Category Archives: College Football

Horns of a dilemma

Shot ($$).

Preparations for college football and other fall sports could begin on campuses even if universities are offering online-only courses and keeping the rest of the student population off campus, South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner told The Athletic

“If in fact the numbers dictated that we were safe, whatever date that may be whether it’s mid-July or late June, I would think we would be OK to bring back our soccer athletes and volleyball athletes and football players. It is a possibility. (University president Bob) Caslen and the board of trustees would have the final say, but I would think if the health situation, as it relates to COVID-19, is in a good position that would be an opportunity that we could exercise.”

Chaser.

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“Economically, it would be like an atomic bomb going off.”

I couldn’t agree more with Andy Staples ($$) on whether there’s going to be some sort of 2020 college football season when he writes,

… a school year without a football season would wreak all manner of havoc. Departments have spent decades trying to spend every penny they make (so they don’t have to give more to the players or any to Uncle Sam), and most aren’t equipped to handle a year with no football season ticket revenue, no football booster donations and no football TV money.

Employees would get furloughed — or outright laid off — and sports would get cut. Some of those non-revenue sports wouldn’t come back. Football would come back, but not without considerable damage to each athletic department and a constriction in the number of available jobs.

Because of this, the people who run college sports will do everything within their power to get this season played. If it means moving the season to start in October, November, December or January, they’ll do it. If it isn’t safe at any point between now and next April to have huge crowds gather, they’ll play in front of no fans to get the TV money. That still would require massive budget cuts, but it probably would at least keep Power 5 programs afloat. They would have to find a way to play a season between September and the end of April 2021. The economic model they’ve created simply cannot function without a football season.

It’s the world they’ve made and they don’t know another way.

Which is why we’re bound to see all sorts of suggestions to reboot the season, including plenty that would never see the light of day, or at least polite conversation, if we were still in normal times.

Here’s a sampler:

    • From the Congressman who represents Knoxville“I’ve actually got some legislation prepared dealing with encouraging folks to continue supporting their athletes through some tax breaks that they used to get but have done away with in years past,” Burchett said. “Maybe there could be a one-year reprieve on that to encourage people to get back involved in their college sports. During World War II, our leaders realized that we love our sports and love our sports figures.
    • A new survey of major-college athletic directors “… showed that nearly 90% of the respondents said that academic progress is one of their top three concerns for their athletes over the next three months, an outcome that shows possible sentiment for a temporary change in the NCAA’s academic-progress regulations as campus closures have moved all students into distance learning.”
    • And my favorite— while students would not be allowed to return to campus…

      In this scenario, the student-athletes — only if cleared by health and safety officials — would be allowed on campus to take online classes and, yes, compete in athletics. They could be tested daily to guarantee they don’t have the virus (if we’re still at that point) and would play their games in empty stadiums.

      “We’ve actually had discussions about this possibility,” a Power Five AD said.

It’s a war, doncha know?

On the broader financial picture, McMillen said: “Folks are torn between the mission of college sports — providing as many broad-based opportunities to participate as possible — and the business side, relative to making budgets balance. Some of them are saying, ‘Sixteen sports — can’t we have a break on that for a while?’ Everything is dependent on football.”

There are always casualties in a war.

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Today, in when they say it’s not about the money

Ze boolsheet, she is thick here:

All stakeholders recognize the most important aspect: the well-being of athletes. In addition to the continued risk of contracting the coronavirus, there remains a mental impact the pandemic is having on society as a whole considering the uncertainty surrounding the virus.

What is the allowable risk of spread when football reconvenes? Theoretically, one infected player would have to be quarantined along with everyone they contact.

“Unfortunately, it will be a bit of trial and error,” Waldman said. “Somebody will open up [a sport] … and see what happens. Then maybe one will go well and two will go well and 10 will go well. And then on the 15th try, somebody will get sick. Somebody will say, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t have opened. Maybe we should close again.'”

Yeah, that’s exactly how people concerned about the well-being of athletes sound.

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And the bloodletting begins

I doubt this is a canary in the coal mine, because it feels too inevitable for that.

More to come.

By the way, and I almost hate to be the one to say it, but I suspect there is a lesson to be learned here by college athletes about how vulnerable the structure of college athletics is to serious financial disruption.  Like a player strike, for example.  Just sayin’.

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When Kirk Herbstreit has lost you…

Considering all the things over the years Kirk Herbstreit has uttered that deserved condemnation but generally haven’t, I find it a little weird that people are taking offense about his concern that we may not get a college football season in 2020.

I get that denial likely plays a part here.  Nobody wants to consider the chance, growing stronger seemingly every day, that we won’t get football on time, but it’s not as if Herbstreit’s said something that makes him history’s greatest monster, either.

I can’t believe I just quasi-defended Herbie.

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“If there’s no season, we will be f*****.”

You can read the long version of what Brett McMurphy got out of a survey of athletic directors about the fate of the 2020 football season…

Or you can read the tl;dr version.

They may wait a long time to start.  They may not play until there’s a vaccine available for the players.  They may only offer us a truncated version of a season.  But offer up one, they will.  Because, in the end, money matters more than anything else in college athletics.

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Therein lies the rub.

Talk about your devil is in the details proposal

The NCAA Division I Council voted Monday to permit an additional season of competition and eligibility to all spring-sport athletes who were unable to complete the 2019-20 athletic year due to the coronavirus pandemic…

The financial aid flexibility gives schools the option to grant seniors equal or less financial aid than what they would have received in 2019-20. Schools have also been provided with the ability to tap into the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund to pay for scholarships of athletes returning for an additional year who otherwise would have seen their eligibility exhausted.

The NCAA did not specifically address issues regarding housing and meals for these athletes.

“The council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level,” said chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Penn, in a statement.

So, kids can stay and recover their lost season, but there’s no guarantee of any financial support if they do.

The cost of the scholarship is nominal, more like a bookkeeping entry, but schools do bear real expenses when it comes to items like room and board.  How much will they contribute to support college athletes in non-revenue producing sports?  Good question.

Ironically, the NCAA may help with that bookkeeping juggling act.

Of course, as Schwarz indicates, there’s nothing obligating a school to take that money and apply it to student expenses.  Given the current tough times, that’s probably going to make for some interesting decisions at certain athletic departments.

Is this an early road map to the scenario schools dread pondering right now, the cancellation of the 2020 college football season?  That’s an expensive proposition, even before you get to the prospect of giving athletes back a year of their careers.

College football as an enterprise accounted for $6.5 billion in revenue during the 2018-19 academic year, according to Andy Schwarz, a partner and consulting expert with California-based law firm OSKR. That’s an average of $51 million per school.

In general, 80 percent of FBS athletic budgets are made up of football revenue.

“Just the thought of it, I think we’re all thinking about [losing the season],” Georgia AD Greg McGarity said. “Now, what does that mean? That’s what is going to be defined here over the next two or three weeks.”

In the next two or three weeks?  McGarity strikes me as being wildly optimistic there.  I don’t see schools pulling the plug on their cash cow until the absolute last minute.  Or to put it another way,

Twice in the last week, Sankey has referred somewhat cryptically to “contingency plans.” Asked to define those plans on “The Paul Finebaum Show,” Sankey said, “Not yet, simply because the focus is on next year as scheduled. … There will be a time to figure out what that means.”

They’ll be figuring until they can’t figure any more.  And it’s a much tougher call than cancelling women’s track and field was.  Again, that’s all before you even get to the question of what to do about football players who lose the 2020 season.  Giving 70+ kids another year of athletic support when you face the loss of an enormous amount of revenue?  Well, let’s just say I expect there will be a few places at least that won’t be justifying their decisions in that regard by saying they’re doing it for the kids.

Hint one about that?

Sorry, college basketball players.

Hint two?  I’m already seeing suggestions cropping up to reduce the minimum requirement that Division I member institutions have to sponsor at least seven sports for men and seven for women to ten, total.  When the money crunch comes, they’ll be taking a piece out of everyone’s hides.

Will conferences set a flat rule for all members, or in turn leave it to the discretion of each individual school?  I have no idea, but you know Nick Saban has to be salivating at the thought of carrying a 100-scholarship roster.

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