One B1G disaster: Why spring football is an absolutely terrible idea on every level
The Big Ten finally went public with the long-rumored news that it was postponing its college football season until the spring. Commissioner Kevin Warren repeatedly cited the importance of the physical and mental wellness of the players in an interview on Big Ten Network.
Wait, what? From that perspective, playing in the spring doesn’t make much sense, and it certainly doesn’t make me optimistic that the Big Ten will actually try to do it. If we’re being honest, it probably shouldn’t.
Warren failed to explain how having 2 football seasons in 8-10 months enhances the physical wellness of players, and he failed to explain how canceling the fall season will enhance the mental wellness of his players. But Warren failed to explain much of anything in that interview, so that wasn’t much of a surprise.
Playing football in the spring is not a good option. It’s a terrible idea. It should have been a last, last, last resort. And maybe not even that. Urban Meyer, who knows a thing or two about this sport, rejected the notion entirely. He said there’s “no chance” it happens.
Warren didn’t really shed any light on all that went into postponing other than the health and wellness of the players, as well as the “uncertainty” — a word he agonizingly repeated over and over.
Here’s what I am certain about (and why I’m more pessimistic about a spring season): A spring season is a money-grab, much more than a fall season would have been. It is not in the best interest of the physical and wellness of football players. The athletes should consider forming the players association that was starting to come together, and I suspect they will — especially if they are playing in the spring.
The spring is arguably even more uncertain than a fall season, even if the COVID-19 pandemic is much more under control by the time the season would have to start in February (which is a big leap). I’d be interested to hear how Warren would balance the health risks of concussions and head injuries against the health risks of a virus that has not been potent in 18-22 year-olds?
Warren dodged the question about potentially sharing the medical information that led to this decision. There should absolutely be transparent about additional risks that COVID-19 presents, because I think the entire world — not just college football players — would be susceptible to those risks. Are MLB players at risk for these heart conditions? Are normal students on a college campus? The B1G has some of the largest student enrollments in the country. Why is it safe for athletes to be on campus with thousands of other students for the next 5 months before the season even starts? That doesn’t seem to fall in line with promoting the physical and mental wellness of athletes.
The biggest issue to me, though, is that football has gone to great lengths to make the game safer as more research about head injuries has been conducted. There is hardly any hitting in practice anymore, and the rules have been changed to protect offensive players from dangerous hits. But doesn’t playing 20 games in a calendar year spit in the face of that? For those that argue that there is spring practice anyway, game collisions over the course of 3 hours are much different from anything during a small portion of practice. There’s also the issue of 1 bad injury could causing a player to miss 2 seasons, as a player with a torn ACL in the spring is not going to be ready in the fall.
The logistical challenges of a spring season are aplenty. Ryan Day, James Franklin and the rest of the B1G coaches are going to have to recruit their own players all over again and try to convince them to not transfer, while the SEC, ACC and Big 12 cautiously move ahead with a fall season. What better excuse for a hardship waiver than a conference canceling your season? Another challenge will be how coaches will convince their players to stay engaged and continue to follow the extensive health protocols in place when there is far from a guarantee of a spring season. What incentive is there for these college-aged kids to not go out and enjoy themselves when they will have 5 months to recover from the virus before even thinking about a season? Good luck to the coaches on that.
If the B1G actually does attempt a spring season, what could it even look like?
For one, forget about any NFL prospect playing. The 2021 NFL Draft is in April, and insiders repeatedly emphasize that the NFL isn’t moving that draft. So it’s obvious that Justin Fields, Shaun Wade, Pat Freiermuth and others are highly likely to skip a spring season. That’s not the end of the world, and it’s not my main objection, considering we already had players like Micah Parsons, Rashod Bateman and Rondale Moore sitting out anyway. But there’s no denying that there would be far less talent on the field.
It’s going to be cold, especially for Big Ten teams, but I’m not concerned about the weather. It’s cold in Big Ten states in November, and it’ll be cold in March, too.
The toughest part of pulling it off will be the timing. The real 2021 season is starting in September, which means practice starts in August, which means the athletes would probably need a minimum of 3 months to fully recover (assuming we still care about their physical and mental wellness in 2021). So I think the spring season would need to be completed by the end of April. How many games could the Big Ten fit in that time, 6 or 8? Maybe. From a health standpoint, that’s probably the most it could consider.
That would limit to the Big Ten’s 2021 College Football Playoff team to 20-22 games in 11 months. That does not sound like a viable option for a conference that is focused on the health and wellness of its athletes. That’s because a spring season is a terrible idea.