety precautions you need in place and let the kids get after it (if they want to – if they are concerned, opt out with no penalties).

  2. 83 Duke / Jul 17 2020

    It appears that from a Conference standpoint there was little choice as many
    / most members had decided not to play Fall sports. However, the choice not to play is clearly not data driven. If a school opts out It would appear to be for reasons other than putting the players in any more significant risk than what’s faced driving to school each day in an automobile. Elderly or health compromised Coaches or fans are a different story but it seems like those separate issues could be managed sufficiently as to not prohibit the players from playing.

  3. Randy Thompson / Jul 17 2020

    A prime consideration should be the FBS Championship — IF there is one (and I can’t imagine they will give up that revenue easily), then there should be a FCS Championship. Play ball!!

  4. Mighty Oz / Jul 18 2020

    Thanks for your level-headed commentary, Rob. I echo your view.

  5. CJ / Jul 18 2020

    This is a huge disappointment for me because JMU football is by far my biggest sports passion of the year.

    But my prediction is there probably won’t be any football. The political pressure is too great.

    COVID 19 isn’t going away. Things will not suddenly become safe on September 1. We will be in the exact position in September as we are right now, and we will be in that position until they announce a vaccine. Given this situation, the JMU administrators will cave to the prevailing media and political pressure to cancel the season. I think most, of not all, schools will do the same.

    The media is going to pound this COVID 19 issue at least until Election Day. During that time, it’s just going to be too politically risky to try and play any sports. No school is going to want the publicity of “risking students’ lives” by playing sports.

    Personally, I think it’s reasonable and safe to allow the season to proceed within public health safety parameters. Perhaps limited or or empty crowd venues like they’re doing with pro baseball and basketball. But I really believe that the university leadership will conclude that it’s just not worth the negative media scrutiny.

  6. maddukes98 / Jul 20 2020

    As much as I want to see football being played, it’s clear that it isn’t safe given the nature of close proximity of players to each other. There is no way to social distance in football. Baseball is probably one of the few sports that is really by nature set up to safely succeed in being played, and even then, fans aren’t going to realistically going to be allowed to be in the stands.

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