The Pirates gave a season ticket holder a foul ball that landed in their seat

via u/dboyr, Reddit

This is how you support your fans!

The absence of live sports is difficult for all of us, but especially those who pay for season tickets every year. For these people they lost not only live entertainment, but an established way of life. The Pittsburgh Pirates went above and beyond to make this time a little easier for a fan.

 via u/dboyr, Reddit

The fan opened his mail to find a foul ball and a letter from the Pirates, saying the ball landed in his seat during a game played without fans — so it was retrieved and mailed to him as a memento of the 2020 season.

Obviously the team didn’t need to do this. It wasn’t expected. However, they went to the effort not only to get a ball from the stands, but find the seat owner and ensure they felt part of the action, even when they couldn’t be at the ballpark.

This is what it’s all about. Feeling emotionally connected to a team, even when you can’t cheer for them in person. The Pirates went above and beyond, and this is awesome. Now the fan will be one of the few people to have a foul ball from the season that was never played in totality.

Our simulated video game basketball team attempts a historic comeback in the NCAA tournament

The Leathernecks enter the 2026 NCAA tournament as a No. 12 seed against Cal in our College Hoops 2K8 simulation.

Welcome back to our simulated dynasty with the Western Illinois Leathernecks in College Hoops 2K8. You can find a full explanation of this project + spoiler-free links to previous seasons here. For more context on the re-introduction of this series, check out our most recent post.

We pick up with our Leathernecks in the first round of the 2026 NCAA tournament in Year 19 of Coach Rick’s tenure at Western Illinois. Here’s a recap of everything that has happened so far this season:

  • Coming off three straight seasons that ended in the Elite Eight, the Leathernecks enter the new year with two returning starters and a team rated as a 97 overall.
  • We went 6-6 against a difficult non-conference schedule before dominating Summit League play. We went undefeated in conference and again claimed the Summit League tournament championship. We enter the NCAA tournament as a No. 12 seed at 26-6 on the season.
  • We recruited for three scholarships, but didn’t land any players in the early signing period.

Read the full Year 19 recap


Here’s a look at our roster heading into the NCAA tournament:

Our opponent in the first round of the NCAA tournament is No. 5 seed Cal. You can look at Cal’s roster here. The Bears enter the game as a 98 overall, while the Leathernecks are now rated as a 100 overall.

This is how the two teams matchup heading into the contest:

There’s no doubt that it’s been a trying season for our Leathernecks. While our roster looks loaded with four starters rated in the 90s entering the NCAA tournament, the pieces haven’t seemed to fit cleanly up to this point.

Senior point guard Angel Keita has been under fire, losing the trust of the fanbase ever since experiencing major turnover problems during the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight of last year’s NCAA tournament. A vocal section of the fanbase pushed for Keita to be benched completely after he shot only 35 percent from the field this year, but we instead decided to trim his minutes a bit and reallocate them to backup Tron Whaley. Keita is now at 26 minutes per game while Whaley is scheduled to play 17 minutes.

The bigger problem may be our lack of a go-to scorer on the perimeter. While Vernard Fulton shocked the world by returning for his senior season despite being projected as a lottery pick, he’s always been more of an elite glue guy than a takeover scorer. A natural power forward, Fulton moved to the wing this year to accomodate the burgeoning talent of sophomore big man Allan Cunningham.

The front court is where we’re really strong. Timon Suotamo — better known as ‘Chewy’ — finished second in the country in scoring at 25 points per game. Cunningham has lived up to the hype. The question is whether our bigs can carry us to another deep tournament run without consistent production from our guards and wings. The first round matchup with Cal offers a fascinating test.

The Bears finished second in the Pac-10 and No. 2 in America in offensive efficiency. Their senior center Homer Maki-Tulokas led the country in scoring during the regular season. Cal wants to play inside-out, setting up a titanic battle in the middle between two star centers.

We streamed this game on Twitch on Sunday night. As always, I’m not controlling Western Illinois; we’re watching a simulated game played by the computer. I’m not playing any of the games in this series, I only do the recruiting and set the coaching strategies. The game will start when you press play on the video.

Our Leathernecks have reached the second weekend of the NCAA tournament four years in a row. Can we start another run? Let’s go!

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Loss, 90-87. The comeback attempt falls just short and our season is over.

We had a chance to send the game to overtime at the buzzer with a deep three-pointer and …. I really thought it went in. I screamed like it did. Fulton’s heave was just off. We were so close to tying the game as time expired:

The fact that the game even came down to the final shot is pretty remarkable because this sure looked like it was going to be a blowout loss at halftime.

Cal took a 16-point into the break after closing the first half on a 10-0 run. We were down as many as 18 points. Suotamo was having an uncharacteristically quite game in his marquee matchup with Maki-Tulokas, Keita and starting shooting guard Wilky Henry were ice cold, and the bench wasn’t giving us the lift we expect.

But little by little, we started to chip away at the lead. We went to an all-out full-court press defense midway through the second half, which was enough to get us a few steals that turned into some cheap points.

The last minute of this game was wild. I thought we were toast when Cal hit a layup to put them up five points with about 30 seconds left, but we quickly responded with a three-ball from Fulton. We started to intentionally foul, but the Bears were money from the free throw line. Just when it looked like all hope was gone, Keita was fouled on a three-point shot with six seconds left and drained all three shots to put us down one. That led to Fulton’s final heave, which fell just short.

Two big problems for us in this game:

  • Our rim protection was horrible. Suotamo is supposed to be a good shot blocker, but Cal was consistently beating us to the basket after getting us to bite on pump fakes around the arc.
  • Kieta played 36 minutes even though I explicitly trimmed his minutes before tip-off. I wish the game would have followed those orders.

There are still some bright spots for next year. Cunningham (24 points, nine rebounds) was our consistent scorer and showed his three-point range is no fluke. I can’t wait to watch him go to work as a junior next year. I’m also excited for Henry’s senior year despite an off-night against Cal. He’ll be moving back to his natural position of small forward and hopefully can take a big leap in production.

We can’t make a deep tournament run every year, I guess. We’ll be back.

Bracket contest update

Cal got all the way to the Elite Eight before falling to Xavier. I knew we lost to a quality team.

The Final Four was Michigan over Gonzaga and Xavier over Duke. Michigan beat Xavier to win the national championship. That means our bracket contest winner is Isaac Springer, who correctly picked the Wolverines to win it all. You can find the full leaderboard on our app, which works on desktop and mobile. Here is the final leaderboard:

We had more than 120 entries in the bracket contest once again. Thanks to everyone who participated. Special thanks to Sean Vinsel for building the app and running the contest. Follow Sean on Twitter @HoopsInsight and check out his work writing about the real versions of Louisville and Kentucky basketball.

We’ll do it again next season.

Offseason

I played through the offseason live on Twitch after we were eliminated. You can watch it here, if you’re into that sort of thing.

  • Michigan wins the national championship. The Big Ten title drought is over!
  • Timon Suotamo wins Summit League Player of the Year. He just put together one of the most dominant regular seasons in program history. Not bad for the first JUCO center recruit we’ve ever had.
  • Suotamo (projected first rounder) and Fulton (projected lottery pick) each get drafted. Angel Keita does not get drafted. Keita will go down as perhaps the most loathed player we’ve ever had.
  • Coach Rick’s overall record now stands at 501-120.
  • We earn one coaching point for our 500th win and put it in discipline. That raises our discipline grade to a C.
  • I get offered the Duke job. Also the Texas Tech job, the Arizona State job, and the Auburn job. I turn them all down.
  • We lost an assistant and replaced them with Bron Randle, who was on staff for us a few years ago. He has an A- rating in teaching, and no coaching grade below a C+.

Recruiting

We have three scholarships to recruit for after landing no one during the early signing period. We want one guard, one wing, and one big, and have had offers out since missing on our early targets.

Our top priority is 6’9 small forward Jitim Dupre out of Chicago. After Michigan State drops out during the first week of the spring signing period, Dupre gives Western Illinois his commitment.

Dupre is ranked No. 91 overall and No. 19 at his position. We love his size on the wing and are optimistic about his shooting ability.

Our next target is point guard Koko Reeves out of San Antonio. Reeves is ranked No. 52 overall and No. 27 at his position. He commits to the Leathernecks shortly after Dupre:

Reeves is tiny at 5’10, but he looks like an elite three-point shooter, which we can really use. We’ve had good luck with players from San Antonio before, so let’s keep that trend going.

One scholarship still available. It’s been offered out to center Artie Snipes out of Riverside, CA for most of the season. He finally accepts it just before the end of the signing period:

Overall, I think it’s a solid class. Part of me is wondering if I should have went after a two-guard instead of Reeves as potential insurance in case last year’s top recruit, Mathew Alloway, turns pro early, but that’s okay. We should have three five-year players in this group who provide a nice complement to our stellar recruiting class from last year.

Now it’s time to set our schedule for next season. This is what we went with:

@ Illinois, @ Georgetown, @ Louisville, @ Cal, @ Stanford, @ Michigan, @ Duke, vs. Dayton, @ Vanderbilt

Did I instantly regret making that schedule so difficult? Yes, pretty much. Something to keep in mind moving forward.

Year 20

Here’s a first look at our roster:

It’s always tough when you have three new starters, but I like the look of next year’s team at first glance. We really need Henry to breakout into a superstar on the wing during his senior year. Cunningham should be primed for a monster year, too. I’m excited to see what Tron can do at point guard, and as of right now I’m leaning towards starting Alloway as a freshman at shooting guard while bringing Ager off the bench as our sixth man.

We also only have one scholarship to recruit for. I’m going to target a five-star JUCO shooting guard to fit the timeline with the recruiting class we just added.

We’re going to stream the regular season of Year 20 at Western Illinois on Wednesday, August 12 at 8:30 p.m. ET. Here’s how you can watch:

Western Illinois, Year 20, 2026-2027 regular season stream

Game: Western Illinois Year 20 regular season stream. We’ll watch one regular season game, recruit, and sim to the NCAA tournament.

How to watch: My Twitch channel

Date: Wednesday, August 12

Tip-off time: 8:30 p.m. ET // 7:30 p.m. CT.

I’ll see you there. Go ‘Necks.

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Why the 2020 NHL Draft lottery was so bizarre

A confusing, weird mess with PLENTY of conspiracy.

The NHL held the most delightfully weird and wonderful draft lottery on Monday night, which led to the New York Rangers getting the No. 1 overall pick, despite playing in the “playoffs” less than a week before.

People are confused, angry, and don’t understand what happened — all while Rangers fans are over the moon that they won the right to draft Alex Lafrenière, a generational player who could change the franchise overnight. Let’s break all this down.

What exactly took place on Monday night?

The NHL held Phase Two of its yearly draft lottery, live streaming the ping pong balls bouncing around and being selected by commissioner Gary Bettman as normal — but it was anything but standard. The initial draft lottery happened back in June in what was called “Phase 1,” which determined who would get the No. 1 pick, and with a 2.5 percent chance went to “Team E,” designated as one of the teams eliminated from the initial round of bubble play.

The final selection would be decided in “Phase 2,” a second lottery involving all eight teams eliminated in the first round of bubble play, with each team having a 12.5 percent chance at winning the No. 1 pick.

That ended up being the New York Rangers.

This effectively means that with “Team E” winning the first pick, then the Rangers becoming Team E, they won the draft with a 0.0031 percent chance.

This seems really unfair …

It is! Well, kind of. The reality is that theoretically the Rangers did jump up, but only a little. They were the 14th worst team in the league by final standings, which typically would have given them a 1.5 percent chance of winning the draft. They effectively got bumped one percent in Phase 1 — while Calgary, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Chicago, Phoenix, and Montreal all got screwed.

Even then, it’s tough to say they were really hard done by, because everyone had a 12.5 percent chance in Phase Two. This was all just weirdness of having more teams that normal participate in “post season” play.

Confused enough? Yeah, I know … this is all a bit of a mess.

Is getting No. 1 really that good?

Yes. Yes, it is. Truth be told, there’s not really a bad pick inside the Top 6 of this year’s draft, but there’s undoubtedly a major prize: Alex Lafrenière. The consensus No. 1 pick, Lafrenière has been compared to Sidney Crosby in terms of his ability on the ice, and he swept every MVP award known in the sport for a player his age.

As a 16-year-old rookie playing in the QMJHL, Lafrenière scored 42 goals, the most in the league since Crosby. He then followed that up by recording 112 points in 52 games — solidifying himself as the biggest prize in the hockey. Lafrenière already has a body built for the NHL, and it’s expected he’ll immediately play as a rookie, and make an impact.

The Rangers took considerably long odds, and turned it into getting a player hailed as a future cornerstone of hockey. All while still being good enough to qualify for the playoffs. This kind of coup has never been seen in the sport. No team has ever had a chance to play in the post season and still won the No. 1 pick, but here we are — and fans are rightfully elated.

Was this all a conspiracy?

Hell yeah it was! Well, it was if you ask hockey fans.

At this point we should expect any, and all draft lotteries to be rigged. Especially when a major market team like the Rangers get lucky. How couldn’t you give in to the romance and drama of the brightest young prospect playing in Madison Square Garden? It’s too good to pass up the opportunity to blame the league.

The purported “smoking gun” is how the ball handler from Ernst & Young fumbled with the Rangers’ draft lottery ball. Was this simply a case of butterfingers, or was the ball specifically weighted so it would find its way through the machine and ensure the Rangers got Lafrenière? I don’t have the answer, but you don’t need answers to start a good conspiracy. You just need to ask questions.

Lizard people control the world economy.

Should I be mad about all this?

That’s really a personal question. Your capacity to be angry about a draft lottery is directly proportional to the other concerns in your life. Considering we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, tenuous financial markets, questions over whether children can return to school safely, ongoing racial unrest caused by the incubation of white nationalism, and the fact we’re an election year, I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Rangers winning the draft isn’t the biggest problem we’re facing as a country.

That said, being mad about sports is also a much-needed distraction — so screw the Rangers, this was all rigged, sports are unfair, and the world is flat with a dome over it placed by the New World Order.

Kyle Kuzma thinks he could pop a game-winner on Jesus

Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images

“I think Jesus could be in front of me, and I would probably still shoot.”

Kyle Kuzma has never lacked confidence. The 25-year-old forward is the only player to survive the Lakers’ transition from rebuilding team to championship contender, staying in Los Angeles as former teammates Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball were shipped to New Orleans for Anthony Davis.

It’s put Kuzma under a microscope all year. The Lakers likely have the best 1-2 punch in the NBA, but the rest of their roster after that is highly questionable. Take it from LeBron James himself, who had this to say about Kuzma: “In order for us to win a championship he has to be our third best player.”

Kuzma got a chance to play the hero for the Lakers on Monday night against the Denver Nuggets, and he delivered. With the score tied at 121 with 4.5 seconds left, Kuzma took a feed from Davis and drained a buzzer-beater to give his team the victory:

Kuzma hit the shot over a somewhat weak contest from Bol Bol, the Nuggets rookie who is one of the longest players in league history with a 7’8 wingspan.

When asked about Bol’s defense on the shot, Kuzma offered an instant classic quote. “I think Jesus could be in front of me, and I would probably still shoot.”

Now, as has been noted by many people around the internet, Jesus wasn’t exactly known for his size. The best reports put him at a solid 5’5.

Shaq said after the game: “I’ve seen Jesus play before, and hopefully Jesus is gonna shut his ass down next game.”

Regardless, the Lakers need a confident Kuzma for the playoffs, and they’re getting one so far in the bubble. Here are Kuzma’s pre-bubble per-game numbers vs. his bubble numbers:

Kuzma battled injury issues for much of this season and now appears to be fully healthy. His Lakers’ teammates were thrilled that he got this moment:

For more on Kuzma’s big night, read Christian Rivas at Silver Screen and Roll.

Big Ten, Pac-12 become first Power 5 conferences to postpone football season

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 23 Michigan at Indiana

The move will likely lead to further postponements.

Presidents of Big Ten schools voted Tuesday to postpone all 2020 fall sports, effectively cancelling their college football slate. The news impacts some of the biggest schools in the sport, including Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin — and the move will likely send further ripples through college football.

A statement issued by Morton Schapiro, Chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and Northwestern University President indicated that risks were too great to continue play as originally planned.

“Our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty and staff.”

The Pac-12 were quick to follow, as expected. They held a press conference on Tuesday afternoon to indicate that they too were joining the Big Ten, as the second Power 5 conference to postpone all sports from being played this fall.

Information spread quickly after reports emerged over the weekend of meetings taking place that indicated university presidents of the Big Ten schools were in favor of postponing the season. This was followed by a meeting between the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC) to discuss how they would proceed, should schools elect to stop competition. That path remains unclear, though there is hope, at least in the Big Ten, that football could be moved to the spring. However, it’s unknown what that season would look like, and would likely be shortened due to calendar restraints.

Not only did the Big Ten postpone play inside the conference, but outside as well — making it the first conference to cancel its non-conference slate. The Big Ten making the move now sends shockwaves through the remaining Power 5. It’s believed likely that when one conference made the jump others would follow suit, with the Pac-12 showing that to be true. The outliers right now are the ACC, Big 12 and SEC, all of whom have seemed to pledge to continue competition, believing they can do so safely — regardless of what the rest of college football decides to do. However the pressure to postpone as well will mount, especially considering the exposure of the teams being affected by the Big Ten cancellation.

The NCAA have not issued a statement addressing these schools choosing to postpone play at this time.

The Suns got surprise intro videos from their families and it was perfect

Oh great, now we’re crying.

The Phoenix Suns have been the best story of the NBA’s restart bubble. Phoenix faced long-shot odds to reach the Western Conference playoffs from the time they entered the bubble, but they’ve given themselves a chance by going undefeated through their first six games.

Devin Booker is playing like a superstar, Deandre Ayton is making strides at both ends of the court, and Mikal Bridges looks like he could turn into one of the league’s top wing defenders. There are a ton of feel-good vibes around the Suns right now, and they added even more ahead of Tuesday’s game with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Suns surprised their players by having their family members announce them in the starting lineup. The joy on their faces makes this one of the best moments of the bubble:

The Suns even got Booker’s friend Jenna Warren to announce him. Did anyone else get a little choked up watching that? Guilty.

NBA players have been away from their loved ones since they entered the bubble, which is so hard even for millionaire professional athletes. Whoever thought of this idea — well done.

The whole thing makes us root for the Suns that much more.

Messi’s bumbling and stumbling goal is the greatest sports highlight of 2020

Lionel Messi was taken down in the box. He didn’t stop his attack to pander to the referees for a penalty — he kept going. And after dodging about five Napoli defenders with just a sliver of space, the 33-year-old Messi reminded us why he’s arguably the greatest athlete of his generation.

This feels like one of the most spectacular goals of Messi’s legendary career. In case you forgot, this is what greatness looks like.

Messi’s goal in the 23rd minute stunned the sports internet from the moment it happened. It put Barcelona up 2-0 over Napoli in the Champions League restart match, and reminded us what we were missing when sports were (rightfully) on hiatus for so long during the pandemic.

We are so lucky to live at the same time as Messi. The man never ceases to amaze us.

Damian Lillard had the best response to the Clippers taunting his missed free throws

Dame came up short against the Clippers in crunch-time. Then he reminded them what he’s done to them before.

Damian Lillard’s penchant of late-game heroics has helped make him one of the greatest players in the game today. When Lillard’s on the court, crunch-time is known as Dame Time. He’s proven himself so many times in the biggest moments that it feels legitimately shocking on the rare occasions when he comes up short. It happened on Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Blazers needed a win to keep pace in the race for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoff picture. It felt like they caught a break with the Clippers resting Kawhi Leonard and playing without Patrick Beverley. Yet as the two teams traded buckets late into the fourth quarter, the Blazers needed Lillard to save the day once again.

This time, he couldn’t do it. Lillard missed a pair of free throws with Portland trailing by one point with 18 seconds left. Dame got one more chance to be the hero, but a potential game-tying three he launched out of a stepback was off the mark. The Clippers won the game, 122-117, even after they decided to rest Paul George in crunch-time for he described as “load management.”

Beverley and George each enjoyed Lillard coming up short. Beverley was loudly taunting Lillard from the bench, and he was laughing hysterically when his free throws rimmed out:

Remember when Lillard waved goodbye to the Thunder upon hitting a series-ending buzzer-beater over George last season? The Clippers sure do:

George had this comment after the game:

Lillard had the best response to the Clippers trash talk

Lillard was asked about the Clippers taunting after the game. Somehow, even when Dame comes up short, it feels like he wins.

Here’s the translated quote:

Asking me about Patrick Beverley, I’ve sent him home before at the end of a game. Paul George got sent home by me last year in the playoffs. They know. The reason they’re reacting like that is because of what they expect from me. It’s a sign of respect. It shows what I’ve done at a high clip more times than not. I’m not offended by it. If anything it should tell you how much it hurt them to go through what I put them through previously.

“If anything it should tell you how much it hurt them to go through what I put them through previously.”

Ouch.

It’s true: Dame’s two most iconic moments came against Beverley and George. Beverley was on the 2014 Rockets when Lillard knocked them out of the playoffs with an iconic Game 7 dagger. George was defending Lillard when he hit the walk-off buzzer-beater vs. the Thunder last year.

The trash talking continued between Lillard and Paul George on Instagram

“More success” huh? Well, PG’s Pacers teams did go to two conference finals compared to one for Dame’s Blazers, but that still feels like a stretch.

It seems like there’s some real bad blood here.

Paul George later went on Instagram and posted a photo. Depending on how you read it, he’s either incredibly relaxed after a dramatic day or he’s specifically fishing to add to Patrick Beverley’s Cancun comment.

View this post on Instagram

Going back to minding my business #Getthathateoutyaheart

A post shared by Paul George (@ygtrece) on

Yes, Portland’s loss to the Clippers is a brutal blow to their playoff chances. Lillard will certainly be thinking about his missed free throws for a while. But trust me: the next time the game is on the line and Lillard has the ball, you won’t want to bet against him.

Astros and Athletics brawl after Ramón Laureano hit with pitch

As the A’s swept the Astros, benches cleared after Houston hit an Oakland better for the fifth time in the series.

The Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics got into a benches-clearing brawl in the bottom of the seventh inning on Sunday after outfielder Ramón Laureano was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game.

As Oakland was on its way to way to a three-game sweep over Houston, Astros pitcher Humberto Castellanos plunked Laureano with a breaking ball. The two exchanged words during a long walk to first base until Laureano charged at the Houston dugout after being provoked by Astros hitting coach Alex Cintrón. That led to both benches clearing in an ugly scene that is sure to draw suspensions from MLB.

You can watch the entire video here:

Oakland was talking a ton of trash to Houston on their way to the sweep. The Astros had already hit five A’s batters during the series, while no Houston players were hit.

This is the Astros’ second benches-clearing brawl of the year. The first one against the Dodgers drew an eight-game suspension for LA pitcher Joe Kelly. Commissioner Rob Manfred doesn’t want opposing teams to retaliate against the Astros following the cheating scandal that consumed the sport earlier this year. Fans around the country have been fed up with how much protection MLB is providing Houston.

It will be unfortunate if Oakland is hit with significant suspensions because they might be the hottest team in baseball right now. Laureano has been a big part of that, entering the game with a .938 OPS on the short season. How about some punishment for Cintron, who was yelling at Laureano to come get him?

Opposing teams having beef with the Astros is going to be a storyline all season long.

Why the college football season is on the brink of cancellation

Clemson University Operates In Limited Capacity Amid Coronavirus Pandemic Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Meetings over the weekend pushed college football to the edge.

The cancellation of the NCAA basketball tournaments in March feels like a lifetime ago, but the threats of Covid-19 have not subsided. As we quickly approach the planned start of the college football season, it’s growing increasingly likely the season will be cancelled.

On Sunday ESPN reported that commissioners of the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC) held an emergency meeting to discuss their approach to the season, should individual school presidents elect to cancel fall sports at the respective institutions. Now a player movement is begging schools to allow them to play, politics are involved, and everything is a mess. Let’s try to break this all down.

What caused the rapid advancement of cancellation talks?

With most universities and colleges resuming classes, reports emerged of a meeting over the weekend between presidents of schools in the Big Ten to discuss a unified response to Covid-19 as it pertained to sports. The result of that meeting is wholly unknown, but sources familiar with the situation indicated that school presidents were leaning towards cancelling fall sports.

This would mean that some of the biggest powerhouses in college football, including Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin would not play in. The belief was that a decision by the Big Ten to pull the plug would send ripples throughout the sport, causing more presidents to cancel fall sports at their own institutions, in turn effectively cancelling the season — whether the NCAA wanted it or not.

Ultimately the Big Ten did not make a final determination over the weekend, instead releasing a brief statement advising teams to continue a “acclimatization period” in football, while leaving open the door for further impact to sports saying:

“We will continue to evaluate daily, while relying on our medical experts, to make the best decisions possible for the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes.”

Can college football be played safely this fall?

This is the major question that remains to be seen. The NBA, WNBA and NHL have seen success competing inside a “bubble” system, which limits player exposure with the outside world, and has strict guidelines on player testing and safety in efforts to continue their respective seasons.

However, MLB has shown how difficult it is to safely conduct a season outside of these parameters. Rampant issues and outbreaks have emerged, even with the weight and unification of a single sports league. As a result the baseball season still hangs in the balance, and requires players and teams to be smarter about their actions to ensure games can still be played. The Marlins and Cardinals have already experienced major outbreaks, delaying games and putting immense scheduling pressure on players as a result.

While college football doesn’t have the same scheduling demands of baseball, there remains considerable risk. Layers of self-policing exist between the NCAA and players, with conferences, individual schools, and football programs all needing to be in lockstep to play during Covid-19 safely. Each level represents a possible fracture point where oversight may lapse. In addition we’re dealing with college students here, not professional athletes — so there is an innate belief students may not be as cautious towards the virus. Finally the large-scale nature of football means numerous people together in locker rooms and training facilities, increasing the risk of viral spread.

Theoretically football could be played, but it would require a level of cooperation and oversight previously unseen in college football. It’s unclear if schools, conferences and the NCAA could work together on this level.

What is the “We Want To Play” movement?

Responding to emerging reports the season could be cancelled, some of the largest stars in college football unified on a conference call. They followed this on social media to demand not only that they should be allowed to play in the fall if they choose so, but push to have a seat at the table, allowing them to have a voice in decisions about their athletic future.

The phrase “We Want To Play” has been quickly picked up by sports pundits as a catchcry for continuing the season, but in reality the movement is trying to establish player representation inside college football. Trevor Lawrence and numerous others are asking for the establishment of a “College Football Players Association” to represent their rights when it comes how they play this fall, and their rights beyond that.

In short: What began as a discussion about playing football during the Covid-19 era has now become movement towards the one thing the NCAA has been terrified of for years: The possibility of players organizing, and demanding more rights as a result.

The immediate outcome is wanting the season to continue, should a player elect to play — knowing full well their health could be at risk, but also respecting the decision of players who don’t want to take this risk. These star players are demanding that individuals be given the right to opt out of playing if they so choose, and have their NCAA eligibility protected in instances where someone doesn’t want to play.

It should be noted that not all players are in lockstep with the “We Want To Play” movement. They are advocating that individual voices should be listened to as well, not unified behind a small group of elite players who met on Sunday night. Regardless of the outcome, it’s clear that this movement will need to adopt more voices and spread beyond its current scope in order to truly encapsulate college football.

What is the current fallout?

The NCAA has not issued a formal statement in response to events that took place this weekend. They have been silent regarding school presidents deciding whether sports should take place, conferences looking to insulate from the damage, or players demanding for rights inside the wider conversation.

Guidelines issued by the NCAA remain on its website outlining testing protocols, and pushing for social distancing measures. While these are critically important, there is still a lack of a unified response towards how these measures will be enforced — or how players can expect to be protected at an institutional level when they come in contact with other schools.

If MLB taught us anything it’s that playing during Covid-19 is considerably riskier than first imagined. Furthermore, college football stands to be the first contact sport played outside a bubble setting during the pandemic. Regardless of what’s decided it’s clear a lot more thought needs to be put into how football can be played with a minimal risk of viral spread, and thus far at a school level it seems the only way they believe players can be kept safe this fall is cancelling the season outright.