Newell: College football faces specific challenges that pro sports don't


As the football season draws ever nearer, uncertainty is everywhere on college campuses as some conferences say they’ll play no games until the spring, while others seem to be holding out hope that the show can go on. To get the latest information about the factors at play and where it all may lead, Newell spoke to Louisiana Network News Director and columnist Jeff Palermo Friday afternoon.

“There are pleas from the fans to play, pleas from the players to play, pleas from NCAA doctors to take COVID seriously, pleas from NCAA lawyers to be careful, Congress pushing for a players’ Bill of Rights, and who even knows if Mayors and Governors will allow games in stadiums… this is a mess, to say the absolute least!” Newell began.

“It is!” Palermo said. “I came to the resolution that when our numbers started spiking, that professional sports were gonna be able to do it. MLB has had its issues but overcame them, they're on the same page now, following protocols. Same with the PGA - when it returned, they had some cases and since then, they haven't had anyone dropping out. The NBA bubble has gone well, the NHL bubble has gone well. But college football has so many different interests; university presidents, athletic directors, coaches, governors, lawyers, medical experts, all saying something different about all this. Because of that, I felt even a month ago that college football would have the most difficult time with the pandemic. I think it's 50-50 that the SEC, the Big 12 and the ACC are able to begin next month.”

“I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about the Zoom call that set college football ablaze,” Newell continued. “A bunch of popular college athletes got together on Zoom to talk about their desire to play, they want their voices heard, but they have conditions to go along with that. We see that with the NFL and the NFLPA but that’s not something we’ve really seen before from college athletes.”“No - a few years back, a group of student athletes at Northwestern tried to basically unionize, and it didn't work,” Palermo said. “The Federal board that oversees labor practices didn't go along with that. The problem is that they laid this on the doorsteps of university presidents and conference commissioners on the eve of starting practice! There have been a lot of people sitting on their hands ever since this pandemic began in March. I guess they thought things would look better in July and August, and they are not necessarily better. They should have started this discussion back in April and May, and maybe they’d be able to get somewhere with it. Then again, what we’ve seen with the Pac-12 effort of players wanting to play, they’re also looking for a portion of the revenue that these conferences and these schools are making and I don't think the NCAA, the schools and conferences are ready for that discussion. I think that’s played a role in the Pac-12 and Big Ten not moving forward in the fall.”