Photo by Elizabeth O'Guin
By Parris Clarke, Assistant Sports Editor-
Last Monday, the Chattanooga Mocs Football team announced that they are forgoing the rest of the spring football. A large group of players within the team came together and opted out of the remaining games, leaving UTC short of the required active players.
This unprecedented spring season is shaping up to be a disaster for the Southern Conference. Yesterday, Wofford followed UTC’s lead, becoming the second team in the SoCon to opt-out this spring. UTC and Wofford are two of the six FCS teams this year that have canceled the rest of their games midway through the season.
For UTC, and the other teams, the cancellations should be understandable. Football players were hurried back on campus in January to prepare for a slate of games that would begin a month later. Then, they were told they would be playing two seasons in one calendar year, placing unknown medical risks at the feet of young students who still would have to juggle the stress of a scholastic curriculum at the same time.
The decision to cancel would be understandable if these were any of the answers we received as to why this was the executed choice. The only things that have been said are a lot of murky coach-speak and foggy catechisms that reveal no direct response as to why the season was canceled.
It was reported that players weren’t thrilled with having to play a scaled-back spring season and a full season in the fall, and that an injury to starting center Kyle Miskelley during the Furman game was the last straw.
That may very well be the truth of the matter — unhappy players that feel like they were risking their health in unnecessary situations. But when making a decision of this magnitude, why not be transparent? Why not put a face to these reports and say them for everyone to hear?
I’m not trying to insinuate that there are things going on behind the scenes. It’s just the decision not to be forthright about this matter is perplexing.
Over the last decade, we’ve seen athletes become more empowered ushering in what some call the “player empowerment era.” It’s refreshing to see when athletes, especially student-athletes, who are putting their bodies on the line, speak up and make decisions that are the best for themselves. That’s something I will normally always defend. However, in this situation, the timing of everything makes the decision almost indefensible.
The spring season was going to come with risks, that much has already been mentioned. Risks that every player was aware of when they agreed to suit up for the first game. Were the players put in an unfair situation? Sure, but if opting out was going to be the plan of attack it should have happened before the season began, before playing four games, and before amassing the No. 9 ranking in the country.
Out of all the aforementioned teams to opt-out midseason, UTC was the only one with a winning record. In fact, the Mocs were the only one of these teams that even obtained more than one win. For a losing team, riddled with bad injury luck, opting out makes a little more sense.
Opportunity doesn’t come knocking very often and when it came for UTC they slammed the door back in its face. If the Mocs do well this fall all will be forgotten and forgiven. As we’ve seen over the past year things can change in an instant, making that if easier said than done.