While pro sports owners and commissioners were announced as part of a group working with President Trump about when to restart their leagues, the leadership of college sports had a conference call with Vice President Mike Pence today.
During that call, the conference commissioners serving on the 11-member CFP panel made it clear they won’t feel comfortable playing college football until their campuses are open.
“Our players are students. If we’re not in college, we’re not having contests,” said Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who was on the call.
”Our message was, we need to get universities and colleges back open, that we were education-based programs, and we weren’t going to have sports until we had something closer to normal college going on,” he added.
For the great majority of institutions that make up the Football Bowl Subdivision, intercollegiate athletics is just a small department of research institutions that generate billions of dollars in economic impact. The decision to return to campuses in the overwhelming number of cases will be based on the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff.
And considering these campuses are mostly governed by states, appointed boards of trustees, and entrenched leadership, each campus will be able to make that decision in their own time. The deregulated nature of college sports means schools are generally accountable only to themselves and the rules they put in place.
Already several D1 institutions already publicly ruminating about not returning to campus until 2021, and that means we could be looking at a spring start to the college football season. Or even worse, in a manner that might be permanently crippling for many smaller schools and departments, no football at all in 2020.
It’s still far too soon to say what will happen, and anyone that claims to know the outcome is either far too self-important or a fool. But the commissioners of college sports put down a line in the sand today regarding when they’ll play football again.
And that question, unlike for the NFL or NBA or NHL, will be required to be answered locally at 130 individual campuses across America.