We are in a weird spot with coronavirus where cases are going way up and at least for the time being deaths are going way down. We are starting to push up on the edge of training camp, and any amount that gets delayed runs the risk of delaying football season. I’d still be pretty astonished if Power Five aren’t running this Fall, but the possibility of playing in the Spring keeps getting discussed.
Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley talked about the idea this week on a Zoom call with reporters. “I think the people who say it’s not [an option], in my opinion, just don’t want to think about it,” he said. “I just think it would be wrong of us to take any potential option off the table right now. I think it’d be very difficult to say the spring is not a potential option. I, for one, think it’s very doable.”
The New York Post, noting that schools like Kansas State, Boise State, Arizona and Houston have stopped their voluntary workouts after coronavirus outbreaks, had a lengthy story this weekend saying it’s “growing more likely” that college football happens in the Spring instead of Fall. One part of the logic was there’s a greater chance of a vaccine existing by that point.
Obviously, this would have major ramifications on traditions and television. Football in the Fall, both professionally and college, is an enormous economic driver of many cities across America. While the NFL is orders of magnitude more significant in this sense than college, football is the backbone of the whole TV industry. If you think the sports media business has dark days NOW, wait till you see what happens if football season is absent from this year’s financial ledgers.
If played in the Spring, it’s quite possible that many of the biggest names in the sport, such as quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, would sit out the season for the NFL Draft. The NFL reportedly has zero interest in pushing back the Draft in the event college football season is delayed. While college football is less reliant on star name players than maybe any other major sport — the NBA is completely driven by stars; NFL quarterbacks move TV numbers; maybe you could make a case that MLB doesn’t need stars either, though they sure miss having them — this would definitely not help interest in the game.
Then there’s the fact that if football returned to the Fall in 2021 there would not be a very long break between seasons. That would be a big problem for body recuperation.
My sense is that, if it comes down to it, a shortened season in the Fall is preferable to a full season postponed to Spring. Who knows what’s going to happen with all this but I’d still be astonished if football season moves to Spring.