With COVID-19 not letting up, the 2020 college football season is hanging by a thread. Three of the Power Five conferences—the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12—have already announced member schools will only face conference opponents this fall. The Ivy League went a step further, calling off its entire fall sports schedule.
Eliminating the nonconference slate could have dire financial repercussions. Bowling Green, for instance, was due to make $2 million from its games against Ohio State and Illinois this year while Notre Dame, who does not have a conference affiliation for football, may not have anyone left to play once the SEC and Big 12 inevitably scrap their nonconference slates.
However, college sports insider Nicole Auerbach sees these recent developments as just the tip of the iceberg. Uncertainty and pessimism abound as Auerbach was recently told by an athletic director from a Power Five school that, “It feels like we’re just postponing the inevitable.” Kevin Warren, commissioner of the Big Ten, expressed similar doubts earlier this week, admitting, “We may not have sports in the fall.” With prominent programs like Ohio State and North Carolina suspending team workouts amid increased coronavirus cases, time is no longer on the NCAA’s side.
“The direct reality is not good, and the notion that we’ve politicized medical guidance of distancing and breathing masks and hand sanitization, ventilation of being outside, being careful where you are in buildings,” said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey during an appearance on ESPN Saturday morning. “We are running out of time to correct and get things right, and as a society we owe it to each other to be as healthy as we can be.”
The NCAA continues to hold out hope of a 2020 fall sports season and understandably so—college football is easily its biggest moneymaker. But with COVID still looming large, particularly in gridiron hotbeds like Florida and Texas, the prospect of fall football is beginning to look more and more like a pipe dream.