Football return

Kent State’s football team celebrates after defeating Akron last season. Oct. 12, 2019.

Mid-American Conference football teams will take the field this fall following the MAC Council of Presidents’ unanimous vote today to reverse their decision to postpone the football season.

The council decided in August to play the season in the spring. The MAC was the first FBS conference to postpone fall sports, and it is now the last to announce it will play football this semester.

“Our decisions, in August and again today, have been guided by an overriding concern for the well-being of the student-athletes, institutions and the community at large,” MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said in the official press release. “Our medical advisory group, presidents, directors of athletics and others have worked hard to develop a plan that provides for student-athletes to compete.”

MAC teams will play a six-game conference-only schedule set to begin on Nov. 4 and a conference championship on Dec. 18 or 19.

No general public attendance or tailgating will be allowed at games.

“All Golden Flashes involved in football have been working hard to prepare for play,” Kent State Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen said in a release. “Our first priority is ensuring their health. Through access to new technology, we are confident we have the testing capabilities necessary for their safety.”

President Todd Diacon sent an email to Kent State staff explaining his decision to vote for football to return. In the email he said that access to rapid antigen testing for COVID-19, made available through the MAC, made the difference in his decision.

“I believe the rapid antigen testing has become a literal game-changer in the level of safety it provides our student-athletes, band members and cheer and dance team participants,” Diacon said in the email. “As such, please understand that should these new tests not be provided as promised, I will reverse course again and put a halt to playing football.”

MAC protocols for the season will call for four antigen tests a week for every athlete, band member, cheer and dance team member, or anyone else involved in games. A positive test will be followed up with a confirmation polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, and a positive PCR test will result in the person being placed in a cardiac screening protocol.

The testing protocols will be put into place starting Monday according to the MAC release.

Coach Sean Lewis and some players on the football team had released statements on Twitter asking the MAC to reconsider postponing the season, and they reacted on social media today.

“I am so proud of our student-athletes,” Lewis said in a release. “Their resolve and dedication in preparing to play amid great uncertainty is unmatched. I guarantee we will strictly abide by the safety protocols necessary to ensure the health of our student-athletes and staff members. We are thankful for the opportunity to play.”

In August, some players were seen not wearing masks in a video. At the time Lewis said the team would be better. There have been no other incidents made known to KentWired and no players have tested positive.

The football team is coming off of its first bowl game win in program history in the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl along with a seven-win season, the most since 2012.

This decision will only impact the football season; the rest of Kent State’s fall teams are still currently expected to play in the spring when their championships have been set to take place by the NCAA Division I Council.

Owen MacMillan is a sports editor. Contact him at omacmill@kent.edu.

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Hi, I’m Lauren Sasala, a senior journalism student from Toledo. I’m also the editor in chief of The Kent Stater and KentWired this semester. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important news about Kent State and the Kent community. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate.

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