Opinion: What's the rush? ACC pressing forward with football is part of big college sports gamb

Internet US 2020-08-01 12:23:04

With the ACC’s decision Wednesday to push the start of its football season back to the second week of September and play 10 conference games with the option to add an in-state non-conference game, it appears college sports has realized it can’t kick the can down the road much farther. 

In the coming days, the SEC and the Big 12 are expected to formalize their new schedules as well, meaning there will be a consensus — at least on paper, anyway — for a season that begins roughly on time, plays almost a full season and will provide the novelty of conference games almost exclusively across the board (including Notre Dame, which will be eligible for the ACC title).

By any measure, it is an ambitious plan relying on an untested theory: That it’s possible to play team sports in a non-bubble environment with COVID-19 still rampaging across the country.

Opinion: What's the rush? ACC pressing forward with football is part of big college sports gamble in coronavirus era

Maybe it will work out perfectly. But it begs a question: What’s the rush? 

For all the lip service being paid to trying to pull off a season as carefully as possible, college football has one chance to get this right. It might be able to start, but the goal should be to finish. 

And the best path to doing that is not the one the power conferences are currently taking.

If logic were driving these decisions rather than money, all of college football would be pressing the pause button right now and aiming for a shorter season of eight or nine games that starts in October, allowing time for college sports to assess the fallout from the Miami Marlins debacle and the start of NFL training camps. 

STARTING EARLY:Why more college football teams should open on Week Zero

In fact, delaying the season would provide some answers the three big unknowns right now with a return to sports:

Was the Marlins’ outbreak a one-off or the coming norm for baseball teams who share a clubhouse and travel together?

How vulnerable to virus spread is a sport like football with large rosters where players will be piling on top of one another and breathing on each other at the line of scrimmage once contact practices start? 

What is the impact of regular students repopulating campuses on football programs where the number of cases has been low to manageable this summer? 

Nobody can honestly answer or even offer a reasonable guess on any of those issues. It is a total unknown, and yet, the data that comes in will almost certainly determine whether college football’s scheduling plans are achievable or merely pipe dreams. 

Though football coaches have been begging for some decisions to be made so they can plan around a kickoff date, there is widespread concern about a scenario where fall camp is disrupted, which would pretty much be a disaster for teams trying to prepare for the start of the season. 

Because of the unusual circumstances of this offseason, many players are already behind in their physical preparation. Out of necessity, preseason camps are going to be far more focused on heat acclimatization and conditioning than they’ve been in many years. If teams have to shut down in the middle of that for one or two weeks, there’s going to be even more ground to make up and no margin for error. 

This is not a circumstance that needs to be rushed. Time is more likely to be a friend of college football happening than an enemy. Why not let the NFL go first and see what happens in training camp, whether there’s anything to learn — good or bad — and adjust accordingly? 

Because college sports are run by school presidents who are somewhat sensitive to optics and, frankly, have bigger fish to fry at the moment than what happens in athletics, everyone needs to very, very sure about what they’re doing here before the season starts. Because if it has to stop, it’s not going to come back.

And some of the decisions made so far don’t exactly follow pristine logic. For instance, what the ACC effectively did Wednesday is drop three non-conference games while adding two conference games. Other than lining up testing protocols and having slightly more flexibility to move things around if a game here or there has to get postponed, have you really made it more likely that the season will be completed? 

If all these leagues really wanted the best chance of playing all the games on their schedule, they would go minimalist — no more than nine games, playing only conference opponents. You could do that over starting in October and space the games out a bit, and if one or two doesn’t get played, so be it. 

But the goal up to this point has been clear: Conferences are tantalized by the possibility of playing almost all their games on the hope of collecting as much TV revenue as possible and squeezing whatever they can out of ticket revenue, which is going to be a financial disaster since so many schools are going to be capped around 20 or 25 percent attendance.

Meanwhile, if players don’t live like monks for four months, the odds of a team skating through the season without at least one shutdown aren’t great.

Many of the outbreaks we’ve seen so far have been tied to players going to parties — including the most recent one at Rutgers, according to a report Wednesday from NJ.com. But even if you could eliminate big social gatherings from the equation (good luck), coaches are concerned about just regular interactions like players spending time with their girlfriends or seeing their families who come into town for a game weekend as fraught with potential to shut down a team. 

Not everyone wants to live that way, and you’ve already seen two Power Five players — including Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley, a potential first-round pick — decide not to play this season citing some of those reasons. In the wake of a significant number of NFL players opting out, you can pretty much guarantee a lot more college guys in the coming days will follow in their footsteps. 

All of these decisions, of course, have been made on assumptions and guesses. College football could have chosen the route of delaying a little longer, collecting more information about sports outside the bubble and letting it guide them to a logical plan.

Instead, these leagues are just going to push through with few concessions to the coronavirus and start putting things in ink before anyone has a real grasp of what the next few weeks will bring. Maybe we’ll look back and acknowledged they guessed right. But that’s all it is, one big guess with the future of the sport at stake. 

Opinion: What's the rush? ACC pressing forward with football is part of big college sports gamble in coronavirus era

Tips

If the information we provide is valuable, please share it wonderfully with your friends. Thank you!

精彩分享:

扫一扫在手机阅读、精彩分享本文