Big Ten Cancels Football

A nation that failed to control the pandemic is going to be without college sports this fall.

The first major conference has announced that they will not play football this fall. The other four will almost surely follow suit.

The Detroit News broke the story (“Big Ten cancels football season, Pac-12 on verge of pulling plug, SEC and Big 12 mull conference realignment“):

The college football season doesn’t look like it’ll be happening. At least per multiple reports on the Power 5 conferences in the country.

The Big Ten and the Pac-12 would be canceling their football seasons on Tuesday, according to the Dan Patrick Show. Both of those conferences had groups of players band together and create statements demanding increased protections against COVID-19 along with other demands. But by Monday morning, the Big Ten had canceled the football season, per the Detriot Free Press.

The ACC and the Big 12 are currently on the fence in regards to a football season and the SEC is trying to get both of those leagues to continue forward with the season, according to Patrick.

While the Big Ten won’t be playing football as a whole this season, it appears that the powerhouse Big Ten schools are still trying to keep their football hopes alive. Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State and Michigan reached out to the Big 12 to potentially join their conference for the upcoming season in the event that the Big Ten shuts down for the fall, according to Rick Neuheisel.

The SEC has reached out to Texas and Oklahoma to gauge their interest in joining the SEC for the season — if the SEC can manage to start a season. Right now, the SEC is delaying talks to decide whether to cancel or postpone.

Given the money at stake—to say nothing of the degree to which college football is part of the fabric of life in the South and Midwest—one understands the desperation of the big-time programs to salvage a season. But, as I’ve been saying for weeks, it’s just not realistic.

College presidents have a duty to parents and students alike to protect those with whose care they’ve been entrusted. It would be wildly irresponsible to pack them into buses and planes for cross-country games. At the end of the day, I can’t imagine they’re going to do that.

Other countries have managed to get sports going again. The US has dipped a toe into the waters with the professional leagues, with mixed success. But adults making good living from the games are a whole different animal than 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old kids.

Additionally, my lay understanding is that, with the exception of Notre Dame and a handful of other independents, the various television deals are with conferences, not individual schools. Indeed, the only reason the Big 12 and ACC didn’t collapse a few years back when there was a realignment frenzy is that schools had signed away their rights for years on end with onerous penalties for leaving. So, I don’t know that the schools would even reap the financial rewards for these desperate moves.

FILED UNDER: Education, Higher Ed, Sports
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Fall sports are getting severely watered down, if not cancelled altogether.
    We cannot travel out of the country.
    America sure is great again!!!

    3
  2. Kathy says:

    Other countries managed to contain community transmission earlier and better.

    Football, now, is about the worst sport to attempt to play in the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s a lot of close contact for extended periods. Imagine how many players one asymptomatic lineman can infect in the course of one game.

    What happens if team X has even a small number of SARS-CoV-2 positives detected before a game? Do you quarantine the whole team for two weeks? Will the other team even want to play them? Can players opt out of single games if that happens?

    Baseball has far less contact or even close proximity between players, and we keep getting outbreaks in several teams. It will be much worse in football.

    8
  3. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Should somebody be cuing up the Tyrell “Thank God that Robert [edit: or is that Roger??] Penske and Vince McMahon aren’t quitters” tape?

    4
  4. CSK says:

    Come on, everybody knows this is just part of the plot to get Donald Trump.

    9
  5. EddieInCA says:

    Good.

    Many universities are going to have to reach into their endowments, rather than count on the revenue from football, for their operating income.

    That it was even being considered shows how much denial we are in as a country.

    Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, Manchester United will play FC Copenhagen in the Eurpoa League quarterfinals today at 3pm Eastern. Go ManU!

    4
  6. Mister Bluster says:

    Maybe this will give you a fix.
    The illustrations used in this video were drawn by George Woodbridge, a Mad Magazine artist.

    Be sure to catch the “tools of sportsmanship” at 3:27…

  7. James Joyner says:

    @EddieInCA: Aside from a relative handful of elite schools, there’s not a huge “endowment” to tap into. Alabama has a $1.3 billion endowment that generates $35 million in revenues annually. That’s roughly what the school grosses from football.

  8. Scott F. says:

    @CSK: I so badly want to hear the head of “Bikers for Trump” (that EddieInCA linked to in the Fox News comments) explain how college football could be cahoots with the left and the lamestream media to hurt Trump.

    3
  9. CSK says:

    @Scott F.:
    Well, the operative word there is “college,” which as everyone knows is a place where Communists indoctrinate “young skulls full of mush” (to quote Limbaugh) in anti-American ideology. They are dedicated to crushing Donald Trump.

    1
  10. Grewgills says:

    Most colleges, with the exception of the elite few, lose money on college sports. They will probably save some money by not playing. That said, enrollments will be down and that will kill a fair few small schools that were already struggling.

    2
  11. EddieInCA says:

    @James Joyner:

    Alabama has a $1.3 billion endowment that generates $35 million in revenues annually. That’s roughly what the school grosses from football.

    With all due respect, Dr. Joyner. Someone needs to fire whomever is in charge of the endowment. 35M from 1.3B is less than 2.7% annually. 1.3B should be, in this market, be earning 5+% completely safely, and 6-8% without horrible risk. That’s just sad.

    The 10 year annual average for endowments is 8.4%

    https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/01/30/endowment-returns-10-year-average-rises-leaders-see-clouds-horizon

    4
  12. Michael Cain says:

    @EddieInCA: For the most part, at the Div I level, cash flows from the academic side into the athletic department, not out of it.

    I did my undergraduate time at Nebraska, one of the few exceptions. Going back to I think the 1960s, the athletic department has been a separate legal entity — somewhat under the thumb of the university for “institutional control” reasons — and barred by statute from receiving money from either the university proper or the state government. The university’s endowment is quite small. But the University of Nebraska Foundation, a private charitable entity with a charter of “supporting academic excellence at the University of Nebraska”, and notably not under control of the Regents or the administration, has a substantial pile. The Foundation was set up by an alumni who got rich and didn’t trust either the Regents or the state legislature.

    1
  13. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Michael Cain:

    Not to forget that the donors could decide how the money was spent with no consideration as to what was best for the school and students.

  14. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Kathy:

    Other countries managed to contain community transmission earlier and better.

    For what it’s worth, we are seeing nasty spikes here again as a consequence of reopening. Borders are slamming shut all over Europe as we speak. We’re not as under control as we liked to think that we were.

    12
  15. Michael Cain says:

    @Sleeping Dog: When I’ve donated, I’ve done so through the Foundation. The first time, I went back through the records on where the Foundation and the Regents had differed, and found that I agreed with how the Foundation wanted to spend money more than I agreed with the Regents.

  16. gVOR08 says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: It’s Roger Penske. Auto racing has restarted, probably the easiest major sport to restart as there is minimal physical contact, well person to person physical contact.

    F1 is used to big money and a lot of discipline. They’re running a reduced thirteen race schedule, all in Europe to cut down travel, to the point they just ran Silverstone on two successive weekends. They’re dividing teams into bubbles with people in each bubble avoiding contact with anyone outside the bubble, so if someone tests positive they quarantine the one bubble and the team can still function. IIRC there’s a significant fine if anyone’s found at the track without a mask on. One of the teams had to bring in a substitute driver the last couple of races as the full time guy was positive. They’re a lot better resourced than your average high school football team. We’ll have to see if they make it through the season.

  17. Gustopher says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, Manchester United will play FC Copenhagen in the Eurpoa League quarterfinals today at 3pm Eastern. Go ManU!

    I’m curious as to whether anyone is considering bringing in Soccer from Europe for Monday Night Football. I guess that would be Tuesday Early Morning Football for the folks in Europe. Maybe add Cuban and Korean baseball. Someone somewhere probably plays basketball.

    The three options are going to be:
    * Americans stop watching sports
    * Americans import sports
    * Trump used the Defense Production Act to require athletes to play, declaring them to be essential workers, just like the folks in meat processing plants.

    1
  18. Fortunato says:

    @Michael Cain:
    I’m also a Nebraska alum.
    I predict there will indeed be college football. The conventional league will go by the wayside this year, but schools like Nebraska, Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ol Miss, Florida and others will indeed be playing football.
    Too
    Much
    Money
    for these schools/communities/states to walk away from.

  19. EddieInCA says:

    @Fortunato:

    I’ll take that bet. No way there is college football with a pandemic still at this level. You can’t do that to young men without compensation. The pros are a different story. You might see some college golf, swimming, baseball even. But I doubt football, basketball, or Lacrosse get played this season.

    3
  20. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Fortunato:
    @EddieInCA:

    I’m with Eddy on this. They may try and play football, but an outbreak is inevitable. You can’t social distance in a huddle, nor in the scrum of a short distance running play.

  21. Fortunato says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    September 10, 2020, Thurs night kickoff, ESPN

  22. Grewgills says:

    @EddieInCA: @Fortunato: Sleeping Dog
    If I had disposable income to bet, I’d bet those schools start their seasons and pressure the kids with threats of lost scholarships and lost opportunity to go pro to play, but that there will be an associated outbreak that prevents them from finishing the season.

    3
  23. EddieInCA says:

    @Fortunato:

    I predict there will indeed be college football. The conventional league will go by the wayside this year, but schools like Nebraska, Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ol Miss, Florida and others will indeed be playing football.
    Too
    Much
    Money
    for these schools/communities/states to walk away from.

    I just had a conversation with a Pac-12 Athletic Director. He told me something I hadn’t thought of, which contradicts your point. Without the fans in the stands providing revenue, football becomes a very expensive sport to produce at the college level. The TV money is just so-so, and is split among every team in a conference. So no fans, no football.

    5
  24. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Fortunato:

    I said they’d try, but Sept 10 is a ways away and things may change. Some games may be played, but they won’t finish the season. For that matter the NFL won’t either.

    The NHL and NBA will finish the seasons and the playoffs in the bubble. I’m doubtful MLB finishes that season.

  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Comforting to know that we’re not really the only ones. Thank you! [thumbs up emoji goes here]

    1
  26. @Grewgills:

    Most colleges, with the exception of the elite few, lose money on college sports. They will probably save some money by not playing

    But the short- and medium-term sunk costs means a need for things like ticket and concession sales and TV dollars.

    1
  27. motopilot says:

    @Sleeping Dog: You can’t social distance in a huddle

    Also, if you have ever played football, you know you aren’t just close in a huddle… you are seriously huffing and puffing from physical exertion. Even if wearing masks, the masks are not air tight enough for spreading what is primarily an airborne virus, and through the type of physical contact they engage in who really thinks a mask would stay in place? Football is one of the most absurd attempts at resuming sporting events during Covid19. And as Eddie notes above, there is the issue of fans. Ain’t gonna happen.

  28. Jax says:

    Mountain West has also canceled. Lots of people complaining.

  29. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    One other feature comes to mind. As a kid who used to get together with friends on Thanksgiving day to play football before dinner I get recreational play just fine. As an amateur musician, I understand singing or playing the piano to entertain myself or even friends. As a wind musician who played in ensembles for almost 30 years I don’t get playing in an empty auditorium. Same as a vocalist who toured with one choir and sang in 3 or 4 others. If I were able to get students who are going to be playing sports in empty stadia and arenas to speak candidly–like their position on the team and scholarship are not going to be affected by their answer–I suspect that their heart is no more in this than mine would be.

    I’ve never been among the elite of my craft who play on sound stages and with the tape rolling, so I can’t speak for them, but I suspect that doing that for your job gives you a resignation about playing in an empty room that can transcend the setting. And I was trained by enough professional musicians during my formative years to know that as a pro, “my heart just isn’t in this” won’t cut it. Nobody cares whether you like the program or not, you have a job to do.

    (I did play for a professionally made recording once. I was in Junior High School and our music department did a recording for a fundraiser. You really DO have to be a parent to listen to that record. And not just any parent at that.)

  30. EddieInCA says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I’ve never been among the elite of my craft who play on sound stages and with the tape rolling, so I can’t speak for them, but I suspect that doing that for your job gives you a resignation about playing in an empty room that can transcend the setting. And I was trained by enough professional musicians during my formative years to know that as a pro, “my heart just isn’t in this” won’t cut it. Nobody cares whether you like the program or not, you have a job to do.

    I was thinking of this very thing last evening. My take is that without fans, college football is basically a spring practice game. Fans in the stands, with tailgating beforehand, and parties afterwards, IS college football. Football without fans is nothing more than a scrimmage. Who goes to those?

  31. Joe says:

    I live in a Big 10 town and I would make a reasonable bet that, even without the games, tailgating on “game” days will continue to be a thing.

  32. BugManDan says:
  33. Fortunato says:

    Maybe if we could inject the players with some sort of ‘disinfectant’. I understand that will kill the virus in, like, a minute, maybe even less.
    Or light. I hear light will kill it. Quickly. Maybe if we could get a light, you know, inside the body somehow.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a ‘doctor’ you know, but I’ve got, well I’ve a good brain.
    We should have the team doctors look into that… disinfectant, and light.

    1
  34. Tyrell says:

    Some sports commentators and coaches on the radio were discussing what the thinking is about this. They were questioning how this would make things any safer. Football brings a structure and regimen that includes a tight schedule of practice, training, exercise, diet, and other related activities. All these are a strict regimen and regulated to the minute. The players are supervised, healthier, in top physical shape, and exposed to more sunlight. Without this, what will they be doing? Going to stores, sitting around watching tv, playing pickup games with who knows, eating out at different places, going to parties and such, and visiting a large range of people and places. There would not be a framework or supervision.
    There is also the economic fallout that will hurt the schools and communities. These towns can’t take anymore revenue hits. Many are struggling just to reopen their public schools. Loss of more revenue could cost many public school teachers and other employees their jobs. Then what are the students going to do? Many families can’t afford private schools and have no other source for their education.

  35. @Tyrell:

    Some sports commentators and coaches on the radio were discussing what the thinking is about this. They were questioning how this would make things any safer.

    By not putting these students in close proximity to one other for protracted periods of time, including being on top of one another, breathing directly in one another’s facing (and breathing hard at that), as well as decreasing close proximity in practice, on the sidelines, and in travel.

    Indeed, as it pertains to Covid-19 it makes them substantially safer. All the other talk is just rationalization.

  36. Tyrell says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Thanks for the reply. I am thinking if I was in the US Navy SEALS or the Army Rangers training for six months I would be in a more controlled situation, every waking minute. It would be outdoors, extreme conditioning of mind and body, and shielded. My physical condition and immune system would be at the top. I would not be in my normal routine of hanging out down at the coffee shop or car shop, wandering Walmart and Dicks, enjoying neighborhood cookouts, and going to the swim club for the afternoon.
    NASCAR and WWE seem to be doing ok. Locally there was a huge turnout of kids signing up for church league fall soccer which starts in September. I guess I will catch some of their games. Admission is free, sit where you want, and take in your own food and drinks. The kids football is also going ahead.

  37. @Tyrell:

    I am thinking if I was in the US Navy SEALS or the Army Rangers training for six months I would be in a more controlled situation, every waking minute

    Being on a college football team isn’t being in the military, let alone the Army Rangers.

    I would not be in my normal routine of hanging out down at the coffee shop or car shop, wandering Walmart and Dicks, enjoying neighborhood cookouts

    I hate to tell you, but college football players do all of those things. They are college students.

    NASCAR and WWE seem to be doing ok

    NASCAR is not a team sport with ~100 members and they compete in individual cars.

    And while WWE seems fine (I am not keeping close track) those are one one one competions, not 11 v. 11

    Locally there was a huge turnout of kids signing up for church league fall soccer which starts in September. I guess I will catch some of their games. Admission is free, sit where you want, and take in your own food and drinks. The kids football is also going ahead.

    And I fear for all of that as well. I am actually relieved that my kids are no longer in travel soccer, as much as I miss watching them play.

  38. @Tyrell: One more point on NASCAR and WWE: they are professionals and adults. College athletes are amateurs and only barely into adulthood.

  39. Tyrell says:

    @Gustopher: I don’t mind watching soccer in person. I will sometimes stop to watch a game when I am on the way somewhere else. TV soccer is too long, they don’t seem to know how much time is left, the field looks like it is a mile long, and the score is always 2-1 or 3-2. Not enough scoring. I would rather watch a baseball game or car race when it comes to tv.
    The local church is starting up their league and had a big turnout for signups the other day. Their season starts in early September on Saturdays. They have good games and all the players get playing time. Of course, no admission, bring your own chair and snacks. Can’t beat it.