The topic today must be college football – – but where to begin? At the macro-level, there are plenty of reports that cast doubt on the very existence of college football in 2020. Division 1-AA conferences have canceled their seasons; the MAC canceled its football season late last week; there are rep[orts that the school presidents in the Big-10 are leaning toward cancelation; some players have banded together in the PAC-12 and Big-10 to demand expanded protections for teams regarding COVID-19; other players have banded together to urge schools to play football in 2020. That is the landscape; what might it portend?
Regarding the school presidents feeling pressure to cancel athletics in the Fall, I think that “health people” and “legal people” have provided some sobering advice to the administrators. If there were to be football AND IF there is a COVID-19 outbreak centered on the football team that then spreads among the student body, it will be very difficult for the administrators to argue that “they didn’t know that was possible”. The scenario above could expose the school to major lawsuits and even if the school might win some of those suits, the president who led the school into that situation would find his position far less secure.
Ergo, school presidents just might be viewing the cancellation of Fall athletics from a position of “enlightened self-interest”. I cannot think of a more highly motivating environment than enlightened self-interest…
The cancellation of the football season by the MAC over the weekend is significant in that the MAC is a Division 1-A conference. The MAC was clearly hurt when the Power 5 conferences started paring schedules down and eliminating out-of-conference games. Those actions took 9 potential moneymaking games away from MAC teams almost overnight. I wonder what sorts of “economic impact assessments” are ongoing in the office suites of other minor conferences in Division 1-A…
Before you find yourself feeling overly sorry for the MAC players who will not have an excuse to ignore academics in the Fall semester, think about the angst that must be flowing through ESPN headquarters this week. Without the MAC, what will ESPN do for sports programming on Tuesday and Wednesday nights in the Fall? Toledo, Bowling Green and Akron football teams were mainstays of ESPN programming on those nights. I am only a bit surprised that none of the MAC schools ever got an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor(s) in a TV series…
Brad Dickson took a different view of the MAC cancellation of football:
“If you built your life around MAC football this is going to be a disappointing fall. Actually, if you’ve built your life around MAC you’re probably used to disappointment in life.”
Hawaii is a member of the Mountain West Conference. Before any sort of scheduling adjustments had to be made, the schedule called for Hawaii to play 6 games on the mainland and 8 games at home. Here’s the rub:
- Hawaii requires a 14-day quarantine for people coming to Hawaii from the mainland.
- How will visiting teams accommodate that into their schedules?
- How will the Hawaii football team accommodate that into their schedule after they return to Hawaii from the mainland after their first visit there?
They say it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good. Well maybe there is a smidgen of good emanating from the ill wind that represents the potential loss of college football in 2020. Mississippi was one of the States that had rising numbers of COVID-19 cases but had not implemented mask-wearing as a controlling measure. Last week, Governor Reeves issued a statewide mask-wearing mandate and explained that part of the impetus for his decision was:
“I want to watch college football.”
Who cares about listening to epidemiologists? The desire “to watch college football” represents a deep sense of enlightened self-interest. And that is a powerful motivator, indeed…
There are reports out there saying that the NFL is poised to play some of its games on Saturdays if college football is canceled. That makes plenty of sense from an entertainment and from an economic perspective. It does lead me to wonder, however, if XFL 2.0 had survived the pandemic, might not XFL 2.0 have tried to fill that void? I do not think the NFL would want to “bigfoot” XFL 2.0 in that situation having already lost an anti-trust case to the USFL about 30 years ago. Interesting to imagine…
Over the weekend, I got an email from a reader with the following logical question that I will paraphrase here:
- If schools cancel all athletic activities for the Fall Semester, that will knock out the start of the college basketball season. If that happens, might colleges just push the entire season back 6 or 8 weeks and have the tournament in May instead of in March?
My answer was straightforward. If CBS is willing to pay the same TV rights fees for “May Madness” as it is for “March Madness”, then the NCAA could give that serious consideration. If not, forget it.
Finally, there are lots of other college athletics happenings out there – and some of them are sordid indeed – but they shall have to wait until tomorrow. I will close today with an observation from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:
“Futurewatch: The University of Texas hopes to allow 50% seating capacity at its football games. So Texas has a plan. COVID-19 laughs at plans.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………