College Football 2020: College Football in the Age of COVID-19, Part I
Like every sport in America, college football has not escaped the specter of the COVID-19 coronavirus, even though we are still months away from any scheduled games. That’s because college football is no exception to the sports-wide phenomenon that “offseason” could more aptly be named “off-field activities season.” Anyone who follows any sport can tell you that there is always something going on worth of discussion 365 days a year; and for college football in the month of March that discussion is typically about spring practices, transfers and recruiting. But 2020 has been anything but a typical year so far.
As the rapid spread of the coronavirus in the United States began last week, sports leagues acted quickly. At the college level, many conferences at first opted to play games in empty arenas. That policy quickly gave way to games and tournaments being halted. Finally, the NCAA stepped in and cancelled all activities. Winter sports championship tournaments, including March Madness, were cancelled, as well as the entire season for spring sports. For football, all spring practice activities have indefinitely ceased. On Sunday March 15th, the CDC issued recommendations for all America to eliminate gatherings of more than 50 people for the next 8 weeks. Assuming the NCAA follows that recommendation, and I have every reason to believe they will, activities would not resume until mid-May at the earliest. Many schools will either be in exams or will have ended spring semesters by then. Just my hunch, but I don’t think we will see the resumption of spring football practices this year.
The quarantine has even extended to recruiting. The NCAA has halted all face-to-face recruiting. That means no campus visits, no in-home visits, and no in-school visits. Contact is pretty much limited to voice/online platforms.
So what will be the impact of all this on the 2020 college football season? Well, much is still unknown. Will this pandemic have run its course in 8 weeks? Will COVID-19 fade away by the summer, only to resurface once the regular flu season begins in the fall (much like the flu pandemic of 1918)? How does delayed/no spring practice and very limited recruiting impact individual programs? Every program has had to shut down because of this; but we all know college football is not a level playing field, and this will certainly impact different programs to varying degrees.
I’ll try to speculate how that could play out, as well as what a 2020 season might look like, in upcoming installments.
Mike is a Baltimore native living in Portland, OR since 2007. He currently runs his own business specializing in video production and online marketing. Prior to that he was a legal technology consultant, worked for 9 years at Johns Hopkins University and served 6 years in the Air Force. He also enjoys travel, food, beer, and is a volunteer at the Oregon Humane Society.