So…anything happen in the world of college athletics this week? If by anything, you mean bold announcements being made that may or may not actually mean anything in the long run, then yes. The answer is yes. But, for now, at the very least it provides us with something to discuss. Let’s take a look at where things stand in our quest to bring sports back.
College Athletics on the Brink
The Ivy League kicked off the festivities by announcing they will not be playing any sports until January 1, at the earliest. The Big Ten and PAC 12, not wanting to be shown up by the geeks in the Ivy League, made announcements that they will play only conference schedules for fall sports. The fallout from these announcements is only beginning to be understood, but let’s pause for a moment to consider the fate of the BYU Cougars football season. Their 12-game schedule features 2 games against Big 10 opponents and 3 games against PAC 12 opponents, including their annual rivalry game with Utah. And without making a big leap of logic, the SEC will likely follow suit and there goes BYU’s game vs. Missouri. BYU better go undefeated just to be bowl eligible at 6-0!
BYU, much like Notre Dame (who had 4 games vs. Big 10 & PAC 12 foes), enjoys being independent. Except for, you know, during a global pandemic. Notre Dame is at least affiliated with the ACC for every other sport, so the fine folks in Greensboro will assuredly find a way to work the Irish into the conference for this season. BYU, not so much. UConn…sorry fellas.
One has to assume that all of the Power 5 conferences will make the same decision, and that has significant impacts for everyone throughout all conferences. The biggest losers in these decisions are the Group of 5 and FCS schools who rely on the financial windfall of guarantee games against the Power 5 schools. Let’s take Bowling Green.
Two months ago, Bowling Green announced it was cutting baseball, implementing pay cuts, furloughs, layoffs, and cuts to the operating budgets for all remaining sports in an effort to save $2 million. Their football schedule includes guarantee games against Ohio State and Illinois for $2 million. Well, Bowling Green’s deficit just doubled! Now, we’re sure Bowling Green won’t just roll over without doing everything they can to get paid, but if Michigan is expecting a $65 million hit to their budget, we’re guessing Ohio State should be expecting the same. So, not sure they’re going to willingly give up and extra million out of the goodness of their heart. Because, as we all know, Ohio State has no goodness in their heart.
To recap, Power 5 schools are expecting revenue shortages in the tens of millions, Independents will have their entire playing schedule taken away from them without any say, and Group of 5 and FCS schools are going broke without any guarantee games to be played. That about sum it up?
Of course, all of this assumes that all these schools are still going to play some form of fall sports, which in some cases, would be the worst financial scenario of all. If you just cancelled fall sports, schools would still be losing revenue from ticket sales, sponsorships, but at least their costs would also be significantly reduced due to lack of travel, game expenses, etc. The NCAA would likely extend the recruiting dead period and in turn, save recruiting costs through the fall as well. Let’s be clear though. This is all very, very bad for college athletics. There’s no way to overcome this for most places without significant investment from campus to subsidize the Athletic department. Which is feasible up until campuses decide to go to remote learning again, enrollment tanks and in turn, revenue from tuition, student fees and housing costs dries up.
Oh, and by the way, if any of your international students went home in March when your campus shut down, guess what? They probably aren’t allowed back in the country for the foreseeable future.
Now, the Ivy League decision also impacts basketball season, which frankly, we don’t have the heart to consider not having a college basketball season.
Moral of this story: wear a damn mask.
1st World Issues
Meanwhile, NBA players are complaining about the luxury of their hotel rooms and the quality of the meals they are being provided while in the bubble at Disney to prepare for their season. Good look guys. We’re all very sorry that you all couldn’t stay in the Ritz Carlton and have a personal chef for every meal. Our deepest sympathies are with you during this incredibly trying time.
MLB Getting Close
Baseball’s new opening day is less than two weeks away, and here’s a story that helps illustrate why this whole thing is impossible to predict. Joey Gallo tested positive, and then negative and then positive and then two more negative tests and an antibody test that indicated he never had COVID-19. So…we guess you can play? If professional baseball and all its resources can’t get reliable testing, then we feel really great about colleges and universities being able to reliably test and contact trace…
MLS Giving It the ole College Try
So far, the MLS Is Back tournament is off with no glitches whatsoever. What’s that? One team got kicked out of the tournament due to COVID, a match was postponed due to COVID, it’s so hot they are only playing really early in the morning or late at night, and the level of play is somewhere between atrocious and my middle school soccer team? Is that bad? We were pretty good in middle school, though…
But hey, at least they’re trying. It’s not like there are other soccer leagues around the world trying to finish their season with more or less no issues whatsoever. Right?
Meanwhile, the NWSL seems to be just fine, playing their tournament in Utah with solid ratings, and quality soccer. Maybe having your bubble in Utah is a little smarter than having it in…I don’t know…where is the hottest place in the country, with oppressive humidity in the summer months and one of the worst outbreaks of coronavirus? Let’s go there!
No Fan League
The NFL. The bully on the block when it comes to pro sports. They do whatever they want, whenever they want and people watch by the millions, TV networks pay by the billions, sponsors fight over each other to get a tiny piece of ad space with an NFL game. If any league was going to just barrel through COVID, tell its fans, “we’re playing, you’re paying, we’ll see you at the stadium and don’t worry about that dry cough or fever, we’re sure that had nothing to do with cramming yourself into a stadium with 60,000 fans”, it’s the NFL.
However, this week multiple franchises have announced plans for significantly reduced capacity, if they are even able to have fans at all. Sources tell us many front office staff for NFL franchises are still working from home. And, you have some players weighing the risks of playing. But, if there’s one thing we know about the NFL, they are going to do whatever they can to make sure these human sledge hammers have the ability to
destroy their brains compete for the glory of the Lombardi Trophy. Just don’t plan to spend your Sunday at an NFL stadium this fall.
Don’t Mind Us…
The perfect social distancing sport is cruising along just fine, thank you very much. Golf continues to press on, with great fields producing great tournaments. This week, Colin Morikawa came back from 3 shots back with 3 holes to play to defeat Justin Thomas in a playoff. Really kind of a remarkable collapse from Thomas, who has a reputation for being one of the best closers in golf. Bogeys on 16 and 18 let Morikawa back in it, but Thomas appeared to put the nail in the coffin with a 50-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole. Not to be outdone, Morikawa calmly drained a 25-footer and eventually won on the third playoff hole.
The action down the stretch of this tournament was incredible, and was really the first time we missed the crowds. The reactions to Thomas and Morikawa’s putts in the playoff would have been incredible, and candidly, Morikawa may not make his putt with the added reaction of fans celebrating the Thomas putt.
Next week, Tiger returns and if he gets into contention, it will be fascinating to see if the usual intimidation of playing with Tiger holds true. Part of the aura is the massive crowds cheering for him…and against you. Without those roars when he hits big shots, it may not hold the same power of his opponents. Then again, he’s still Tiger and well, one of the biggest current challengers to Tiger just choked away a three-shot lead with three holes to play.
While we try to remain positive here for a variety of reasons, but mostly because if sports don’t return soon, Work Hangover is only going to get worse. We realize it’s difficult to imagine how this could get worse, but we haven’t even started recapping sporting events from our childhood. So, for your sake, for our dignity’s sake, please put on a mask.