COVID-19 Football Long Beach City College Long Beach Poly

Long Beach Athletes Entangled In Uncertain NCAA Football Season

For the past few weeks, one of the most discussed and debated topics in the sports world has centered around how to proceed–if at all–with the 2020-21 college football season. Though it’s been nearly three decades since NCAA football had a home in Long Beach, there are several local athletes who will be greatly impacted by whatever decisions are made over the weeks and months ahead.

So far, the decisions regarding the season have varied from conference to conference. The PAC-12–where the majority of Long Beach’s college football players compete–has postponed its season until the start of 2021, at the earliest. That directly impacts a slew of former Long Beach Poly athletes, including the seven former Jackrabbits on Arizona State’s 2020 roster.

Two members of that Sun Devil septet, defensive backs DeAndre Pierce and Jack Jones, are entering their senior seasons, and have been vocal about their desire to play. Pierce is a transfer from Boise State and would have the chance to play for his father, longtime NFL linebacker Antonio Pierce, who coached DeAndre at Poly and is now the Associate Head Coach and Co-Defensive Coordinator at ASU. The younger Pierce recently tweeted, “I swear to God they better not cancel this season.” 

Jones has also taken to Twitter, posting a photo of himself and his teammates with the trending hashtag “#WeWantToPlay.” The high school All-American originally attended USC, but has re-established himself as a legitimate NFL Draft prospect going into his senior season with the Sun Devils.

In other parts of the country, conferences like the SEC and ACC are taking a more aggressive approach to returning to the gridiron. The SEC is set to have a conference-only season, beginning on Sept. 26. Former Poly quarterback Matt Corral is now the signal-caller at Ole Miss, and has been supportive of football returning. “If we can opt-out, why can’t we opt-in??” he tweeted, while also tweeting out the #WeWantToPlay hashtag.

The college football program that’s faced the most controversy in recent weeks is Florida State, where former Poly tight end Camren McDonald is set to begin his junior campaign. After one of his teammates publicly criticized the team’s safety protocols and accused FSU leadership of lying to players, McDonald backed the coaching staff and safety measures in place.

“Whatever we gotta do to play and do it safely,” McDonald tweeted. “@FSUFootball has done a great job with daily protocols. I stand behind my teammates and the Seminole family. #WeWantToPlay”

Elsewhere around the country, players are coming together to demand changes from their schools and conferences before they’re willing to compete. Former LBCC cornerback Malik Welch–now at San Jose State–was among the dozens of athletes tweeting out #MWU (meaning Mountain West United) along with a list of demands from the athletes toward the Mountain West Conference. 

One excerpt from the shared graphic reads, “We, the athletes, do not feel safe enough participating in this upcoming season without reform. There is too much ambiguity surrounding the state of affairs in this country to demand competition as we know it.”

The statement goes on to call for regular weekly testing for players and staff, a hardship waiver for athletes that choose to opt-out of the season to preserve their scholarship and NCAA eligibility, a ban on any COVID-19 liability waivers by schools, and guaranteed medical coverage and whistleblower protections for student-athletes and staff members.

For now, the ACC is poised to begin its season during the second week of September, with the Big 12 considering a similar start date. However, as the last few months have shown, nothing is guaranteed, so the speculation and debate will surely continue across the college football world.

Tyler Hendrickson
Tyler Hendrickson was born and raised in Long Beach, and started covering sports in his hometown in 2010. After five years as a sportswriter, Tyler joined the athletic department at Long Beach State University in 2015. He spent more than four years in the athletic communications department, working primarily with the Dirtbags baseball program. Tyler also co-authored of The History of Long Beach Poly: Scholars & Champions.