SportsPulse: Dan Wolken and Paul Myerberg discuss if there will be college football this fall. As Wolken put its, all it takes is one bad outcome due to the pandemic to send the sport into chaos.
On March 10, a day before the NBA shocked the nation by suspending operations due to a player’s positive coronavirus test, the Ivy League canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournament.
Two days later, the rest of the nation canceled every men’s and women’s basketball game, including the NCAA tournaments.
On March 11, the Ivy League canceled all spring sports. A few days later, every college and high school in the country canceled all spring sports.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Ivy League told schools that it was canceling football and other fall sports.
If past is prologue, we will soon be hearing that the rest of the college sports world is considering canceling all fall sports. But that’s not going to happen right away. The Power 5 conferences will take their time before they make such a momentous decision. The last thing our biggest football schools want to do is lose football – and the payday football brings – this fall. So they’ll hang on for a while longer, buy some time, shudder as they watch coronavirus cases soar in the country and wonder how they’re going to pull this off in the midst of a raging pandemic.
In the end, though, they are increasingly likely to wind up right where the Ivy League is now. We tend to focus on athletic directors and coaches when talking about college sports. But college presidents are always an integral part of those conversations, and many of those presidents not only revere the Ivy League, they trace their roots back to it.
To those men and women, as the Ivy League goes, so goes the nation. They will soon be putting more pressure on their ADs and coaches. Why are we still planning on playing, they will ask, when the smartest people in the room have decided to give up on sports this fall?
There are some significant differences between the Ivy League and our most prestigious football conferences, chief among them money. The Ivy League doesn’t bring in anywhere near the revenue that, say, the Big Ten and SEC do in football television deals and ticket revenue. So the Ivy League has far less to lose than our biggest conferences.
And there is absolutely no doubt that the last league that will be left standing, holding out to play this fall, will be the SEC. Let’s see how that goes.
There’s also the issue of not having all Ivy League students back on campus in the fall, which makes it difficult to either field teams or explain why you’re bringing athletes back, but not their classmates. This is a potential problem in other conferences, too, of course.
There has been conversation about moving football to the spring of 2021, but if that happens, it will be downright strange. Consider the schedule: Do we really want to have an eight-, 10- or 12-game season in the spring, followed a few months later by another eight-, 10- or 12-game season in the fall? Whatever injuries we expect in a normal season, expect more if young men are playing 20 or so football games within eight months.
And the best of them might not want to play at all. Unless the NFL Draft is moved, imagine all the players who will be reluctant to participate in a spring football season for fear of an injury that could ruin their pro prospects. It will be like players opting out of bowl games, times ten.
There are no good options for playing a sport that is the antithesis of social distancing in the middle of a pandemic. But if there is a way to pull it off relatively safely, expect the Ivy League to know how to do it.