It might not be science nor player safety that determines a conference’s decision to play college football during the coronavirus pandemic.  Instead, it seems  that the decisions to play may be aligned with the political affiliation of each region. 

Power Five conferences based in the South and dominated by red states are ready for football in 2020. The conferences with schools in blue states  in the East and West  and battleground states that lean Democrat have postponed fall sports.

The Pac-12, which announced Tuesday that it won’t play football this year, is dominated by blue states. Eight of the conference’s 12 schools play in California, Oregon and Washington. If Joe Biden wins Arizona, where the latest FiveThirtyEight election model says the presumptive Democratic nominee has a slight lead, Utah might be the only Pac-12 school that plays in a state that President Donald Trump wins in November.

The Big Ten became the first Power Five conference to cancel fall college football. In a conference of 14 teams, only Nebraska, Indiana, Purdue and Iowa are located in firmly red states. Trump is considered more likely to beat Biden in Ohio, but the state that’s home to the Ohio State Buckeyes is essentially a toss-up, according to FiveThirtyEight. 

The pattern is the same for smaller conferences that are not going to play football in 2020.

The Big East and the Ivy League, both located in the blue Northeast, have canceled fall sports. The Mountain West has also postponed its college football season with 75% of its teams hailing from blue states. The Mid-American Conference, mostly made up of schools in Ohio and Michigan, was the first FBS conference to rule out the possibility of football this year.

The University of Connecticut, which doesn’t belong to a conference, was the first FBS school to cancel its upcoming football season.

Meanwhile the Big 12, SEC and ACC are all moving forward with plans to start the college football season in September.

Every Big 12 school is located in a red state. There are 14 teams in the SEC, and they are all located in states that Trump won in 2016. 

The ACC is more diverse with Syracuse and Boston College located in two of the country’s bluest states. Virginia, home to a pair of ACC schools, is blue, and Pittsburgh plays in a state where Biden is leading. Half of the conference’s teams are located in Republican strongholds, and Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis even said he’d welcome players from conferences that have canceled the season.  The ACC;s Miami and Florida State play in DeSantis' state.

“These students work their whole lives to be able to get to this point and, you know, they shouldn't have their season taken away from them,” DeSantis told reporters earlier this week. “There's never anything you do in life that is entirely risk-free. I think the risks, in this case, to them are very low, but I think they can make that assessment for themselves.”

DeSantis is among a few prominent Republicans who strongly supported the college football season being played. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse sent a letter to Big Ten presidents imploring them not to cancel the season, Sports Illustrated reported. Vice President Mike Pence, who is from Indiana,  tweeted that the country “needs college football.”

Trump said canceling the season would be a “tragic mistake” because most of the players are young and healthy enough to handle the coronavirus without getting very sick.

“You’re not gonna see people dying,” Trump said Tuesday on “Outkick the Coverage.” 

While the death rate from the coronavirus among college-aged students remains low, conferences say they are concerned with potential long-term effects the virus might have on student-athletes. Myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that has also been linked to COVID-19, has been found in at least five Big Ten players, according to reports.

The three Power Five conferences that are marching forward with the season believe they can keep players safe with the protocols they have put in place.

Donald Trump Dabo Swinney Clemson Clemson University President Jim Clements (L) and Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney (R) present two jerseys, one for President Donald Trump (2nd L) and one for his son Barron, during a South Lawn event at the White House June 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump hosted the team to honor 2016 NCAA Football National Championship. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images