The Big Ten released its college football schedule less than a week ago. Yet, as soon as Tuesday, the league could scrap the entire slate.
The MAC canceled its season over the weekend. And the Mountain West followed suit on Monday. More conferences will surely follow. The fall could be without college football.
Clearly, you have some questions. So, let’s tackle the biggest ones:
Q: If the Big Ten and similarly minded Pac-12 cancel their seasons, can other conferences play?
A: The optics wouldn’t be great, but every conference operates under its own authority and will decide its own future. This is what comes in a sport without a national commissioner to make overarching decisions.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said as early as the spring that the most powerful league in college football was willing to be the only conference playing amid a pandemic. On Monday, he said the league will be “patient” with its decision and hasn’t “stopped trying” to play.
The ACC and Big 12 are also considering moving forward as planned, according to multiple reports, while Dan Patrick was told the SEC may attempt to form a temporary “super conference,” featuring teams that want to play, but belong to leagues that vote against continuing, such as Nebraska, whose coach, Scott Frost, said the program is “prepared to look for different options.”
Q: Is spring football still an option?
A: Yes. If the SEC, and others, also conclude playing in the fall is not feasible, programs will attempt to save billions of dollars in TV deals by playing during the second semester. However, multiple challenges come with this option, long viewed as a last resort.
First, the country could be in a similar situation. The pandemic could be even worse, with cold weather decreasing outdoor activities. Even if a vaccine is approved for public use by then, it won’t be readily available to millions and may be less effective than officials hope.
Also, if a spring season ends as late as May, an incredible physical burden is being asked of unpaid players who may then be asked to report for next season’s practices by July.
More than 30 Power Five players have already opted out of a potential fall season. In the spring, don’t bank on seeing Trevor Lawrence or any other soon-to-be high draft picks. In addition to injury concerns, the NFL combine takes place in February, with the draft scheduled to start April 29.
Q: Why is college football shutting down while the NFL marches forward?
A: Well, NFL players have a union and millions of dollars at stake. NFL players don’t live among thousands of other college students, who possess a poor track record of responsible decisions. The NFL has uniform guidelines and testing protocol, with the union part of negotiations. In the FBS, the 130 teams have varying financial and medical resources. They also have drastically different monetary motivations to play.
Q: What happens to a player’s eligibility? Will scholarships be honored if there is no season or a player opts out? Will scholarships be extended another year?
A: Whoa, whoa, whoa, one at a time.
Multiple schools and conferences have already announced that players will keep their scholarships and remain enrolled in classes, whether a season is canceled or a player opts out for health reasons. A player’s eligibility in such situations remains unclear.
Most notably promoted by Lawrence, several players joined together on social media Sunday, voicing their support for a season, while listing numerous requests from their respective leagues, including the guarantee of eligibility for a player regardless of this season’s circumstances.
Schools, already facing historic budget deficits, could hesitate to extend eligibility because of the extra cost. Also, it is unclear how teams would address the 85-player scholarship limit, with a new class coming in next fall.
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