WILL IT HAPPEN DURING COVID-19?
There are six NCAA conferences that have not announced plans to postpone the 2020 football season: the SEC, the Big 12, the ACC, the Sun Belt Conference, the American Athletic Conference and Conference USA. All of these conferences have set their internal conference games to start in September, sparking excitement for their fans. However, the Big 10 and the Pac 12, which round out the power 5 conferences, have postponed all of their fall sports for the rest of 2020. Is this the right decision? Is it the best for the players? Is it politically motivated? Is there some other reason than just the safety of the players?
Since the Big 10 and the Pac 12 announced the postponement of their football seasons prior to the SEC, ACC and Big 12, the feeling was that these conferences would follow suit. This did not happen, and these conferences announced their inter-conference schedules last week. Many of the players from the Big 10 and Pac 12 are now petitioning to play. However, the commissioners are not backing down and neither are their presidents. So now thousands of players, and the school fans, are fighting to play. Ohio State’s quarterback, Justin Fields, led a petition to play this season and received major support. Justin is one of the leading Heisman candidates and a preseason top 5 player for the NFL draft. Will not playing change his status? This could cost him millions of dollars and a drop in his draft position. The cancellation of the football season for the Big 10 and Pac 12 has generated some interesting concepts that will allow these teams to play football this year.
The main idea is to create a 1-year Super Conference where teams from both the Big 10 and Pac 12 will join to compete and play against each other. There is a lot of merit to the plan, but would it be sanctioned by the NCAA? Certainly, the COVID-19 protocols are easier to manage within inner conference play, but will the commissioners or school presidents sign off? While there is some growing evidence of long-term heart disease in young athletes that contract COVID, the players are currently operating in a bubble and have the best doctors, testing, and environment to stay safe.
Nick Saban, Head Coach of the University of Alabama stated the following:
“I want to play, but I want to play for the players’ sake, the value they can create for themselves,” Saban told ESPN. “I know I’ll be criticized no matter what I say, that I don’t care about player safety. Look, players are a lot safer with us than they are running around at home. We have around a 2 percent positive ratio on our team since the Fourth of July. It’s a lot higher than that in society. We act like these guys can’t get this unless they play football. They can get it anywhere, whether they’re in a bar or just hanging out.”
In my opinion, a Super Conference would definitely be great for fans, the players and all of sports. For the fans that waited the entire Spring to see their favorite team take the field, it would bring a sense of excitement to lives that have been negatively impacted by this pandemic.
The other concept that has been kicked around is to allow many of these top players to enter the transfer portal to play for other teams this season. The NCAA will not be able to stop it and it will give some of these top players the opportunity to play in their final season.
Players from top teams like Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, USC, UCLA and Stanford could be playing for Alabama, LSU, Clemson, Georgia or Texas.
For the fans of the SEC, the Big 12, the ACC, the Sun Belt Conference, the American Athletic Conference and Conference USA it will be an incredible Fall season watching their teams play football.
For the Big 10 and Pac 12, it will be a long Fall! No Football. No basketball. No sports! In my opinion, making rash decisions with major financial impact and truly not thinking through the cause and effect could be the downfall of NCAA sports as we know it today. Spring Football doesn’t work. If the commissioners and presidents really cared about the safety of the players, how could they make them play over 20 games in a 10-month period. It’s just a ploy to keep the fans, boosters and the media hopeful that the Big 10 and Pac 12 will play football in the Spring. It will never fly and will never happen.
Don’t count out this concept of a new Super Conference, if you want to see your favorite teams and players on the field this Fall.