Shall We Play a Game?

Monday, August 31, 2020

Shall We Play a Game?

I sometimes feel the future of the 2020 football season is like a new Cold War. If only for the war of words expressed to the press and public by various pundits, league Presidents, coaches and fans. It is an issue that strikes deep into the heart of the sport. The nature and variety of response to the Covid-19 phenomenon among the Power Five conferences is a direct split of opinion that is as divisive as any other in the last century since the invention of the forward pass or the addition of face masks.

The real kind on helmets, not the fabric ones of the current day.

Personally as many people must, I have my own opinions both on the illness itself, the various responses, and the measures being discussed and taken. But I feel this is not the venue for me to express those particularly, as the length of this article would be insufficient space to delve into how and why the American public could argue for so long over $4.4 Trillion spent in the course of two decade-or-more-long wars on another continent yet not even blink when $3.3 Trillion was spent in a single week last spring.

Too short by about a thousand pages. Maybe even more. But we can save that for another day.

In the current vein of this article, the issues seem to boil down to whether College Football, or any organized sport can be played, observed and supported safely. Safely for the players on the field, safely for the staffs and supporting officials and safely for fans in the stadium. The Power Five conferences have ruled and the split in response, action and resolve has produced both a geographic and philosophical split that stretches from ocean to ocean and Lakes to Gulf.

“[New Student Athlete Packet] contents check. In them you’ll find: one forty-five caliber automatic; two boxes of ammunition; four days’ concentrated emergency rations; one drug issue containing antibiotics, morphine, vitamin pills, pep pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizer pills; one miniature combination [Southern] phrase book and Bible; one hundred dollars in [bills]; one hundred dollars in gold; nine packs of chewing gum; one issue of prophylactics; three lipsticks; three pair of nylon stockings. Shoot, a fella’ could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff.”

The short and sweet division is this: Three Power Five conference said yes to playing college football this fall, and two said no. I think it’s fair to say that someone is going to deeply regret their decision, and if I were a betting man, I’d say it will be among those who now are in search of new activities and hobbies on autumn Saturdays

I’m not alone in this thinking. No less than the winning-est coach in College Football in the modern day has expressed that safety measures for the players on the field and the fans in the stadium pale in comparison to similar efforts of dealing with comparable measures for students, faculty and staff on the campus in general just to have on premises classes. Implicit in that argument is that if you are having students on campus day to day under whatever protective efforts, fans and athletes in the stadium once a week is small peas.

Can’t say that I disagree with him, but since he is who he is, I cannot with a clear conscience name him and still say I write for an Auburn blog. So I won’t, but unless you’ve been in the Bahamas since February, I think you know who I mean.

But for a significant portion of the sport, the opposite has not only been the opinion, but the active choice they have made. The Big Ten and Pac12 have ostensibly postponed, but in practice actually cancelled their seasons. The impact of these decisions are having deep and immediate impact, but their it is thier long-lasting effects that I’m not sure they properly envisioned as a consequence.

I’m not merely speaking just of this fall’s television contracts and lost income from the game-day experiences both for local economies and the university budgets themselves, but what effect do you suppose this will have on future recruiting, player transfer, and commitments long term? If you were a motivated, highly skilled and talented athlete considering college offers, would you go to a school with athletes who now have an extra year of eligibility and will compete with you or one that had an uninterrupted season-to-season progression and player turnover? Long term, will this have a favorable impact to the idle schools or the actively playing schools?

My feeling is that the schools playing in 2020 will reap a host of talented athletes whose future and present decisions will be to fly towards the freely playing side of the divide and leave the cold, restrictive, uncompromising conferences with no hope of playing in 2020, especially if they stick to the plan to try and play TWICE in 2021 (Spring and Fall).

Like as not, those schools will only play once in that year and it will be in the fall.

I’ll take this one step further. I predict that even subsequent years of recruits and transfer portal students will give pause when selecting a school or conference simply on the basis of who has a track history of stopping play as opposed to those that allow it to occur year to year. Couple this to the effort to allow players to cash in on the public display of their likenesses? When you attend a school that might arbitrarily halt play, that merely adds yet another direct economic impact to the balancing act of decision making of student athletes in terms of where their future lies.


Captain Ramius : “… and the [SEC] will grant each man new hope, as sleep brings dreams of home.” Christopher Columbus.

Jack Ryan : Welcome to the New World [of College Football], Captain

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