By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 7.12.2020
The IVY has pushed the 2020 football season to the spring at the earliest. The Big Ten and Pac 12 have gone the conference games only rout and things are up in the air in the SEC. Put aside for a moment if games should be played at all in the midst of a global pandemic but the move to do a conference only approach is short sighted, driven by TV contracts and has a noticeable lack of creativity.
Make no mistake, college is big money. Billions of dollars come from TV contracts and those Power 5 schools can pull in mid to upper seven figures on game day. Not to mention the influx of money from fans cramming into small college towns eating, drinking, staying in hotels, etc. These numbers appear to be enough to force conference only games regardless of how far those schools are away from each other and the lack of interest.
Conferences are not local or regional contests anymore. The Big Ten covers 12 states and currently has a conference game between Nebraska and Rutgers. The distance between Lincoln, NE and Piscataway, NJ is some 1,200 miles and does really anybody care if that game went away? How about the conference matchup between Washington State and UCLA. Distance is some 1,100 miles but at least those two schools have a decent history. Say the Big 12 jumps onboard the conference only game train. We’d be treated to the ever compelling and historic matchup between West Virginia and Iowa State which is West Virginia’s nearest conference opponent at a distance of some 900 miles.
A better approach would be to go old school and dash in some regional matchups. Sure the conferences can’t have total control but is the Mountain West really going to overrule the Pac 12 or the MAC going to overrule the Big Ten? Add in the nostalgia of bringing back historic rivalries for a season and helping out some of the Group of 5 schools and you have a winning combination in a shorten season.
Wouldn’t fans rather see the old SWAC get back together for a year and crown a state of Texas champion rather than try to fly a team from Lubbock, TX to Morgantown, WV?
How bout what’s happening in Colorado. Does it make sense for Colorado to go from Boulder to Tucson to play Arizona while in the process of kicking Colorado State to the curb when it is an hour away and a long standing rivalry? Add in Wyoming, Air Force and a few others and you have some compelling rivalries that help keep the regional trash talk alive.
Think of the possibilities. The return of the Big 8, Big East, and original ACC days. Up until 1971 the ACC consisted of Clemson, South Carolina, Duke, UNC, NC State, Wake Forest, Duke and Virginia. That’s a grand total of three states to worry about shutdowns and regulations vs the current ten.
The history and nostalgia alone would warm the heart of the college football faithful. It also limits travel and the risk of a state closing due to an outbreak of COVID-19. And as for the money from the TV contracts? You’re tellin me that ESPN, Fox and CBS wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to bring back some old rivalries like Nebraska vs Oklahoma, Texas vs Texas A&M, Utah vs BYU, and West Virginia vs Pittsburgh for a year? Sure as heck beats those rating grabbers like Nebraska vs Rutgers and BYU vs….well anybody else.
While college football was played during the last nationwide pandemic, not everyone played and there were much fewer games but college football was played and people tried as best they could to be as safe. The status of the college football season itself is certainly still up in the air and there is a good chance it won’t be played at all. Given the current situation, logistics and money, we can come up some creative solutions in scheduling if the season is to be played.