With sports beginning to return across the world, college football faces unique challenges. While the NBA, WBNA, and NHL successfully bubbled their entire organization, baseball also found a way to travel safely. However, unlike professional sports, college sports also involve varying degrees of revenue and the dangers of campus life. With the college football season in doubt, here’s what we know about the upcoming season and what we can expect moving forward.
Where Does the Fall Season Stand?
As of early August, every major conference looked on track to play. Colleges had released their fall schedules and opened training camp. However, on August 8th all of that changed when the MAC voted to cancel their season. A smaller conference, the MAC faced unique challenges, including finding enough revenue to pay for student-athlete testing. Still, the decision came down to health, when Northern Illinois reportedly threatened to cancel their fall season either way. The MAC reportedly did not like the look of playing without one of their members and opted to cancel entirely instead. Despite the schedule release earlier in the week, this decision quickly spilled to the Power-5 Conferences.
Quickly after the cancellation, the Mountain West Conference canceled their fall season on August 10th. Similarly, the Big Ten and Pac-12 followed suit on Tuesday afternoon after an emergency meeting took place the previous weekend. Instead of an outright cancellation, both conferences opted to move their seasons to the spring.
Most thought this decision would lead to the cancellation of college football entirely. However, the Big-12, SEC, and ACC continue to push forward with the fall season, calling questions into the entire decision, to begin with.
In response to the cancellations, numerous groups began speaking out using the hashtag #wewanttoplay. Players, parents, and coaches alike have voiced concerns, including star players Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. Fields even created a petition that now has over 200,000 signatures in favor of the fall season.
Most of the criticism comes from a lack of representation among the players and coaches, as well as the discrepancies between medical staff between the conferences. Parents from numerous schools, including Nebraska, have voiced their desire for transparency with the decision. What changed in the few days between the schedule release and the cancellation? Why do medical experts from the ACC, SEC, and Big 12 believe playing is possible? To this point, those questions have fallen on deaf ears.
The Big Ten Commissioner, Kevin Warren, initially cited player safety when discussing the matter. However, many coaches and players pointed out the advantages of a season taking place. Players will remain in clean environments with access to weekly testing protocols that are not available in their home communities.
What Can the Players Do Now?
For the schools still participating the fall season, players may opt-out of their sport. This allows them to retain their scholarship and eligibility. For those without a fall season, the decision becomes far more difficult.
A theoretical spring season overlaps with a crucial time in the NFL calendar. Prospects with NFL dreams will have to choose between preparing for the pre-draft process with one fewer season on tape or rolling the dice on a hypothetical spring season.
A spring season also creates additional player safety challenges. Aside from the unknown progression of the pandemic, playing two seasons in one calendar year increases the chance for player injury.
At this point, college football stands on shaky ground. It looks like the SEC, Big 10, and ACC will push forward with a fall season, while the Big Ten and Pac-12 look unlikely to reconsider. For the moment, college football is set to start in mid-September.