Trump, coaches push for college football as cracks emerge

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FILE - In this March 11, 2020, file photo, Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey announces that fans will not be allowed in the arena to watch NCAA college basketball games in the SEC tournament in Nashville, Tenn. After the Power Five conference commissioners met Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020, to discuss mounting concern about whether a college football season can be played in a pandemic, players took to social media to urge leaders to let them play. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

President Donald Trump on Monday joined a U.S. senator and a number of coaches calling to save the college football season from a pandemic-forced shutdown as supporters pushed the premise that the players are safer because of their sport.

There was speculation two of the five most powerful conferences — the Big Ten and the Pac-12 — might call off their seasons and explore the possibility of spring football.

The Mountain West became the second conference in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivison to do just that, joining the Mid-American Conference in giving up hope on playing any sports in the first semester. Back east, Old Dominion canceled fall sports, too, becoming the first school in college football's highest tier to break from its league; the rest of Conference USA is going forward with plans to play.

A Big Ten spokesman said no votes on fall sports had been taken by its presidents and chancellors as of Monday afternoon. The conference's athletic directors were scheduled to meet later in the day, but it's the university presidents who will have the final say on whether football is played. In the Pac-12, presidents were scheduled to meet Tuesday, a person familiar with the meeting told AP condition of anonymity because the meeting was not being made public,

The powerful Southeastern Conference made clear it was not ready to shutter its fall season.

“Best advice I’ve received since COVID-19: ‘Be patient. Take time when making decisions. This is all new & you’ll gain better information each day,’” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey posted on Twitter. ”Can we play? I don’t know. We haven’t stopped trying."

A growing number of athletes have spoken out about saving the season, with Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence among a group posting to Twitter with the hashtag #WeWantToPlay. Trump threw his support behind them Monday.

“The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled,” the president tweeted.