College Football Chaos

As of this morning, college football is a mixed bag.  Among the “big boys”, the Big-10 and the PAC-12 will not play any football this year; meanwhile, the Big-12, the SEC and the ACC will attempt to play a fall schedule in 2020 albeit one that starts a bit late.  The “little guys” in Division 1-A are also a mixed bag with some playing and others spectating.  The world of college football has set itself up for a major Twitter war somewhere down the line.  Consider:

  • If the teams/conferences that choose to play finish their seasons with only minimal COVID-19 impact on players, the fans of those teams will point at the conferences that chose to sit out and say they were wrong and that they are all a bunch of wusses.
  • If the teams/conferences that choose to play have major COVID-19 problems or maybe have to terminate their seasons in medias res, the fans of the teams that sat out the season will point fingers and chant, “Told you so…”

And the sad part is that no matter the outcome, neither side in that upcoming Twitter war will be a real winner.  But stand by, the social media shaming slogans on either side are already under construction.

The Big-10 has broached the idea of playing the 2020 Fall football season in the Spring of 2021.  I have read over some of the outlines for how that would happen and can see strengths and weaknesses with all the proposals.

  • The idea of a Big-10 season beginning in mid-January seems to me to ignore the climate in many Big-10 cities.  January and February are mighty cold in places like Minneapolis, Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Madison, State College and Chicago.  Moreover, none of the other Big-10 cities derives any economic benefit as a “spa city” for folks seeking asylum from winter.
  • The idea of a Big-10 season starting in March and running through late May would give players precious little time for recovery before going to practice again for another football season in the Fall of 2021.
  • I am not saying Big-10 spring football is impossible; I am saying that the plans I have heard about all have more than a couple of problems associated with them.  To make this work will take careful thought and planning – – and there has not been a lot of evidence of those things in the world of college football since COVID-19 came onto the scene.

As of now, the SEC will play in the Fall of 2020.  The SEC has 14 teams and 12 of those 14 teams are in states where COVID-19 cases are more than 20 per 10,000 population based on a 7-day trailing average.  Those states are in the “top categories” for COVID-19 cases in the country.  Meanwhile the Big-10 – also with 14 teams – has none of them located in states with more than 20 COVID-19 cases per 10,000 population and the Big-10 has canceled football and other fall sports.

I would wish for a “normal college football season” as much as anyone but my rational mind says that is not going to happen in 2020.  That is not because there are some school administrators who don’t love football enough; that is because COVID-19 is a serious threat and we do not have a long track record to analyze in order to understand what it is doing and how we can counter it.  Rational decision making is easy when “all the facts are known”; it is easy to plan a trip 5 years in advance to go to a place to see a total eclipse of the sun; we know exactly when and where that will happen.  Such is not the case with COVID-19; and so, rational decision making is part science and part gut reaction; the challenge here is to make a good decision in an environment that is chaotic and not stable.  That is not an easy task.

There is an ominous presence orbiting all this chaos over college football – and college athletics in general.  A bunch of Congressthings has bigfooted their way into the spotlight here and have suggested there be a “College Athletes Bill of Rights” and one of those “Rights” would be “revenue sharing … that results in fair and equitable compensation”.

I have no idea where that sort of thinking/acting might lead – – but if the US Congress is the actor, I am highly skeptical.  Given the choice to do something “righteous” or something that will assure re-election, every Congressthing will choose to be re-elected.  I am not the first person to think that way; here is an observation from H. L. Mencken from about 80 years ago:

“A professional politician is a professionally dishonorable man. In order to get anywhere near high office, he has to make so many compromises and submit to so many humiliations that he becomes indistinguishable from a streetwalker.”

[Aside:  I suggest that keeping that thought in mind in circumstances other than ones related to college athletics is not such a bad idea for an informed citizenry.]

Meanwhile, Bob Molinaro had a cogent observation about college football in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week:

Idle thought: Something’s wrong with the business model at many American universities when the cancellation of a football season threatens to wreck a school’s budget.”

Last week, I mentioned that NFL officials had the ability to opt-out of the 2020 season without having to forfeit their jobs for 2021 and beyond.  The deadline for that decision came and went; seven NFL officials opted out; five are on-field officials and two are replay officials.  The NFL had 121 on-field officials on its roster prior to the opt-outs (4% opt-out rate) and the league said it would hire officials to take the place of those opting out.  I read one report that was chilling.  Supposedly, the NFL is working contingency plans to use only 5 on-field officials for a game if conditions demand it.  The standard crew is 7 officials; a game with only 5 officials could be a frightening spectacle.

Finally, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Edgy:  An otherwise normal person or work of art deemed provocative or daring by virtue of a little profanity, self-mutilation, or both.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



4 thoughts on “College Football Chaos”

  1. Jack,
    I appreciate the quote from Mencken. One of my favorite Mencken quotes is the following which has special relevance:
    “On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

  2. How about we go back to the 1960’s, my era, when the football team played a normal schedule during the school year(the spring in this case), got a summer job like the rest of us and came back to play in the fall.

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