Better than nothing? An 8-game B1G spring season would present some intrigue amid continued chaos
MINNEAPOLIS — Well, at least it’s something.
Big Ten football players’ parents continue to demand answers from the conference. Fans, media and other stakeholders, meanwhile, keep fuming about the utter lack of organization and clarity that led to the B1G’s decision to postpone fall sports.
But reports Wednesday indicated the conference is starting to formulate a plan for spring football.
Is the purported 8-game, neutral-site slate culminating in a B1G title game and possible Rose Bowl matchup with the Pac-12 champion safe for student-athletes? After all, safety is the No. 1 reason the B1G punted on fall football amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to Commissioner Kevin Warren.
You can make a strong argument that it’s hypocritical to say no to playing this autumn in the name of player safety, then ask the same student-athletes to play 2 physically taxing seasons in a calendar year.
If the B1G has learned anything from its offseason missteps, it should be that transparency is the greatest door to legitimacy. If there’s data showing how this is safer for players, coaches and staff, we’d better see it when and if the B1G’s official spring football press release comes out.
Purdue coach Jeff Brohm provided plenty of metrics in his proposed plan, and that actually has the league restarting Feb. 27. Blue White Illustrated, Rivals’ Penn State site, says the B1G is considering kickoff the week after New Year’s Day.
Involving the right players
It’s apparent Warren and the league’s decision-makers are now listening to coaches in determining next steps. This idea is somewhat of a hybrid between those of Brohm and Ohio State coach Ryan Day, who supports starting as early as possible in January 2021.
It’s also designed to make TV contracts between the conference and its broadcast partners whole. According to Rivals, the schedule would avoid overlapping games to maximize eyeballs on television sets and streaming devices.
This is good for athletic departments having to make difficult decisions like furloughing employees or cutting programs. But it also confirms the widely-discussed notion that getting a season in, in any way possible, has TV dollars as a driving factor behind it.
There’s even a chance we’d get a Rose Bowl. If the Pac-12 followed a similar schedule, the conference champs could meet in Pasadena.
Can you combine the Parade of Roses with a St. Patrick’s Day parade?
The most important thing here, beyond player safety and financials, is protecting the Fall 2021 campaign. The sooner the Power 5 and the rest of college football can realign, the better off all parties are going to be.
In any case, it appears the conversations leading to these ideas are starting to involve the right people. Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos had pointed out Warren didn’t have ADs, presidents and medical experts on the same calls leading to the postponement decision.
Moos told the Husker Sports Network on Tuesday night that discussions are going in “a lot better fashion” this time, with all parties involved in the same meetings. “We’re really just getting started,” he said.
Moos is on the B1G’s Return to Competition Task Force.
Among the multitude of factors to decide upon are game sites. Playing in domes like Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium, Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium and Detroit’s Ford Field is creative. But is it safer than playing at home venues, with those involved in the game all breathing the same indoor circulated air?
Again, let’s see the data this time.
Is this all actually feasible?
According to Blue White Illustrated, every team would have 1 bye week, and the first-ever spring B1G championship game would occur in the second week of March, also at the Rose Bowl. Is roughly 5 months between seasons enough to recover and play a “normal” campaign in 2021?
How about a press conference with B1G Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases Chair Dr. Chris Kratochvil to discuss just that? (Warren sure loves his task forces, doesn’t he?)
Even if this plan moves forward with crystal-clear communication and alignment, there are several things it can’t change. Playing in domes in Minnesota and Indiana isn’t going to solve the hundreds of millions of dollars lost by local economies that rely on college football. With the NCAA deciding to grant all players an extra of eligibility, the roster management fallout could be felt for years.
And there’s no guarantee the virus is any more under control in January than it is right now. If case counts and percent positives per capita stay roughly flat, why couldn’t this plan have been executed in the fall, for example?
The answer to that hypothetical, of course, is that it wasn’t discussed early enough. Warren and the B1G presidents can’t undo their missteps, but they can do a lot better this time around.
They set themselves a low bar.
And while the resulting angst isn’t going anywhere, what’s done is done. So we put our heads down and move forward. A successful spring season would seem to embody that sentiment.
As we’ve learned this year, it’s the way of the world during a pandemic.