Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska sends letter to Big Ten: 'Please don't cancel college football'

The college football season is on the verge of collapse, but Nebraska senator and former Midland University president Ben Sasse believes that the season can and should be salvaged.

Sports Illustrated obtained a copy of a letter Sasse plans to send to Big Ten presidents, which contains reasons why football should be played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sasse is arguing that it will be safer for players to have a football season, due to the “structure and discipline of football programs.” In addition, it would cut players off from “testing and health care” that their universities could provide for them. He wraps up the letter by pointing out that leadership means being willing to take blame if things go wrong.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., attends a Senate Judiciary Committee business meeting to consider authorization for subpoenas relating to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, and other matters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 11, 2020. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool)
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., pictured at a Senate Judiciary Committee business meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington in June, is lobbying Big Ten university presidents to not cancel the 2020 football season. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

Health and safety protocols are major issue

Sasse’s letter doesn’t directly address the most important problem with college athletics right now: there are currently no universal COVID-19 health and safety protocols in college football, including guidelines for testing. Institutions are expected to come up with their own, and they could vary widely from school to school. Structure and discipline for college football players is useless during a pandemic if there is no routine testing or common sense COVID-19 protections involved.

Universal health and safety protocols across college sports is one of the issues that Justin Fields, Trevor Lawrence, and others are fighting for with their #WeWantToPlay campaign. They, like Sasse, believe there should be a college football season, but they want every university to take responsibility for providing a safe environment to do so. Sasse didn’t explicitly call for the Big 10 schools to do that, but he implied it by mentioning Fields and Lawrence, who are two of the leaders of the #WeWantToPlay movement.

Sasse knows what he’s up against, and so do the players who are part of #WeWantToPlay. The college football season has already started to unwind, with the majority of Big Ten schools reportedly voting to cancel fall sports in a meeting on Sunday. Sasse hopes his letter makes a difference, but it might already be too late.

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