Monday August 10th might have been the beginning of the end for college football in 2020. Reports broke that the Big Ten and the Pac-12 were canceling their seasons. Those reports were then retracted in statements saying both conferences would be having votes this week. The Big Ten announcement was expected on Tuesday August 11th. The face of college football, Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence tweeted out in support of having a season, as did President Donald Trump.
So what is really going on? The NCAA has given the conferences the right to make their own decisions based on what’s best for them. Kind of similar to Donald Trump leaving COVID-19 to the individual states. We don’t want to mix sports and politics, but it does seem eerily similar. And the results will likely end up the same. Inconsistent. With each conference taking its own path. Let’s take a look at where each is at this writing.
Following a Tuesday morning meeting of the conference’s presidents, the Big Ten decided to cancel the college football season for fall 2020 with hopes of playing in spring 2021. With this decision, the Big Ten has become the first Power Five conference to decide not to play this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The combination of outspoken coaches and the #WeWantToPlay #WeAreUnited movement that developed late Sunday seemed to give pause to the five major conferences. Now, the Big Ten has put an end to that.
Big Ten coaches, including Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, Penn State’s James Franklin and Nebraska’s Scott Frost, publicly advocated for playing the 2020 season on Monday. However, their pleas, and those of Big Ten players, were not enough to change the collective minds of Big Ten leaders. In a statement released Tuesday, the Big Ten announced that “multiple factors” including the “medical advice and counsel” from its experts led to what it is deeming as the “postponement of the 2020-21 fall sports season.”
What a spring 2021 college football season looks like is hard to picture right now. The reality of the second best college football conference in the country postponing their season is all we can really take in right now. Naturally, football in the spring will cause some major issues for the recruiting process, offseason programs and transition to the NFL for prospective pros.
Following the Big Ten’s announcement, the Pac-12 just less than an hour later announced they have canceled their fall football season, with the possibility of playing in the spring of 2021. Their decision was unanimous according to sources. The Big Ten and Pac-12 may have been able to use a bubble approach to salvage football this fall. However, doing so might jeopardize the NCAA’s longstanding position that athletes are amateurs. Schools cannot isolate athletes from the general student body while arguing they’re no different from traditional students. There-in lies the problem, which is a much larger labor dispute issue.
Now that the Big Ten and Pac-12 are ruling out fall football, the focus turns to major topics for those conferences. How many more athletes opt-out to focus on the 2021 draft. How many look to transfer and do any teams attempt to jump ship. Nebraska head coach Scott Frost and Ohio State head coach Ryan Day both alluded to the idea that their squads could leave the Big Ten in order to play this year. There are a lot of unsettled issues ahead of these conferences. The decision to postpone was just the first step in what will be a massive and ongoing headache.
Big-12 & ACC
Football in the south is just different. If you know Big-12 culture you know that football is a lifestyle down in the Texas and Oklahoma area. With that being said, the notion that they are considering punting on 2020 is very concerning for those holding on to hope there would be college football this fall. According to Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger, sources say that the Big-12 athletic directors and presidents are split on a decision for this fall. Some want to cancel, some want to play, and the larger group wants to delay. Also according to Dellenger, the Big-12’s decision will directly affect the ACC’s decision. If the Big-12 were to join the Big Ten and Pac-12 in their decisions, the ACC would feel compelled to do the same. Trevor Lawrence’s push to having a season may not be enough.
The SEC is digging its heels in, regardless of what other conferences do. As the top brand within college football, the SEC seemingly could have a functional season of their own. It could actually work in their favor, assuming COVID-19 is controlled.
For months, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has said the league will use all of the time it can to make any decisions about the fall and gather as much information as possible from medical officials. The SEC pushed back the start of its season until Sept. 26. Several SEC athletic directors say that the league is committed to staying the course. They are hopeful that at least one other Power 5 conference will do the same. Ultimately, the greatest challenge to playing this fall will be presidents and chancellors standing firm in the face of liability.
The Summary And Verdict
So is the season dead, or just hanging on a thread? You be the judge. Two power 5 conferences are out. The Big-12’s decision likely will swing the ACC’s. The SEC is going to take their own path regardless of their counterparts. For now, we keep an eye on the Big-12. They seem to be the key piece here in determining whether or not there is any semblance of multi-conference college football this fall. In the end, it may just be the SEC, or nobody at all.