College football is figuring itself out in these unprecedented times. How can we ensure college sports is better for everyone?
Bruce Feldman published a piece this weekend on The Athletic about growing concerns surrounding the Coronavirus and how college football should adjust to it. He raised a legitimate question for group-of-five conferences and the FCS as a whole – should these schools move their football seasons to the spring of 2021? Should there be spring football?
In Feldman’s piece, Bruce argues that the group-of-five and FCS schools would dominate television ratings compared to that of the failed AAF and the XFL, who is eyeing for a return in 2022. AngryNFLScoutVet on Twitter weighed in with his anonymous NFL opinion.
You are right. It would. XFL will wait until 2022, if they are smart. Starting up in spring of 2021 would be a death sentence in my mind. https://t.co/B1g5g9r7gH— AngryNFLScoutVet (@AngryScoutVet) July 18, 2020
The common anti-mask bearing person would see this as a matter of “governmental safety” and probably oppose the notion. However, I think that this is something that schools should seriously consider as the college football season approaches. This isn’t even about a “safety” issue due to the novel coronavirus. It’s about retaining athletic departments and keeping the colleges afloat without cuts.
The University-Athletic Financial Aspect
Coming up this fall, it’s presumed that people will not be able to attend college football games at full capacity within stadiums. There is some debate about schools being able to seat anyone inside of stadiums during the fall season.
The majority of the power five schools will be able to stay afloat through TV contracts through the fall. Even with stadiums at half capacity, or even 25% capacity, it won’t be a comfortable year by any stretch of the imagination but the power five schools should be fine, financially, to play in the fall.
As we have discussed on this website and on my show before, many students are transferring out of their group-of-five schools across the country and going to bigger schools following the Big Ten and the PAC-12 canceling their out-of-conference games. The appeal for most of the smaller schools to get on television (limited money to be spent currently by TV networks due to COVID) while competing with the power-five conferences for television spots and tickets, while competing with pro sports that aren’t usually playing this time of year, will be challenging for any smaller conference school.
Why smaller college football schools should push their season back to the Spring.Tweet
The ACC is primed to cancel their out-of-conference schedule next. If the data doesn’t improve in the minds of the media (it won’t, it’s an election year), the SEC and the Big 12 will be forced to follow. Why not move those schedules into February/March/April of next year? There will be fewer sports leagues to compete with, no NFL, no power-five schools, and stadiums shouldn’t have restrictions come next year.
There are many traditional sports figures who think that a decision like this wouldn’t be helpful. As the King of College Football, Bill King, likes to say, “College football wouldn’t be the same.”
No, spring football games would feel different. However, I think that television contracts would come easier for smaller schools. These schools won’t be competing in any big-money games anyways, the whole reason that smaller schools take on power-five schools every year. Plue, there is the potential to sell more tickets and without restrictions.
The Impact this would have on the NFL Draft
Let’s talk about the impact of moving this many games to the spring would potentially have on the NFL Draft. Moving games to the time where prospects are generally training for the NFL Draft would be, potentially, problematic.
Some of the top talent planning on declaring for the NFL Draft wouldn’t play this season, and would immediately forfeit their college eligibility. This would mean a lot of rash decisions would be made, as well as a lot of uncertainty about these prospects across the NFL.
There is a very easy way to patch this potential problem. I think that players who don’t get drafted should receive an option to come back for the regular 2021 season and (possibly) get a free transfer.
Also, there is the NFL supplemental draft. If players participate in the spring season, they should get the opportunity to declare for the supplemental draft in the summer following the season. NFL teams can take bids at them. Anyone who doesn’t end up drafted and/or signed following the draft would receive another year of college eligibility, even if that meant a sixth (or in very rare cases, a seventh) year.
Is there an easy way to move around Spring Football?
When you look at the choices, I think the clear way to go about this is to move the smaller schools’ football games to the spring. Colleges have to be smart about the way that they go about this because we’re talking about millions upon millions of dollars and thousands upon thousands of jobs on the line as a result of how this is handled.
This isn’t just about football departments at schools, this is about all of the athletic programs. Many schools rely on football to fund the rest of the athletic department, and any significant loss in revenue from football is a severe blow to several athletic departments in the school.
Smaller schools need to maximize their income, and this, in my opinion, is the best way those schools can maximize football. Good luck getting a TV deal in the fall against bigger schools playing against each other. Oh, and good luck selling tickets during the fall with football, hockey, basketball, and baseball all going on at the same time.
This just makes sense.