As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep sports from happening across the country, the speculation on a college football season has been a heavily discussed topic.
On one hand, it seems like Major League Baseball is very confident they will be able to return to play sometime this summer. While the NHL and NBA don’t seem quite as confident, they have made steps toward trying to resume as well in the coming months.
The NFL also seems convinced that they will have a season this year – but those are all professional leagues. It is a much different animal when discussing putting unpaid college athletes at risk.
The first step to even having a chance at a season was that the university campuses had to be open this fall, and a few major schools (including both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) have said they intend to be open for students to return this August/September.
Many scenarios have been thrown out there as ways to get the college football season in this coming year. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby told the Athletic yesterday that they’ve even discussed splitting the season – with half the games coming in the fall and half in the spring.
Let’s touch on that, and the other possibilities for this season that make sense – and the one’s that don’t.
Having the Season On Time as Normal
Oh, wouldn’t it be so nice to just have the season like normal?
Trust me, I would love that, and just about everyone in the state would love that. But, it does not seem to be super realistic right now.
It certainly could happen and it isn’t being ruled out by any stretch, but there are two key things that keep this from being the most likely option to me.
First, the teams need to be able to practice together at some point this summer.
Yes, some states are beginning to reopen as soon as this week (again, like Oklahoma), but a state beginning to reopen and allowing a full college football roster to come together and practice everyday are two different things.
The teams would almost certainly need to be together by mid-July at the latest to hope for the season to start on time.
Could that happen? Of course, but it is so hard to expect it to happen.
The second thing that makes the season going on as scheduled tough is probably the even bigger issue than the first one I mentioned – this virus is going to flare up again big time in the Winter.
It is widely known that when the flu season kicks up in late November and into the Winter, the Coronavirus is going to get a big second wind.
So even if the season started on time, COVID-19 could come right in and wipe out the conference championship games and the bowl season – thus rendering the season unfinished and just like what we experienced with college basketball this previous year.
Eliminating Non-Conference Play to Make the Season Shorter
This honestly might be the most wise decision.
We all love non-conference play and of course we want to see Oklahoma travel to West Point this year to take on Army.
But, it may be most wise to eliminate those games to make the season shorter – and then we would be able to get the bowl season in before the second wave of the Coronavirus kicked up in the Winter.
How this would affect the independent teams, like Notre Dame, is hard to say exactly. Maybe they could join a conference on a 1-year basis? Independent teams don’t make any sense in my mind anyway so maybe this could be the opening to eliminate that altogether.
While you hate to take any games completely off the schedule, this seems like it may honestly be the best option for having the 2020 season uninterrupted and still mostly on time.
Playing the Season Entirely in the Spring
This has been the big idea that has been pushed in recent weeks.
Instead of trying to squeeze the season in before the second wave of COVID-19, why not wait until after it and play in the Spring?
The sports palooza in the spring would be insane, with nearly every college sport going on at once plus the NBA and NHL.
This idea makes some sense on paper, but again is met with some obvious pit falls.
First, any player who is intending to go into the draft is going to have to really think about if they want to risk their future by playing.
Is it really in Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence’s best interest to put himself at risk that close to the draft when he is almost guaranteed to be a Top 5 pick next year?
Then, if they did elect to play, they would have to turn around and start playing NFL games just a few months later. That is a lot of wear and tear on the body in a calendar year.
The same can be said for the players in college, playing an entire season in the spring and then another one in the following fall?
We’re talking a minimum of 24 football games in a calendar year, and closer to 30 for the good teams.
Even the NFL players never have to do that. So, it seems like that may not be the best move for the NCAA from a PR standpoint.
Also, as I mentioned, basically every college sport would be happening at once. But football is what would obviously garner the lion-share of the attention.
The other sports would be completely overshadowed, except for during March Madness where there would almost be too many things happening at once and I don’t even know how any television network or media entity would begin to try and broadcast and cover everything.
Bottom line, the spring season should be viewed as an absolute last resort. It is better than no season at all, but it creates a lot of problems.
Splitting the Season in Half
Bob Bowlsby told the Athletic that they are considering playing half the games in the fall and the other half in the spring.
I got to be honest here, this idea is terrible.
While I said the spring season should be viewed as a last resort, this idea should not be really considered at all.
I am all for suggestions, and tossing things out there to see what would work – but this just doesn’t make a lick of sense.
To get the teams together and have them play six or so games in September and October, take two or three months off, and then resume the season in late January or February is bonkers.
There are so many issues it is hard to wrap your brain around.
Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, having a season that way would just be plain wack.
The season would have no flow to it whatsoever and the teams and the season would lose all the momentum it had built up.
The college football season starts to get really good right at the halfway point, so we’re just going to chop it into two first halves of a season?
Then, the number of players not wanting to play in the spring due to the draft would likely be even higher in this scenario than the full-spring season, because they would have already played games and gotten more tape out there.
Now you have teams with a completely different roster in the second half of the season.
Can you imagine if last year’s LSU team had this kind of format? They would have annihilated everyone for six games, be ranked #1, and then lose 10+ players to the draft but still be sitting as the top-ranked team even though they are a completely different team now.
I could go on about this, but bottom line – this idea wreaks, and it can’t be what they decide to do.
The calendar shifts to May this week, and Lincoln Riley has said he thinks a decision needs to be reached by the beginning of June.
So the NCAA still has some time to map all this out, and to also see how the COVID-19 pandemic progresses in the coming weeks before coming to a final decision on how to get the season in this year.
Keep up with The Franchise both on the air and on the web for all news regarding college football.