Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott says scheduling two football seasons in the same calendar year is "one of the top questions and considerations" his league has. [D. Ross Cameron/The Associated Press]

Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Big Ten, Pac-12 decisions bring even more questions

Posted August 11th, 2020

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Story highlights
  • With the country split almost in half over a decision whether to play football this fall or not — kind of like it’s split over everything else from race to mask — the sport’s status hung in the balance with a dire future as the Big Ten and the Pac-12 both canceled their fall sports for 2020 and the other three major conferences remain heavy in deliberation.
  • In the span of less than a week, the Big Ten released its full football schedule and then dissolved the whole thing. Talk about warp speed.
  • Is it even possible for the Big Ten and Pac-12 to schedule two football seasons in the same calendar year if they have a spring and fall season in 2021? Unlikely, at best.

The news for college football on Tuesday was grim, even grimmer than Monday.

College football. 

Called on account of virus. At least in some quarters. 

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The first and second domino fell, and it left quite a mess.

To no one’s surprise, the Big Ten and Pac-12 both called it quits on all fall sports.

We’ll get no Ohio State-Michigan this fall. No one will dot an i. Jim Harbaugh will have to wear his khakis to Home Depot. There will be no Rose Bowl Parade or a Rose Bowl, we presume. Nebraska won’t play before a sold-out stadium. Happy Valley isn’t so happy these days.

With the country split almost in half over a decision whether to play football this fall or not — kind of like it’s split over everything else from race to wearing a mask — the sport’s status hung in the balance with a dire future as the Big Ten and the Pac-12 both canceled their fall sports for 2020 and the other three major conferences remain heavy in deliberation.

With the fall cancellations by two of the Power Five conferences as well as the Mountain West and Mid-American conferences along with UConn and Old Dominion, as many as 48 of the 130 Football Bowl Subdivision programs have chosen to remain on the sidelines.

The rest have one foot on the field and the other out of bounds.

In the span of less than a week, the Big Ten released its full football schedule and then dissolved the whole thing. Talk about warp speed.

Is this any way to run an NCAA sport that is worth billions? Is it possible we don’t have football for 19 consecutive months?

And now the Big 12, SEC and ACC are on the clock. Literally. They hold the cards.

The Big 12 presidents and chancellors were meeting Tuesday night to decide their futures on the football field, and there was no indication early in the day they would come to a final resolution.

The Pac-12 insisted all its CEOs were in lockstep with a unanimous vote. The Big Ten, not so much. We’re looking at you, Nebraska.

Meanwhile, the SEC and ACC are sticking to their guns and want to play, and would you expect anything else from the South? Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he wasn’t shocked by the actions of the Big Ten and Pac-12. Asked how the Big 12 will go forward, he said, “We’ll see.”

The Big 12 gave no clear indications Tuesday to their course of action and have new presidents at Texas and Oklahoma with no real track record in athletics and five other leaders on the job for four years or fewer. Do any of them want to tell their fans in the football-crazed South they voted not to play football?

A day ago, I put the chances of having a college football season this fall at 10 percent. At the moment, I’d drop that number to maybe 5 percent. Or 1. A half?

About all we know for sure is that the players in the Big Ten and Pac-12 are hurting. Programs’ finances all over the country are in the red. The television networks are in a jumble, scrambling for inventory, but maybe that’d mean more money for the three Power Five conferences if they choose to play.

There are so many factors at play here.

Do the SEC, ACC and Big 12 think they’ll look weak and get accused of taking their marching orders from the other two Power Five leagues? Surely, they don’t want those optics.

Is it even possible for the Big Ten and Pac-12 to schedule two football seasons in the same calendar year if they have a spring and fall season in 2021? Unlikely, at best.

When I asked Larry Scott how the Pac-12 could name the health, safety and well-being of the athletes as its No. 1 priority and still consider playing two grueling football seasons in the same year, the Pac-12 commissioner said that concern was “one of the top questions and considerations we have. That would also put a terrific strain on our campuses.”

In effect, Scott said his league would consider starting a football season in January and might be “a compressed season.” But I can think of no medical authorities who would sign off on that premise as smart rationale.

None of this even addresses college basketball although it’s looking more and more likely pushed to a January start as well.

As for football, can Scott even imagine half the country playing football while the other half watches in exasperation?

“Everyone is going to make their independent decision,” Scott said. “We respect our colleagues. But we didn’t feel comfortable moving forward.”

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