With several sports leagues eyeing a return to action, it’s tempting to think that the 2020 college football season will go off without a hitch.
Spoiler alert: it won’t.
“There are certainly significant financial pressures to [have a season],” Yahoo Sports national college football and basketball reporter Pete Thamel said on The DA Show. “Every action we’ve seen in the last three weeks or so points to a strong desire to have college football back on the field in the fall. But my warning from my little perch in the world, this is not going to be linear. This is not going to be easy. There are going to be many players – some teams – [that] get the virus. The season, in a lot of ways, is going to be a survival of attrition, almost. There’s going to be games canceled. It is going to be messy. And by diving in and having a season in this unstable environment, there’s significant risks by these institutions. You can’t even say athletic directors because these decisions are far above them.
“Look, I hope – just like everybody else – we have a college football season,” Thamel continued. “It’s how I make my livelihood. I love the sport dearly. But I can’t be naive to sit here and just take every little step in this process and cheer it on just not acknowledging the inherent risks and the chaos that this season is going to be.”
College athletics is in the midst of transition. There was no March Madness. There might not be attendance at sporting events this fall. Athletic departments are downsizing and eliminating programs left and right.
Will college athletics ever return to pre-pandemic normal? Or are many of these changes permanent?
“I think this entire generation is going to be defined by this pandemic and the things that happen during it,” Thamel said. “We’re all going to come out a little bit different, just the way we live our lives, our perspectives. College sports is no different. College sports are built on a really clunky economic model where football accounts for, generally at the power programs, 90 percent of the revenue. There are areas where there has just been excess spending.”
Such as, for example, non-revenue teams flying across the country for games.
“There are a lot of things financially that, as we’ve moved on in college sports, just don’t make pragmatic common sense,” Thamel said. “My hope is, be it through regional-scheduling arrangements and things like that, we get back centered to things that make a little bit more sense.”