“It is cold but clear in Iowa City as the Cy-Hawk series returns to Kinnick Stadium today as the Iowa Hawkeyes host their in-state rivals, the Cyclones of Iowa State.”
Do not be overly surprised if the TV football announcer begins his broadcast for the big game next season with words to some effect, but that he is doing so in February — yes, February.
While no one is in favor of doing so, there is a growing momentum among university presidents and chancellors and the NCAA to either delay or alter the 2020 college football season or else to begin play in February, in which a full and “normal” season would be held.
Two COVID-19 related obstacles remain to having the season progress as usual.
First, many coaches have gone on the the record saying a full-blown practice schedule, especially considering the loss of spring practices, would need to start no later than the first week of July, a decision that will need to be made well before then.
Second, and actually the most important factor, is that students must be on campus for classes. It is that simple — no students on campus, no sports. Period.
The economic blow that has already been delivered to collegiate athletics has been severe. If no football season is held, it will be catastrophic.
The Power 5 conferences alone — the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC — generate $4.1 billion in football revenues. Let that sink in a minute — $4,100,000,000. Then you have all the money brought in by the other FBS schools, to say nothing of the hundreds of FCS and smaller programs.
Simply put, without football, athletic programs at a great number of schools will collapse. I have seen numbers ranging from 20-70 percent of all athletic departments going belly up. Football is the cash cow that pays for all the other sports. Men’s basketball does its part, but without football you can forget just about everything else.
Take Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s alma mater, Kent State, for an example. The Golden Flashes are to play, in Tuscaloosa, in week four. They will be destroyed, of course, but the experience for their players is valued, not to mention the $800,000 check Bama will cut their guests for the win.
You can plug in whoever you like all across the spectrum. South Dakota comes to Ames in week one, with UNI busing down to Iowa City. These are needed paychecks for the visitors, revenue streams that fuel all their programs.
There has been some talk of delaying the start of the season to October, playing an eight-game regular season with no conference title games, and then having only a “New Year’s Six” and CFB playoff set of games. Many other twists and alterations have been offered, but it appears that the idea of a February start is gaining strength as a fall-back, in the event the season does not start as normal.
A 13-week regular season would be played, using existing schedules. Play would begin Saturday, Feb. 6, the day before Super Bowl LV. Week 12 would then be May 1, with conference title games played May 8.
Under this plan an abbreviated bowl season would begin May 15, with the New Year’s Six played on May 22, the CFB semifinals on Monday, May 24. The national championship would be decided May 31, Memorial Day night.
The logistics would not, of course, be easy, but pushing the whole she-bang back to February does provide ample time to put all the pieces in place, as unusual as it may seem.
The NFL? No worries. The NFL will play as expected, even if it must be in empty stadiums. Very few of the so-called experts have written, or said (so far) they see any way that the colossus that is pro football would be halted, like baseball, hockey and basketball have been.
So … Iowa playing in a blizzard at Minnesota Feb. 20? Iowa State welcoming a chilled-to-the-bone Texas Tech Feb. 27? Don’t punt on the idea, because it might just happen.
Problem is for Iowa State home games we have a natural grass field. It isn’t growing in February. That means costly growth tarps and heating the field.