College football is an adventure every season no matter which team you root for on game day. This is why I’m not surprised that universities, the governing bodies for each division and the NCAA — for better or for worse — have stumbled along to make any significant progress.
Until recently, most conferences, schools, the governing bodies for each division and the NCAA seem to have had just one objective: delay. Delaying is helpful because college sports leaders can gain better insight about the coronavirus and see where states are at in handling the pandemic. But it also means they will have less time to prepare for the upcoming season — scheduling, practices, playing games, traveling, etc.
What if something goes wrong? Look at MLB (once again) to have a major classic screw up. It is much easier to try to reschedule games with 30 teams. It will be much more difficult for NCAA Division I schools to reschedule their games with 130 teams. NCAA Division I college football has more than four times the number of teams than MLB.
Players also are voicing their concerns on being protected from the coronavirus. They should speak up now about how each school and the NCAA itself is going to protect them as best as they can from the coronavirus.
With so many moving parts at play, it is key to make sure each one is working correctly in order to have this whole picture work. All stakeholders must be happy with the future situation. Of course, not every stakeholder is going to get everything he wants, but each one should be at least satisfied.
POWER 5 CONFERENCES’ SCHEDULES
Each Power 5 Conference has its own unique schedule for the 2020 college football season. Let’s take a look at which conference is doing what for the upcoming season.
On July 9, the Big Ten Conference was the first to release its schedule. The Big Ten decided to release a conference-only schedule. The conference has 14 teams, so it is possible.
Additionally, the conference will have one bye week between weeks five and seven and the other bye week between weeks 10 and 11. The conference will have a wide open week after Thanksgiving.
The following day, the Pac-12 Conference decided to follow suit with the Big Ten. The Pac-12 also will play a conference-only schedule. It also has 12 schools, so this schedule works with its conference as well.
It was 19 days later when the ACC announced its conference schedule with a slight twist. The twist being Notre Dame.
The ACC knew it had to play an even number of conference games and wanted to play an additional non-conference game. Therefore, the ACC added Notre Dame as a full-time ACC member for this season only.
It made sense for both sides because Notre Dame already was scheduled to play six different ACC teams. After Notre Dame was on board joining the ACC, the conference finalized its 10 conference games plus one more non-conference game.
On July 30, the day after the ACC made its announcement, the SEC announced it would go to a conference-only schedule. The SEC had multiple discussions about playing a regular schedule of eight conference games along with each team’s choosing of non-conference games.
However, after the Big Ten, Pac-12 and the ACC’s announcements, the conference decided it was best to play a conference-only schedule. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey also liked the idea because it meant it kept everybody in house and everybody would follow the same protocols, according to ESPN. It also meant the league could have more flexibility in adjusting its schedule as each potential situation arises amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to ESPN.
Four days later, the Big 12 made its announcement. The Big 12 Conference wanted to take its time, and the athletic directors didn’t want to make decisions entirely based off reacting to what other conferences were doing. They wanted to make sure they made the right decision for their conference.
The Big 12 Conference decided to do nine conference games plus one or two non-conference games. It only has 10 members, so no matter what the conference did, it had to play at least one non-conference game. The advantage for the Big 12 Conference is everyone already is used to playing each other once during the season unlike the other four power conferences.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT AND WHAT THE NCAA SHOULD DO
Division I college football will play out its season as scheduled so far. The NCAA doesn’t have much control over what the Division I football teams do. Each conference did what it believed will help make a successful college football season during the coronavirus pandemic.
What the NCAA can and should do is provide safety guidelines. This is the NCAA’s main role, and it should maximize its role to the fullest extent in providing safety guidelines on lowering the risk of spreading the coronavirus. The NCAA has a huge role in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 as student-athletes not only return to competition but also as they return to campus and practice.
Anyone who has ever read my columns knows I don’t like the NCAA nor do I trust it. The NCAA has fumbled countless opportunities to improve its image and, more importantly, its relationship with student-athletes.
The NCAA has a golden opportunity to listen to and address student-athletes’ concerns. The organization should use the time it has left to amplify student-athletes’ suggestions on what they think will help make them safer and provide better welfare during the coronavirus pandemic.
The NCAA and schools don't have much time left, and they still have to figure out other details such as practice sessions, traveling and what game day will look like this fall. This is why the NCAA should reach out to multiple student-athletes sooner rather than later.
Until the college football season begins, we can only hope everything goes smoothly and everyone comes out OK. But until it is said otherwise — for better or for worse — we will have a college football season.