Like Aragorn to Eowyn in the film adaption of Tolkien’s epic “love story,” college football remains but a shadow and a thought to tens of millions of pent-up fans across the country pining for true love. Currently, it can’t give us what we seek. Which, let’s face it, is full-on consummation.
But certain people, certain important people, are looking at honeymoon brochures. College football, officially, remains a quest. As does all sport at the moment. But tea leaves are in motion, perhaps ready to reveal a picture of the South’s No. 1 sport returning to the gridiron on time this September. In SEC Country, athletic directors including Arkansas’ own Hunter Yurachek are operating under the assumption that the 2020 season will commence over Labor Day weekend. Yurachek has gone on record as being optimistic. This week, he even laid out a best-case-scenario plan in which players return to campus to resume team activities by July 15.
So, will college football commence as scheduled in September? Will there be fans in the stands if it does? The answers aren’t available just yet. But it does appear that those beforementioned folks who matter — ADs, college presidents, NCAA and conference officials — are leaning towards football in the fall. The NCAA even released what amounts to a list of criteria for the return of college athletics. It feels like this coronavirus adventure is playing its final act.
The son of someone close will be an incoming freshman on the Hill this fall. He’ll also be a student equipment manager for the football team. The head equipment manager for football told him that while nothing is official yet, he expected players back on campus by July 15. In other words, Yurachek and the football program are preparing for fall camp in August.
Now, while the South and much of the Midwest will be pining for college football, a different story is being written out West. Governors in Pac-12 states don’t seem eager to re-open for business, some defiantly so. What will the NCAA do if the SEC, Big 10 and Big 12 are ready to start back up but the Pac 12 and ACC are not? For college football to commence, governors, league commissioners and school presidents must all be in agreement.
College football is too valuable for many schools — many STATES — not to be played. College football pays the bills for entire athletic departments and represents significant chunks of state economies. The UA brought in roughly $130 million in revenue alone in 2016-17, driven mostly by football (and of course, those SEC royalties). A 2015 study estimated the Hogs’ economic impact to the state at more than $160 million annually.
Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard acknowledged the impact of college football last week to 24/7 Sports, while stressing the day-to-day volatility of decision-making in the coronavirus age.
“Two weeks ago, I would’ve told you realistically I don’t see how we could play a game without fans or I don’t see how we can play games if we don’t bring students back to campuses. What I’ve seen the last two weeks – again, a day is a week – is the reality of how our society needs our economy to reengage. I’m not saying college athletics is our economy. It’s a window into our economy.
“If we’re not finding a way to do something this fall, what does that really say about what our economy in the United States is doing? When you think about it like that, I can see several states throwing everything out the window and Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Kansas are going to play football because we need it for the economy.’”
Pollard went on to downplay as “far-fetched” the notion of some Power 5 conferences playing while others don’t.
It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. Who’d of thunk it? A southern/West coast cultural divide… But one thing’s for sure — economics will win out. In this scenario, don’t be surprised to see Eowyn (the fans) get her Aragorn come September.