Like most of you, I have been glued to the news surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. First and foremost, protecting our health care workers and first responders of the front lines should be our top priority. As we work towards getting our country and the world as a whole back to some semblance of normalcy, it is hard to look past the impact sports will have on that. The safety of putting tens or hundreds of thousands of people together in a stadium to cheer on their teams is a distant thought, but we have all seen the healing power college and professional sports can have on communities.
The uncertainty surrounding the next week, let alone months of this emergency has led to plenty of speculation on what this means for college football in the fall. In the last week we have heard proposals to play the 2020 season in the summer, when it is thought that the novel coronavirus causing this shutdown would be much less of an issue. ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit offered his opinion that there would not be college or professional football this fall. While we are about five months from that first game, decisions will need to be made well in advance of August camps to safely return student-athletes to campus. Pac 12 commissioner Larry Scott indicated that decision could come by the end of May.
Taking all of this into account, I have what on one level seems to be a simple solution, and on another, completely insane. Move the 2020 football season to the spring of 2021.
No, this is not as simple as just pushing the calendar back a few months. There are logistical concerns that fall way above the pay grade of this online football guy. But, with the proper foresight and the right people in the room, is it really that outlandish?
Consider, if you will, how this might play out. For a season to kick off by March 1, for example, you would need players back in town for training camp by at least February 1, if not earlier. The billion dollar question for all of us is whether or not treatments, including a vaccine, are widely available by then. Let's take the optimistic point of view and say that is the case.
If things got underway on March 1, your regular season would wrap up in late-May. Without the end of semester issues of December, you could very easily go right into whatever post season can happen. Imagine for a moment the enjoy of watching college football playoff games and bowl games in June.
Perhaps March 1 is a bit too optimistic. Let's say it's more like mid-March or early-April. A full season of 12 games, plus a post season seems a bit much. I don't think anyone involved would want to push things into July for a multitude of reasons. But could an abbreviated slate of solely conference games happen? Think of the excitement of a nine or 10 game schedule against the rest of the Big Ten, with the league champion heading to a modified playoff that includes more challengers.
The biggest hurdle in my mind comes with what happens after whatever that spring season entails. Rather than a long off season, players would have but a few weeks to rest and recover before hitting go again. The obvious solution to me is modify the 2021 season as well. Maybe it is just pushed back. Maybe the schedule is modified once again to end around the usual time of early-January, and after an chaotic 2021 calendar, things settle back into our usual rhythm in early 2022.
When I first dreamed up this scenario earlier today, I had yet to see it speculated about anywhere. Right before I started writing, however, David Jones of PennLive penned a column about not only how a 2020 football season could happen, but the very real decisions university and athletic department leaders are having across the country. He sneaked in a little tidbit at the very end that caught my eye:
If the season must be played in February, March and April with the CFP in May, that’s when it will be. I know third parties who’ve floated this idea to FBS athletic directors and it has not been rejected out of hand.
As I said earlier, there are certainly logistical challenges to consider. What happens to college basketball, and the NCAA's money-gushing tournament in March? Certainly all involved with that, especially on the TV side, do not want to see college athletics' two biggest brands going up against each other on Saturday afternoons. That is to say nothing of the NFL, who has made early-spring its own industry revolving around the draft.
These are unprecedented times, however, and such times call for unique solutions. Perhaps this is the one that will work.