Time is no longer on the side of college football, as a myriad of problems remain for the 2020 season to start as planned


The biggest ally of college football throughout the coronavirus pandemic had been time. COVID-19 struck during the offseason.

The practice of spring was impacted, of course, but there were still five months to go before the start of the season. A long time, they said, to understand the tests. Likewise, plenty of time to bring players back to campus and to think about what a 2020 season would look like.

Game stakeholders had time to understand everything outside. This is no longer the case.

Time? College football is running out, at least if it plans to start the 2020 season as planned.

We are 53 days from week 0. August 29 is in 7 and a half weeks. The required summer training could start for some teams as early as this week. For those who start the Labor Day weekend in traditional week 1, the pre-season camp begins in less than a month, on or about August 7.

As a result, time has gone from an ally to an unblocked linebacker.

July is probably the month when we will know if there will be a form of season this fall. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey recently said it was “probably a late July period” for a decision.

  • COVID-19 cases have increased in at least 36 states. Unsurprisingly, there is still a lack of consensus to voluntarily adopt a nationwide mask.
  • At least six FBS programs – including last season’s championship finalists (LSU, Clemson) – have stopped training due to positive outbreaks. Meanwhile, there is still no uniform test protocol. Perhaps more worrisome: almost half of the 130 FBS schools do not reveal a number of positive tests.
  • Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said Friday that the 2020 season “is far more dangerous than a few weeks ago” if the coronavirus is not slowed down.
  • On Wednesday, the Ivy League will announce its sports plan for the fall. Forbes magazine reported that there is a 98% chance that football will be moved in the spring.
  • Division II Morehouse College has canceled its season. At least three Division III schools have done the same.
  • Four games featuring historically black university programs (HBCU) have been canceled.
  • The FCS Patriot League makes “rare exceptions” for overnight travel. This could impact several non-conference games for FBS teams.
  • In fact, two games involving FBS programs – Navy against Lafayette on September 12 and Western Michigan against Colgate on September 4 – have already been canceled. (WMU has since found Stony Brook as a replacement.)

You see where it tends. Time is suddenly the enemy.

Spring football in 2021 is becoming more and more likely by the minute, but even that has its problems.

The NFL would not be interested in hosting college football by delaying its 2021 draft if the season were to be delayed by a few months. This could mean that some seniors and juniors eligible for the draft will not end up playing a final year of college ball, which would clearly affect the race for the national championship.

“I hope we can play in the fall,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said on Friday. “… But we have seen that the warm weather does not affect [COVID-19] a lot. We have heard reports from some medical leaders in our country. There is potentially a chance for a vaccine by the end of this year or early next year.

“For me it becomes, do you think [spring football is] feasible? Personally, I do. ”

Last week, Penn State sporting director Sandy Barbour called the spring season “the last resort.” It always has been. College football does not lend itself to being a mobile feast on the calendar.

Texas at LSU during Mardi Gras? “College GameDay” in the snow? Spring football during what should be the practice of spring?

Without this last resort, university athletics enters a sort of nuclear winter. Without the income from football, some schools would drop even more sports and perhaps stop playing football altogether.

Football provides 80% of the revenue of the average FBS budget. Given the growing and dramatic college budget crisis already at stake, the schools themselves could fall back.

Jamie Pollard of Iowa State AD called the prospect of no football “ice age.” I don’t know how each of us, how the current NCAA model, could survive if we don’t play any football game.

So we will probably know soon whether to buy parkas. The ability of the NBA, MLB and NHL to get started in one form or another by the end of the month will be a key indicator.

By then, college football will be able to determine how the pros manage to play real games amidst the coronavirus. By then, the sport will have to decide whether it is even safe for players to practice while exchanging their sweat and making physical contact.

Basically, the antithesis of avoiding COVID-19.

If that cannot happen, the season will not start on time, if at all.

“At some point, we’re going to have to go out and play soccer,” said Riley. “If you cannot contain [the coronavirus] within your own team, it will be difficult to justify going to play with someone else. ”

We have already said: Riley has been a sage through these difficult times. He thought deeply about a spring season.

“I think people who say it’s not doable, in my opinion, just don’t want to think about it,” said Riley. “I think it would be a mistake on our part to remove any potential options from the table. Spring is very doable. ”

Sankey said there are “18-20” scenarios for compression during the season. College leaders are ready to play without fans, perhaps without students on campus.

A late start is possible. Just like football over two semesters. Could we see the Rose Bowl on Remembrance Day?

We already know that the 10 FBS conferences are ready to move forward without universal participation. Within these conferences, all teams may not play or some may be forced to play a limited time.

Unlike the pros, university players cannot negotiate their working conditions. They are not compensated. It is worth asking: what exactly is this desperation to play related to education?

The road ahead is full of switchbacks. The despair of the stewards and sports directors of obtaining a share of the revenue from television rights is obvious. This is a big reason why they are ready to play in the spring.

It is not just the pandemic. They will have to do so in a continuous awakening of social justice, record unemployment and a declining economy.

All of this must be taken into account when restarting football. Players want to play too, but with new leverage. Players from the state of Oklahoma to Illinois have shown that they will have a voice in the difficult attempt to exploit part of this television revenue.

“How can a team of more than 100 student-athletes function fully during a pandemic,” tweeted Illinois linebacker Milo Eifler. “My teammates and I want to play. But schools across the country show blatant disregard for student athletes. ”

Players absolutely cannot be seen as human shields or mercenaries to get this money.

“We don’t just throw them out there and we hope,” said Riley.

Mix this thinking with great concern from college health professionals: players will hide the symptoms of COVID-19 to stay on the pitch.

Stars like Trevor Lawrence are unlikely to even play in the spring. For the # 1 overall choice expected, there wouldn’t be much choice between risking a late season or career injury versus a $ 40 million pay check, especially if the NFL draft 2021 occurs during a spring season rather than after it.

Then there would be uncomfortable TV renegotiations. Rights holders did not pay the high price, so college football would go hand in hand with the main professional sports in the spring.

Fall Saturdays are cut for college football, not Easter weekend.

There is another problem of student-athlete well-being. How strange it would be, two years after the celebration of the 150th anniversary of college football, that stakeholders land two seasons in the 152nd season of college football in 2021.

Obstacles continue to accumulate. Stakeholders seem willing to take it on one at a time.

There is hope tests will become more frequent. There is optimism epidemics can be contained with thousands upon thousands of students returning to campus next month.

There is the belief a spring season will always be there as a last resort.

Next Sunday, four months have passed since the closure of the sports world. When it will open fully again is a mystery.

There is a certainty: university football lacks time.


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