• Editor’s note: There are more questions than answers regarding when, and how, college football will begin again. Each week until next season, The Transcript will produce its Watch List to monitor developments, setbacks or points of interest surrounding college football’s anticipated return.
The world of sports is sensitive to any more sudden changes after the mass cancelations that took place in March.
So when the Springfield News-Leader reported Friday that Missouri State’s athletic department is crafting a budget that does not include the September game at Oklahoma, it raised a few eyebrows.
“We hope to play that game,” the paper quoted MSU athletic director Kyle Marks saying in a virtual discussion about the budget with the school’s Board of Governors.
For now, MSU is planning around the OU game as if it will never happen — and as if the Bears won’t receive the reported $600,000 payout by coming to Norman on Sept. 5.
The conversations at this point are no deeper than that, each school confirmed.
“Purely precautionary,” an MSU spokesman told The Transcript by email. “[It’s] from a budgeting standpoint only.”
An OU spokesman told The Transcript there have been no talks with anyone about not playing.
MSU’s move underscores the financial and logistical planning schools will perform the next few months as they survey how college football can co-exist with the coronavirus pandemic.
Money is tight.
Football Championship Subdivision schools like MSU could sorely use big payouts by playing at Power 5 schools, who in turn, could save money by not playing their smaller counterparts this year.
Athletic departments adjusting to economic woes could face newfound expenses, like virus testing, this year.
MSU is being safe in this case.
• Trending up: There is overwhelming sentiment, at least from coaches, athletic directors and school presidents, that some form of football will be played.
Those are just opinions, albeit ones guided by conversations out of the public eye. Still, no one knows what the next few months hold in terms of the coronavirus.
“The virus will make the decision for us [regarding football],” director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told NBCsports.com’s Peter King last week.
Their conversation was about the NFL, which is obviously different from college football. “There are some huge, huge differences in us being able to put on a successful season versus a professional league,” OU coach Lincoln Riley noted Thursday.
There is, however, a fundamental similarity: They’re both fall sports. And right now it’s spring. Time is currently one of football’s best allies.
Fauci said if the season were to attempt a start today, if it were September 1, it would be “impossible” to move forward with football. But again, it’s still May. And as Riley also alluded, the time between now and the season’s start allows for improvement in many areas — not just in terms of infection numbers, but increased testing, personal protective equipment and mitigation tactics.
“I would hope that by the time you get to September it’s not gonna be the way it is right now,” Fauci told King.
• Trending down: There is fundamental disagreement between power brokers about whether or not football can be played if students aren’t allowed to learn on campus, and what even constitutes an open campus.
"You have to have the campuses open in one fashion or another for students before you have college athletics going on in those campuses," NCAA president Mark Emmert told CNN last Friday.
Emmert doesn’t believe a season can or should take place if students are learning online exclusively. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Sports Illustrated he believes football can take place on campuses where in-person classes have been suspended in favor of online courses.
Disagreements about a model for college football were foreseeable, but in-person classes vs. online learning and what constitutes a suitable campus for football is a key subject decision-makers must find resolution on in the coming months.
• Dates to consider: July 15. Bowlsby told Front Office Sports that Big 12 schools are looking to make decisions about the season “somewhere between early June and late July.”
So, mid-July would be a good calendar marker for those wondering when more concrete announcements will be made about college football in 2020. A decision around that date would make sense, since a July 15 return to campus for athletes, for instance, would allow for at least a six-week buffer between the start of training camp and season openers.
Other dates to consider:
- May 22 (SEC will vote on whether players can return to campus facilities on June 1
- May 29 (if criteria are met, Norman’s “Healthier at Home Initiative” can move into Phase 2, which allows for sporting venues to open as long as social distancing requirements are met and the venue is limited to 50% percent capacity)
- May 31 (Big 12, Pac-12 suspensions on in-person organized activities expires)
- June 1 (Big Ten suspension on in-person activities expires).
• Notable: California State University on Tuesday canceled all fall semester classes at its 23 campuses, stating they would take place online instead.
Cal State University is the nation’s largest four-year public university system, encompassing FBS schools San Diego State, Fresno State and San Jose State.
The decision figures to shape college football in some form or fashion.
• Quotable: OU athletic director Joe Castiglione was asked about contingency plans for the OU-Army game in West Point in September. Here’s what he told SiriusXM: “We’re not investigating any other alternatives with non-conference games. Sure, there may be some last-minute adjustment. But if you start trying to move one it creates a chain reaction, and I don’t see that being the wisest way to move forward with football.”
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