Literally making it up as you go along…
Of course, it would help if the powers that be actually came up with some sort of rule of thumb for when a team might cancel. Unlike, say, this.
College athletic leaders are bracing themselves for game interruptions connected to team-wide viral outbreaks. The season has yet to start and already three scheduled openers have been delayed because of COVID-19 clusters. UL-Monroe, with nine new positive cases, moved its season opener against Troy to December. NC State and East Carolina, both recently having paused workouts for COVID issues, pushed back openers against Virginia Tech and Marshall, respectively.
Even the SEC isn’t exempt. Auburn has missed multiple days of practice for COVID-related issues and Tennessee took off a day for “a few” positive cases. Last week, LSU and Oklahoma endured significant losses at position groups because of quarantine protocols. OU was down to one player at an unnamed position, and LSU practiced with just four offensive linemen.
What if this happens during the season?
“That’s a hard one,” answers South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner. “That decision will have to be made in the coming week.”
You sound like a prepared man, Ray.
Two of the conferences intending to have play do appear to be formulating some plans for this, according to Dellenger.
However, in the Big 12 at least, the issue is in the last stages of finalization. Athletic directors are smoothing out plans recommended to them by the conference’s coaches, says Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. While nothing is final yet, conference leaders are moving toward approving a policy requiring a team to have a designated number of healthy, eligible players at each position and overall as a team—a model that could be adopted across all leagues. The SEC is exploring a similar policy.
“It’s an on-going conversation,” Bowlsby says in an interview with Sports Illustrated. “It’s got a lot of moving parts.”
One of the more favored options would mandate that a team have at least 53 total players available to play, with a minimum number at each position. The positional standards may include such requirements as one quarterback, six offensive linemen, six defensive linemen, two or three receivers and so on. Decision-makers have somewhat settled on the 53-man number based on data. The average college football team uses between 45-65 players per game.
I’m gonna beat that drum again — the teams with the advantage in 2020 are the ones with real roster depth. That’s going to trump coaching continuity, quarterback continuity, spring practice or any other factor you care to name. I don’t care how experienced your quarterback is, when his team is missing half of its starters due to COVID and faces another team that’s at full strength it’s gonna have a significant impact that will be tough to overcome.