It only takes one domino to fall for the rest to follow. Or, at least that’s what we’ve always learned in science class.
Yesterday, the college football world took a huge hit. Ohio State, which has more varsity sports than any school in the nation, halted voluntary workouts for seven programs after an undisclosed number of positive COVID-19 tests. Several small schools, HBCU’s and Division III’s Centennial Conference, pulled the plug on fall sports. The Ivy League announced that it would play no varsity sports for the rest of the calendar year. Today, the ACC announced they would not have any athletic competitions before Sept. 1 and are expected to play conference-only games. The Big Ten announced that it would go with a conference-only football schedule. And at the end of the 2020-21 academic year, Stanford announced it’s dropping 11 varsity sports.
The decision made by these programs and conferences tell you that schools are either playing it safe by canceling or postponing seasons, or they are trying to buy time to make the most difficult decision they’ll ever have to make.
While Ivy League can afford not to have sports because they get the majority of their money from tuition, it is still a decision you should pay attention to. Remember, they were the first collegiate league to cancel their conference basketball tournament. More followed. Everything was canceled regardless, but it was a quick and strict approach that caught people’s attention.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey reacted to the Ivy League news saying, “I’ve been optimistic, but I’m prepared optimism is not reality.”
Regardless, a vast majority of schools will be forced to eliminate sports and change is inevitable.
As Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde said, “for a quarter-century, Stanford has been the gold standard of Olympic sports.” And while he mentions the school spared most of the competitive sports, if Stanford had to do it, imagine the damage the virus can do to other schools.
Even if the football season is moved to spring, two “football seasons” in one calendar year on these kids’ bodies would be disastrous. I’d have to imagine agents will make sure the players know the risks. Consider how physical the SEC is, now imagine going through that twice in one year. These boys are still growing. Any player that has a chance to be drafted won’t play.
Ivy League and smaller universities don’t make even half of what the money guzzlers like Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson do. But the decisions these schools made tell us that no matter how important sports are, students, coaches and the general public are more important.
If things don’t change in the next three weeks, fall may feel empty. The college football season’s landscape will be different—possibly a shortened season, a season with no fans, or no season. No matter the outcome, the financial repercussions will be catastrophic.
The world was introduced to a new normal after everything shut down. And when the world slowly started to open back up after weeks of being closed, people just ignored social distancing guidelines and mandated mask-wearing. They ignored the virus. Acted like it wasn’t a big deal or that it didn’t exist. And because of it, college football is at risk.