Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska sends letter to Big Ten: ‘Please don’t cancel college football’

The college football season is on the verge of collapse, but Nebraska senator and former Midland University president Ben Sasse believes that the season can and should be salvaged.

Sports Illustrated obtained a copy of a letter Sasse plans to send to Big Ten presidents, which contains a number of reasons why he believes football should be played during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

Sasse is arguing that it will be safer for the players to have a football season, due to the “structure and discipline of football programs.” In addition, it would cut players off from “testing and health care” that their universities could provide for them. He wraps up the letter by pointing out that leadership means being willing to take blame if things go wrong.

Health and safety protocols are major issue

Sasse’s letter doesn’t directly address the most important problem with college athletics right now: there are currently no universal COVID-19 health and safety protocols in college football, including guidelines for testing. Every institution is expected to come up with their own, and they could vary widely from school to school. Structure and discipline for college football players is useless during a pandemic if there is no routine testing or common sense COVID-19 protections involved.

Universal health and safety protocols across college sports is one of the issues that Justin Fields, Trevor Lawrence, and others are fighting for with their #WeWantToPlay campaign. They, like Sasse, believe there should be a college football season, but they want every university to take responsibility for providing a safe environment to do so. Sasse didn’t explicitly call for the Big 10 schools to do that, but he did imply it by mentioning Fields and Lawrence, who are two of the leaders of the #WeWantToPlay movement.

Sasse knows what he’s up against, and so do the players who are part of #WeWantToPlay. The college football season has already started to unwind, with the majority of Big Ten schools reportedly voting to cancel fall sports in a meeting on Sunday. Sasse hopes his letter makes a difference, but it might already be too late.

25 PHOTOSThe most dominant college football programs of the decadeSee GalleryThe most dominant college football programs of the decade25. Boise State

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $16.8 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 1

Conference championships: 5

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 0

National championships: 0

Players in the NFL: 15

One thing to know: Only three FBS schools (Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State) have won more games than Boise State (109) over the last decade.

Data is is for the 2009-18 seasons across FBS, FCS, Division II, and Division III. Championships were weighted by division and years since title.


24. Iowa

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $53.3 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 1

Conference championships: 0

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 0

National championships: 0

Players in the NFL: 27

One thing to know: Iowa has won at least eight games in eight of the last 10 seasons. 

(Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)

23. Stanford

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $31.5 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 1

Conference championships: 3

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 0

National championships: 0

Players in the NFL: 26

One thing to know: Stanford, Wisconsin, and Boise State are the only FBS schools with 100 wins over the last decade and no appearances in the College Football Playoff or the BCS title game. 

(Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

22. Northwest Missouri State

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $2.6 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 0

Conference championships: 7

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 0

National championships: 4 (Div. II)

Players in the NFL: 0

One thing to know: Northwest Missouri State has won three of the last six Division II titles. 

(Photo by Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

21. Oklahoma State

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $40.1 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 1

Conference championships: 1

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 0

National championships: 0

Players in the NFL: 15

One thing to know: Of the FBS programs in this ranking, only Stanford ($31.5 million) makes less money each year from their football team than the Cowboys.

(Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

20. Florida

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $75.5 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 1

Conference championships: 0

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 0

National championships: 0

Players in the NFL: 46

One thing to know: The Gators rank 8th in revenue generated and third in players reaching the NFL.

(Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

19. Michigan

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $86.0 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 2

Conference championships: 0

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 0

National championships: 0

Players in the NFL: 35

One thing to know: Michigan is third in football revenue generated over the last 10 years. 

(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

18. Michigan State

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $55.0 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 1

Conference championships: 2

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 1

National championships: 0

Players in the NFL: 18

One thing to know: Only Ohio State (4) has more Big Ten championships over the last decade. 

(Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

17. Oregon

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $50.8 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 0

Conference championships: 3

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 2

National championships: 0

Players in the NFL: 22

One thing to know: Oregon and Alabama are the only two FBS schools to lose multiple national championship games over the last decade.

(Photo by Brian Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

16. Mount Union

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $484,900

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 0

Conference championships: 9

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 

National championships: 3 (Div. III)

Players in the NFL: 0

One thing to know: Mount Union has reached the Division III national championship game nine times in the last 10 years.

(Photo by Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

15. Penn State

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $72.6 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 2

Conference championships: 1

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 0

National championships: 0

Players in the NFL: 28

One thing to know: Many thought the Jerry Sandusky scandal would kill the Penn State football program. Five years later, James Franklin had the team back in the Top 10. 

(Abby Drey/Centre Daily Times/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

14. Washington

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $58.2 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 2

Conference championships: 2

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 1

National championships: 0

Players in the NFL: 27

One thing to know: Washington is the only Pac-12 school to reach the College Football Playoff in the last four years. 

(Photo by Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

13. Wisconsin

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $54.0 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 2

Conference championships: 2

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 0

National championships: 0

Players in the NFL: 27

One thing to know: Wisconsin and Stanford are tied for the most wins (102) over the last decade without a single appearance in the College Football Playoff or BCS title game. 

(Photo by Mark Vancleave/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

12. Notre Dame

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $80.7 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 1

Conference championships: 0

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 2

National championships: 0

Players in the NFL: 32

One thing to know: Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP Top 5 at least once in five of the last ten seasons. 

(Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

11. Louisiana State University

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $77.5 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 1

Conference championships: 1

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 1

National championships: 0

Players in the NFL: 44

One thing to know: Only three schools (Alabama, Ohio State, Florida) produce more NFL players. 

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

10. Texas

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $113.6 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 1

Conference championships: 1

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 1

National championships: 0

Players in the NFL: 25

One thing to know: Texas hasn’t been terribly dominant on the field recently, but no program is more dominant off the field. The football team has brought in $1.14 billion in revenue over the last decade, more than $200 million greater than any other school.

(Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

9. Florida State

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $51.5 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 2

Conference championships: 3

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 2

National championships: 1

Players in the NFL: 36

One thing to know: Of the FBS programs in the top 15, no school makes less money with their football team.

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

8. Georgia

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $83.7 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 1

Conference championships: 1

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 1

National championships: 0

Players in the NFL: 28

One thing to know: Only three schools (Texas, Alabama, Michigan) bring in more revenue from their football team. 

(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

7. Auburn

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $76.7 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 2

Conference championships: 2

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 2

National championships: 1

Players in the NFL: 32

One thing to know: Auburn is one of only four FBS schools to reach the national championship game twice in the last ten years. However, they also have seven seasons in which they lost at least five games. 

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

6. Wisconsin-Whitewater

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $383,600

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 0

Conference championships: 7

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 0

National championships: 5 (Div. III)

Players in the NFL: 1

One thing to know: Wisconsin-Whitewater has averaged 12.6 wins per season over the last decade.

(Photo by Peter Lockley/ NCAA Photos via Getty Images

5. Oklahoma

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $73.1 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 1

Conference championships: 5.5

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 3

National championships: 0

Players in the NFL: 29

One thing to know: Boise State (109) and Oklahoma (105) are the only FBS schools to win more than 102 games over the last decade without winning a national championship.

(Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

4. Ohio State

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $74.9 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 3

Conference championships: 4

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 2

National championships: 1

Players in the NFL: 50

One thing to know: The Buckeyes’ 50 players in the NFL are second only to Alabama (57).

(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

3. North Dakota State

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $4.3 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 0

Conference championships: 8

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 0

National championships: 7 (FCS)

Players in the NFL: 4

One thing to know: North Dakota State has won seven of the last eight FCS championships. No other school has won more than six championships in the history of the FCS/I-AA. 

(Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

2. Clemson

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $41.4 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 0

Conference championships: 5

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 4

National championships: 2

Players in the NFL: 32

One thing to know: Clemson has appeared in the last four College Football Playoffs and three of the last four national championship games. 

(Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

1. Alabama

Avg. football revenue, last 10 years: $89.9 million

New Year’s 6 bowl appearances: 0

Conference championships: 6

BCS title game/Playoff appearances: 8

National championships: 5

Players in the NFL: 57

One thing to know: Alabama is the only school to appear in all five College Football Playoffs.

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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