For former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, the case to save the college football season is also a matter of safety for players.


In a Fox Sports radio interview with Colin Cowherd on Tuesday afternoon, Meyer, who also works for the network as an analyst, pointed to the health protocols in place at athletic departments across the country.


He mentioned Ohio State tests its athletes for COVID-19 at least twice each week and said that he felt not only good, but great, about their wellness while on campus.


"When I start hearing the narrative that people don’t care about student-athletes and their health and well-being, I cringe, because people who are probably making those comments haven’t coached a player or got stuck in bad places," Meyer said. "A student-athlete, at a place like Florida or Ohio State, or Utah or even (Bowling Green) to an extent, is so far more than the average person, the average student in society.


"What they have available to them, you’re on campus, you have the best medical facility within a half-mile of your facility. I think that’s why a lot of these families are so determined they want to play. Because they know their kids are in a good place."


Much of the 11th-hour push to save the 2020 college season from coaches and others connected to the industry has centered on this sentiment.


The effort, however, did not convince Big Ten presidents and chancellors, who on Tuesday decided to cancel fall sports, including football.


For a solid day before the Big Ten’s announcement, coaches and others contended that players would be better off in a structured environment on campus, preparing for games throughout the weeks.


On Monday, Ohio State coach Ryan Day and Alabama coach Nick Saban made their cases in separate interviews with ESPN.


Day advocated for pushing back the start of the Big Ten season, and for his players and their families to have a voice in the decision process.


"By pushing back the season, we can still figure out" some of the issues, including testing and contact tracing, Day said. "And whether we can play the season or not, that’s up to the players and their parents or their coaches, in my opinion."


Saban said players on his team and others are safer on campus than they are at home.


"We have around a 2% positive ratio on our team since the Fourth of July. It’s a lot higher than that in society," Saban said. "We act like these guys can’t get this unless they play football. They can get it anywhere, whether they’re in a bar or just hanging out."


A similar stance even was adopted by federal lawmakers, who began pushing for the Big Ten not to scrap its fall season.


Ben Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska, wrote a letter to Big Ten presidents and chancellors making a similar case.


"The structure and discipline of football programs is very likely safer than what the lived experience of 18- to 22-year-olds will be if there isn’t a season," he wrote. "Here’s the reality: Many of you think that football is safer than no football, but you also know that you will be blamed if there is football, whereas you can duck any blame if you cancel football."


Former Ohio State receiver Anthony Gonzalez, now a Republican representative representing Ohio’s 16th congressional district, believes football also gave players an incentivized structure to follow, he said in a telephone interview with The Dispatch on Monday night.


The prospect of games provides motivation for players to follow social-distancing guidelines and avoid gatherings that will be high-risk places of transmission of the coronavirus.


They will also be around other players who have been subject to frequent testing, limiting the risk of contracting the virus.


"I think the risk of having a bad outcome from COVID goes up when you cancel the football season for these players because the players are hardwired to sacrifice a lot for the opportunity to play," Gonzalez said. "They sacrifice with respect to the hours they spend in the facility, they sacrifice in workouts, they sacrifice a lot. And they know that the cost of the greatness that they want to achieve as a team is sacrifice. It’s baked into them.


"Inside of a season, part of that ask from a coach is, ‘When we break on Saturdays, we can’t have you out, we can’t have you doing this.’ They may not like it, and some people might stray, but they know that the cost of winning, the cost of playing, the cost of the opportunity is some personal sacrifice from a social life standpoint. They may be willing to do that. If you take away the football season, you take away the benefit. Then there’s no value in the sacrifice."


Gonzalez also raised concerns about potential mental-health challenges for players who are unable to play this fall.


"If you take that away, the thing they’ve been working for their whole lives, that they’ve earned, nobody gave that to them, without any input," Gonzalez said. "I think it will cause enormous mental-health challenges and add just another layer of difficulty for a lot of these kids in what has already been a very difficult path."


jkaufman@dispatch.com


@joeyrkaufman