A number of college conferences will punt their football season to the spring. But the push to play in 2021 may not give conference commissioners and administrators enough time to plan a “normal” season, or keep a crumbling system in place.
Today, the Big Ten became the first Power 5 conference to postpone their football season. An hour later, the Pac-12 followed suit. The Big 12 could be up next and ACC and SEC seem like they want to play in a few weeks.
The conferences who have canceled their fall seasons hope to play in the spring. But, of course, there are many hurdles to doing so.
Here are some of the scenarios that could impede a forthcoming spring college football season.
Players Will Leave
There’s a reason Trevor Lawrence and other stars want to play. This could be their last season of college ball before entering the NFL Draft. And what about the third, fourth, and fifth rounders whose draft stock could fall in the spring? Would they want to risk injury and financial success for another year of an unpaid internship? Don’t think so.
Plus, a college spring schedule does not necessarily line up with the NFL calendar. Will players be able to participate in February’s combine or April’s draft? As the NFL schedule currently stands, draft prospects may have to decide whether they want to play in the spring, or head to the league.
Two Seasons In One Year?
So these conferences are postponing their seasons for “health and safety” reasons but they think playing two football seasons in one year is perfectly fine... There is a reason full-contact football stays in the fall, or at least one season. Do these conferences think that their athletes and the CFB media will not see through this hypocrisy?
What happens when players continue to speak up for themselves and against the NCAA? If athletes put more pressure on the powers of college sports, the NCAA as we know it could be in jeopardy. If the players demand “too much” basic needs, i.e. money and health protections in a pandemic, the very structure of amateurism could crumble. Forget a spring season, these athletes could burn down the entire system of college sports.
Fall college athletes and college football players, specifically, build their academic calendars around the sport they play. It’s not uncommon for the graduating class of seniors to graduate in December before their bowl game. Without star players and graduates, spring football would look much different than the fall.
New Year’s Day marks the start of the (good) bowl season and also the first day of recruiting for many coaches. But a spring season with a national signing day in February AND weekly recruiting visits? I know coaches make a lot of money, but who has time for that?
Happy Valley, Pa. isn’t so happy in February. Neither is Madison, Wis. or Eugene, Ore. or Columbus, Ohio. Obviously, football can be played in any weather. But the fall is an ideal time for the sport for many reasons, including the weather.
If college football actually moves to the spring, at least fans will not have to sit in the cold while they watch a game.
A Vaccine Could Come
This is the only logical scenario for a “normal” college football season, albeit in the spring. As infectious disease experts and cardiologists become increasingly concerned about the long-term health effects of COVID-19 on the heart, expect the legal case against school-sponsored sports to grow.
As my colleague Jesse Spector said, there is a difference between “wants” and “needs” when it comes to playing sports in a pandemic. Even though I just laid out the many obstacles against spring ball, I still want to see a college football season. I also, already, have my doubts.