College football has fractured into at least two camps, with the Big Ten and Pac-12 canceling their fall seasons on Tuesday due to COVID-19 and the other three Power Five conferences — the SEC, Big 12, and ACC — confirming Wednesday that they will try to plow ahead with their truncated schedules. At least two smaller conferences have also scrapped their seasons and as of now, 53 of America's 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams will sit this autumn out.
Fans are despondent, and "the loss of college football will have a crushing impact on bars, restaurants, and other businesses that rely on football fans," The Associated Press notes.
Ohio State devotee Jeff Hewitt, a Democratic strategist in Texas, called Politico's Renuka Rayasam with a theory, she wrote Tuesday night: "If college football gets canceled in the Midwest it would cost Trump the presidency. I laughed, but Hewitt was serious." And he's not alone. The Big Ten conference covers seven key battleground states with massively popular college football teams, and Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray told The New York Times the loss of their Saturday fix could push Republican voters away from Trump, especially the tiny sliver of undecideds. "It's just one of those markers that reminds people of how much has been disrupted in their life," he said.
Politics is simply "not as important as college football in Ohio, in Georgia, in Alabama," ESPN college football radio host Paul Finebaum tells the Times. "And without it, people will be lost and people will be angry." He said he has strained to keep politics out of his program this summer, but "we don't have a day that doesn't pass where someone doesn't call up and blame the president. Even from the South, I've heard more anger directed at the president than I thought."
Some Republican operatives said Trump will be insulated from the anger because he has publicly urged colleges to play football and even called up some players and coaches to enlist their help salvaging the season. But the loss of college football on Saturdays feels like "yet another piece of fabric was being torn from American life," the Times notes, and especially in the rural areas of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio where Trump's support runs deepest, "losing football may be a political stain that the president is unable to blame on his enemies in the Democratic Party or on the media."
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