First Appeal: How the Big Ten Decision Can Impact Pitt, Notre Dame, West Virginia and Others


Sometimes this job requires you to act like you have all the answers. All the time. At once.

Even if it isn’t.

Saying “I don’t know” sounds like a shirk.

But when it comes to asking what the ripple effects of football will be from the Big Ten’s Thursday decision to play conference games exclusively in 2020, I’ll be the first to say, “I have no idea!”

Therefore, for the “first call on Friday”, let’s look at least at least some of the questions that need to be raised and how the world of college football could deal with them during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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What will other conferences do?: The expectation is that at least the ACC and the Pac-12 will be aligned and will only play conference matches.

The Big 12 does not seem to be going in this direction yet.

The SEC either.

For the independents, the remaining FBS conferences and the opponents of the FCS, this was a huge financial and programmatic success. USA Today reports that MAC schools will lose $ 10.5 million in planning costs by losing their Big Ten opponents alone. Bowling Green, for example, loses two Big Ten games.

Perhaps these schools can compensate for this loss of revenue by playing against the Big 12 and SEC colleges that need lost opponents if they try to play off-conference games.

For example, the state of Iowa has just lost Iowa from its calendar. Maybe Bowling Green or someone like that can fill that void for cyclones. Penn State dropped out of Kent State, another MAC school. Maybe a team like Kent State will become cannon fodder for Georgia if the Bulldogs lose Georgia Tech.

• • •

What will the calendar look like?: Several reports indicate that the Big Ten will attempt to configure a 10-game schedule. It has 14 teams. The same is true for the SEC and the ACC. The Pac-12, made up of 12 teams, may also be able to play in 10 games.

But if the 10 Big 12 teams try to get 10 games in total, they will need help from non-Power 5 schools, and they will only start with nine conference games. What does this mean for their ranking compared to other major conferences with regard to the perception of the playoffs?

These little schools would probably jump at the chance (and the check). But what about travel, which seems to be a major concern for the largest schools?

Ohio State sporting director Gene Smith told ESPN that many of these questions will be answered next week. He also said he expected no clarity on crowning a conference champion by then.

It was asked in this ESPN room if the conference could load the calendar with division games. But it is still unclear to what extent – if at all – the conference game will progress.

Or delay.

Some have questioned whether it would be wise to start the season as early as possible to minimize game loss due to the “second wave” of coronavirus expected in mid-fall. Others said it was best to wait for this recent spike to go away. As part of this first plan, it may be wise to cook in a few weeks, for the purpose of individual rescheduling if certain teams have mass epidemics.

• • •

What will happen at the ACC?: Our Lady. This is what will happen. Lots of Notre Dame.

The Fighting Irish are affiliated full-time to the ACC for 11 men’s sports but not for football. Although they have an agreement with the ACC until 2037. It indicates that the Irish will have an average of five ACC opponents per season. This year it is six o’clock. Pitt is one of them. Clemson, Duke, Wake Forest, Louisville and Georgia Tech are the others.

In 2020, Notre Dame already lost an opponent from the Big Ten (Wisconsin) and potentially two Pac-12 opponents (Stanford, USC). Maybe Arkansas depending on what the SEC decides.

The two parties could help each other.

The CCA may offer a conference season of nine games, but a full list of 10 games. With these three or four dates open, Notre Dame could help schools like the ACC like Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami to complete their only non-conference game. These four teams lost their Big Ten opponents on Thursday. Others will have similar problems.

Another avenue that could work is to go to a 10-game conference season. Notre-Dame’s current six opponents could count their results against the Irish towards the ACC’s win-loss record for this year. And maybe these other four teams can also use Notre Dame as one of their 10 conference games.

It will also free up the programming options so that other schools can access 10 games.

Or, potentially, Notre Dame can be absorbed by the ACC as an opponent of a conference for a sea…

Ha! Who am I kidding? We have all said that college football would disappear before Notre-Dame joined a conference. Well, I feel like we are approaching. But the option exists.

Now, at home and outside? How is VAC network money versus NBC Notre Dame money divided? Who knows?

Perhaps Notre-Dame will just conclude a parallel agreement with AFC South this year.

• • •

What about conference championships and playoffs?: In the air. But that’s where a certain structure has to come into play. I’m just spitballing, but how is (theoretically) a 9-0 Big 12 school compared to a Notre Dame team potentially 11-1 or a 10-2 SEC team?

Especially when there are very few, if any, non-conference games to help gauge the relative strength of conferences.

And, if you’re a good school outside of Power 5, forget it! You weren’t very lucky to get started. But the central Floridas and Boise states of the world are completely out of sight now. These teams alone have three ACC opponents they could lose as a result of these changes.

• • •

Is all this important?: Probably not. If they can play college football this year, I will be amazed.

Professional sports will be tough enough to take off. With all of these moving parts, the numbers of dense coronaviruses and unpaid college kids acting like covid-19 guinea pigs color me pessimistically.

It is an answer that I really feel I can provide. I just wish I had another one.

Tim Benz is a writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be republished. All emails are subject to publication, unless otherwise indicated.

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