PONTIFICATING FROM THE SUNSHINE STATE – AUGUST 20
By Leo Haggerty

CROSSROADS FOR COLLEGES

Well, the first shoe has dropped.  The PAC-12 and the Big Ten have decided to move the start of their 2020 football season back to January at the earliest.

To say this caught the other three members of the Power Five, the SEC and the ACC and the Big 12, by surprise is an understatement.  Especially after the Big Ten made a huge production earlier in the week of releasing their schedule that was to begin in early September.

Personally, I’m not surprised by this move by the two northernmost Power Five conferences.  A majority of their campuses are in large metropolitan area.  Examples of that in the PAC-12 are UCLA and USC in Los Angeles along with Washington in Seattle.  Similar situations exist in the Big Ten at Minnesota in Minneapolis and Northwestern in the Chicago suburbs.

What was a little strange was the timing.  The question that begs to be answered is what happened in the space of less than a week that convinced the PAC-12 and the Big Ten to jettison so quickly any chance of competing in the fall.

Two big dilemmas are now brought into play.  The first is the College Football Playoffs and the NCAA took care of the issue.  They decided that there would be no crowning of a national champion and the three Power Five conferences are livid to say the least.

Another unintended consequence are the bowl games and the one that effects us the most here in the Tampa Bay area is The Outback Bowl. With an automatic tie-in with the SEC and the Big Ten, that leaves one spot to fill if the game goes on as scheduled.

I haven’t asked anyone at The Outback Bowl to comment.  Frankly, I wouldn’t do that especially when I believe that the dust has completely settled yet on what college football is going to resemble in 2020.

Don’t be surprised if at least one, or possibly all three, of the remaining Power Five conferences choose to move to a spring campaign.  This will all depend on whether campuses can be open to students.

If colleges choose to open to all students, then football is a viable alternative. They are student-athletes and are attending classes so intercollegiate sports, if deemed to be safe, could be held.

If the campuses are completely shut down and only doing virtually learning, it’s going to be extremely difficult to justify playing football.  Now, the perception of professionalism comes into play if the campus is shut down and, right now, that’s not a good look.

Everything that I’ve discussed above becomes a moot point if President Trump declares college football players, and everyone associated with the sport, to be essential workers. Now, the price of poker has definitely changed.

So let me welcome you to football in the age of the pandemic.  So, don’t be surprised it The Outback Bowl is played New Years Day or Memorial Day.

Hey, don’t laugh.  When it comes to the collegiate gridiron, no potential solution is off the table.