Big Ten will play football in fall

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields gathered with some of his teammates last Saturday to watch college football on TV, the mood was dark.

“Distraught,” Fields said.

The Big Ten decided to scrap fall sports Aug. 11 in the name of player safety because of the coronavirus pandemic. And despite the lobbying from conference coaches, players, parents and even President Donald Trump – and despite the fact that the SEC, ACC and other conferences were going forward – the prospects of getting back on the field in 2020 were looking dimmer every day.

“We were all just hurting,” said Fields, the Georgia transfer whose stellar 2019 season with the Buckeyes made him a Heisman Trophy finalist. “We literally kept saying, `Wow, we’re really not playing this year. This is all we’re going to be doing this year. This sucks.”‘

That changed this week when the Big Ten reversed course and announced that beginning Oct. 23-24 all 14 teams will be scheduled to play eight regular-season games in eight weeks, plus have the opportunity to play a ninth game on Dec. 19.

“Very grateful to just play and play the game we love and just to have fun again,” Fields said Friday.

A likely first-round NFL draft pick whether he plays another down at Ohio State, Fields insisted he never considered leaving school to prepare for the draft in the spring because he held out hope there would be some kind of season.

Two of his teammates, cornerback Shaun Wade and guard Wyatt Davis, already had announced their departures but back-tracked this week when the Big Ten brought the season back. Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Batemen, who had opted out due to coronavirus concerns, returned to campus in Minneapolis and has applied for reinstatement.

Bateman “now feels comfortable rejoining the team after the Big Ten announced the safety measures it was taking to protect student athletes, which includes daily antigen testing,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said in a statement Friday.

Unlike Fields and some of the Buckeyes, Wisconsin DE Isaiahh Loudermilk couldn’t bring himself to tune in when college football returned earlier this month.

“I actually haven’t watched any,” he said. “I flipped it one time for a little bit, but not playing was kind of tough. Whenever the games were on, it was kind of tough watching them knowing that we weren’t going to be able to play.”

Training camps can begin Monday with renewed intensity and appreciation.

“It means everything,” Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan said. “Football’s one of the most important things in my life. That’s like a lot of guys on this team. If we didn’t have it this fall, I really don’t know what I’d be doing. I’d probably be pretty bored. I’m not used to this much free time.”

The conference’s decision to play was especially poignant for Ohio State defensive end Jonathon Cooper, who missed most of his senior season with an ankle injury. He was granted a medical redshirt and decided to come back for a fifth season that almost didn’t happen.

“Seeing my team go out there without me, that motivation carried on to this year, and knowing that it can be taken away from you so quick motivates me even more,” Cooper said. “Because you can’t take a day for granted at all.”

Vick, Fitzgerald and Suggs among stars on College Football Hall of Fame ballot for 1st time

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Michael Vick, Larry Fitzgerald and Terrell Suggs are among the college football stars who will be considered for induction to the Hall of Fame for the first time this year.

The National Football Foundation released Monday a list of 78 players and nine coaches from major college football who are on the Hall of Fame ballot. There also are 101 players and 32 coaches from lower divisions of college football up for consideration.

Vick, who led Virginia Tech to the BCS championship game against Florida State as a redshirt freshman in 1999, is among the most notable players appearing on the ballot in his first year of eligibility.

Vick finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1999. He played one season of college football before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. Vick’s professional career was interrupted when he served 21 months in prison for his involvement in dog fighting.

Fitzgerald was the Heisman runner-up in 2003 to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White. He scored 34 touchdowns in just two seasons at Pitt.

Suggs led the nation in sacks with 24 in 2002 for Arizona State.

The 2024 Hall of Fame class will be chosen by the National Football Foundation’s Honors Court and announced in January. Induction into the Atlanta-based hall is the following December.

Alabama freshman DB Mitchell says he wasn’t sure he’d get to play again after arrest

Mickey Welsh / Advertiser / USA TODAY NETWORK
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama defensive back Tony Mitchell said he feared his football career was over after his arrest on a drug charge.

The Crimson Tide freshman said in a video posted Sunday on social media that he knew “something much bigger could have happened.”

A judge in Holmes County, Florida, sentenced Mitchell to three years of probation with a fine and community service on May 24 after Mitchell pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to play football again, but I continued to work out and stay close with the Lord and those who love me unconditionally,” Mitchell said. “During those times, it helped me to keep my mind off it. But when I was by myself looking at social media, what everybody had to say about it, it just felt like it happened again.

“I didn’t sleep at night.”

He was suspended from the Alabama team following the arrest, but Mitchell’s father, Tony Sr., posted on Facebook last week that the defensive back had been reinstated. An Alabama spokesman declined to comment on Mitchell’s status.

Tony Mitchell Sr. shared his son’s video on Facebook, saying it was filmed during a talk to youth.

“I was doing things I knew I shouldn’t to try to fit in,” the younger Mitchell said, “but not everybody’s your friend.”

Mitchell, who is from Alabaster, Alabama, was a four-star prospect and the 15th-rated safety in the 247Composite rankings.

He had been charged in March with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell after a traffic stop when authorities said he drove over 141 mph (227 kph) while trying to evade deputies in the Florida Panhandle. A deputy had spotted Mitchell’s black Dodge Challenger traveling 78 mph (125 kph) in a 55 mph (88 kph) zone on a rural highway north of Bonifay.

He also received 100 hours of community service and paid a fine of $1,560.

Mitchell and a passenger were both charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver, according to a Holmes County Sheriff’s Office arrest report. The other man also was charged with carrying a concealed gun without a permit.