Three weeks ago conference commissioners told Vice President Mike Pence in a conference call that college football would not resume unless student-athletes have returned to class first. They did not specify that the classes had to be held in-person on campus.
This week Brett McMurphy spoke with multiple commissioners who stated that football could be played if colleges are operating exclusively online. Once united, commissioners now are willing to play if other leagues are not. Some are willing to continue playing even if they must leave other member schools behind.
“Given the circumstances, you may have varying situations of what an open campus means,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said, “what a new normal is. That’s part of identifying all the different questions. There are a lot of possibilities and hypotheticals that will be answered in due time as needed.”
Not every commissioner went on-record with McMurphy. It allowed this anonymous commissioner to be more forthright in his beliefs that football must be played.
“Why can’t you play football on campuses that are closed?” the athletic director asked. “If classes are being offered online, there is no restriction on where you complete the course work. You would need an easily-administered COVID-19 test that is available to every athletic department. Test the student-athletes, coaches, trainers and support personnel to make sure that your cohort is free of virus. Quarantine the cohort for practice, online classes, food service and leisure time activities. This would be a very safe environment.
“Many of our athletes were taking a significant portion of their credit hours online long before the virus showed up. The only difference would be an empty campus, theoretically an even safer environment.”
As we all know, in SEC country it just means more. If there is one conference that is determined for the games to be played no matter what, it’s the SEC. Josh Kendall, a reporter that covers South Carolina for The Athletic, told Paul Finebaum the league office is considering every possible option.
“If the SEC’s only option is to play football by themselves and crown a champion in Atlanta, they’ll do that.”
The efforts to return to sports must be coordinated with local political officials. On the other side of the country the two parties are not meeting eye-to-eye. Oregon governor Kate Brown said on Thursday, “any large gatherings at least through September should either be canceled or significantly modified.”
Certainly, that statement would cause some trouble for two PAC-12 members, Oregon and Oregon State. The conference may have to play some games without them, although Oregon State’s athletic director insists the show will go on in some shape or form.
“Are we going to play football? Are we going to have a full/partial season? Are we going to play with fans or not? All things are on the table,” Scott Barnes said. “The one scenario we’re not working on is not playing football.”
The statements stemming from Thursday do not paint a clearer picture of what football may look like this fall. The only certainty is that conferences and athletic departments are desperate for football revenue and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to make sure the sport can be played safely.