B1G debate: Which spring football schedule model is best?
Editor’s note: Ryan O’Gara and Connor O’Gara grew up following sports in suburban Chicago. The brothers, separated by 20 months, debated about their favorite teams and players so often that their father would often have to remind them, “This isn’t PTI.” Each Friday, they’re bringing that debate to you, centered around the Big Ten and college football as a whole.
This week’s debate: Which spring football schedule model is best?
RYAN: What a week in the B1G. All hell broke loose over the weekend, culminating in the Big Ten postponing its season until the spring. It’s been a rough week for everyone involved with the B1G, and I would venture that they are praying that the SEC, ACC and Big 12 eventually postpone and also play in the spring. And on that note, let’s get into the debate.
There were 2 potential plans floating around Thursday, one from Purdue coach Jeff Brohm and the other from Sports Illustrated reporter Albert Breer. Brohm’s plan involves an 8-game season starting in late February, while Breer’s model that is floating around NFL circles would have the B1G opening the season around New Year’s Day. Personally, I’m pessimistic that a spring season will actually happen because I don’t know how these same health concerns that reportedly made the B1G postpone won’t also exist in the spring. I also don’t know how it would be healthy for players to participate in 2 seasons in 1 calendar year. But if I had to choose …
I’m going with Breer’s option. I like the fact that it starts earlier in the year and ends by mid-March. That does several things:
- It allows the players more time to recover in between seasons.
- It guarantees that the 2021 fall season will start on time.
- It allows draft-eligible players the option of playing and improving their draft stock.
Those are all overwhelmingly positive aspects of it. We’ve been told over and over that the NFL isn’t going to accommodate college football by moving back the NFL Combine and NFL Draft, but that is on the table, according to Breer. College football should absolutely take advantage of that. In this model, the B1G would also play in indoor stadiums in Syracuse, Detroit, Indianapolis, Minneapolis and St. Louis.
I will say that I admire Brohm’s creativity. At least someone is thinking about spring football in the Big Ten!
CONNOR: Let’s take a moment to raise our glasses to Brohm and Breer. As you said, it’s nice to see some people considering possibilities instead of just talking about a spring season like it’s some bucket list country that they hope to visit someday. I’m not sure why the idea of Warren putting out any sort of plan of like “hey, we plan on having this many games” or “we hope to start by this date” can’t even be talked about.
While I don’t think either plan is perfect, I think there are more potential issues with Breer’s plan than Brohm’s. I’ll spare you the “it’s really cold in January in the Midwest deal.” By the way, I love how people outside the Midwest are so concerned about B1G weather when it’s like, well, chances are fans won’t be there anyway. Also, go to Madison in November and tell me it’s not freezing.
Breer’s plan lacks logistics. These seem to mainly be about the TV viewer and the NFL, which are important, sure, but they don’t focus on players as much. In Breer’s plan, players would essentially have 2 weeks to recover/train for the NFL Combine, which agents would absolutely push back on. That’s after an 8-9 game season. Actually, we don’t know how many games there would be because Breer didn’t outline that. He just said that they could have a postseason in mid-March. And what about the players who don’t go to the NFL? By keeping fall 2021 normal, you’re still asking them to play 20-plus games in a calendar year.
Compare that to Brohm’s plan, which isn’t necessarily built for the NFL Draft process, but it has a lessened 2021 season with just the 10 games. Players from canceled conferences could either opt out or transfer to a conference who is playing to deal with the “how will they train for the NFL Draft” thing.
Brohm’s plan documents the entire college football calendar for the next year. It has a breakout of everything from amount of film time per week to a potential seeding system to crown a champion. While I’d push for the season to start earlier than Feb. 27, how much earlier can it really start? Remember that Warren canceled the fall season just a few days into camp. In order for Breer’s plan to work because you need those 4 required weeks of preseason camp, you’d have to ramp things up at the start of December. Are we sure that’s enough time for Warren?
I’ll say this, though. While the details would absolutely need to be figured out, I definitely support Breer’s potential dome locations. That’s what James Franklin suggested, though obviously there are potential NFL, NCAA Tournament and Final Four conflicts that would need to be addressed.
RYAN: By no means to do I think Breer’s plan is perfect, and you can tell he comes at it from an NFL perspective. He didn’t have nearly as much detail as Brohm did about practice time, conference championships or postseason play. But I think it’s a solid start. You’d have to assume that some of those players would skip the combine and only participate in a Pro Day much closer to the draft, and that’s fine.
My biggest problem with Brohm’s schedule is the way it impacts 2021. After everything the B1G will lose (even if it is able to play a spring season), would it really want to jeopardize getting in a full fall season? If fans are back in the stands by fall of 2021 (sidenote: please let there be fans back by fall 2021), these teams are going to need every dime from the gate. The same goes for TV revenue, which is more valuable in the fall than in the spring.
Also, let’s consider that the SEC, ACC and Big 12 might play this fall. Why on Earth would they agree to starting the season in October? We have already seen that these conferences are not going to work together on this. Would the B1G just start the season a full month behind those conferences? I can’t imagine that would be beneficial to the league.
With Brohm’s plan, the B1G is ending in May. Think about how much of a disadvantage teams would potentially be compared to those 3 other conferences, which would be fully recovered from a fall season. If I’m the B1G, I want as much recovery time as possible.
On another note, it would be interesting to see the split among B1G coaches if they have to vote for one of the other. Ryan Day, James Franklin and those who would have guys drafted after the 1st round would probably like the January model because it gives those guys a chance to play and improve their stock, thus making their teams stronger. That may not be a consideration for Brohm, whose only legit draft prospect (Rondale Moore) is already sitting. Meanwhile, Nebraska would probably just vote “YES.”
CONNOR: The part about the late 2021 start is fair because yes, that will put the conference at a significant disadvantage for another season. Perhaps that date can be moved up and they can still squeeze in 11 total games and simply have 1 nonconference contract to break?
That’s another mess that we really haven’t even gotten into yet. There are a whole bunch of Group of 5 schools that are going to do everything in their power to get those 7-figure checks, as they should. Brohm’s plan really doesn’t account for that, and it puts the league at a major Playoff disadvantage to only have those 10 games. He’s certainly going about this as someone who doesn’t necessarily have the NFL interest, and who won’t necessarily be competing for a Playoff spot.
I suppose I’m realizing that perhaps a hybrid of these plans makes more sense. That would require Warren budging on have those 4 mandatory weeks of preseason camps a bit sooner than Brohm’s, but not quite as early as Breer’s. It seems like the B1G is holding out hope that rapid COVID testing is more readily available. Could that be the case if preseason camp starts on Jan. 1 and the season starts the last week of January? I don’t hate that idea.
There are a lot of moving parts to this whole deal. Dare I say, though, there’s a scenario in which the B1G should completely scrap the idea of spring football. That is, strong player opposition, no change in rapid testing availability, a lack of flexibility from the NFL on the pre-draft process and an altered fall season.
Can we agree if all of those factors don’t bounce the B1G’s way that punting spring football is the best move?
RYAN: I like the idea of a hybrid of those plans, too. As you alluded to earlier, bravo to Brohm for being proactive. And I’m glad to hear the NFL will potentially work with college football. I feel like the NFL can do college football a solid, because if/when the SEC, ACC and Big 12 postpone to the spring, the NFL will capitalize and be on TV just about every day of the week.
It will be interesting to see what kind of traction a spring season gets and what kind of sacrifices the Big Ten has to make. There are so many things to consider, as we’ve gone over in debating these plans. If you want one thing, that likely means you’re giving up something else to get it. That’s because the spring isn’t a great option.
At some point, Big Ten coaches will turn the page to the spring and figure out the best way to do it. I hate to even think about what the reaction will be if Warren pulls the plug on it, but I could certainly see skipping it altogether as a possibility if it doesn’t make sense. If Nebraska is still in the B1G at that point, it probably won’t be after that. Just kidding! I think.