As we sit here today, the college football landscape remains confused and unsettled. The Big Ten voted yesterday to cancel its 2020 athletics season—meanwhile, the players, the coaches, and even the teams themselves are resisting, continuing to state that they want to play, even among the universities that voted against playing.
Then the Mountain West conference announced that it would be postponing its Fall athletics programs, looking into rescheduling it for another time—likely in the Spring. This was after the Ivy League and the MAC previously postponed or cancelled seasons, as did some individual schools.
But this is not a universal message. The SEC, and ACC, and the Sun Belt conferences, for example, all appear to be going in the direction of maintaining a course that will allow them to play ball when the time comes, as scheduled, later this year. Things can change in a hurry—maybe even by the time this publishes—but we’ll see what happens.
An official with the ACC said that “we are trying to move forward, absolutely”, with regards to playing the season this Fall as scheduled. He added, “I don’t know if there is a drop dead time period” to suspend the season, but noted that they don’t start playing games for another month.
The same official did allow that we may see other conferences around the country take the step of suspending their seasons, and as mentioned above, we have already seen some do so, likely with more to follow, and added, “I’m not sure it’s going to happen in the Atlantic Coast Conference”.
The bulk of this all just unfolded yesterday. What will today bring? There’s a good chance that we are going to be seeing some schools and conferences going back and forth on their ultimate decision, or at least it will be reported that way through leaks, before final and formal announcements are made.
The heads of all of the major conferences are expected to hold meetings this week, and we should have a lot more clarity in the coming days with respect to where everything stands. But there is one thing above all that we should keep in mind.
And that is this: decisions to postpone play are much more final than decisions to attempt to play, which are much more tentative. Jim Harbaugh up in Michigan is touting his team’s clean Covid-19 testing record as evidence that they should play. That situation could change. The situations of their opponents will be different.
It’s ultimately up to the schools to determine what liability they are willing to bear through all this, while acknowledging that athletics is just a fraction of what they’re responsible for. There are some colleges that we refer to as ‘football factories’ for our purposes, but the reality is that that only represents a very small portion of their student body and of their overall commitments, and these universities have that to consider as well.