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College Football: Every Program For Itself

On the 10th of August Old Dominion announced it was cancelling all fall sports. My favorite line from this release is the following:

“I want to compliment Dr. Selig for being such a thoughtful colleague,” President Broderick said. “I know there are schools where this discussion has been complicated by other factors, but for Wood and me, it was just about health and safety.”

The implication of course being that other schools are not considering health and safety as the most important factors. Those other schools are essentially the following: Big 12, SEC, ACC, and the rest of CUSA. 1

We wrote recently that CUSA is one of those leagues without the resources to make decisions for itself. The thinking is: There is too much money at stake to simply not play. An example: The Big 12’s schedule restrictions meant that one non-conference game had to be played before September 19. So they had LaTech move up their game with Baylor and Tech happily obliged. That Baylor paycheck is too important.

For ODU, that was not the case. There are a many factors, but one of them is this: Tech has one of the smallest athletic budget in the league. Every dollar counts. ODU had one of the biggest.

For some players — health and safety is paramount. Patrick Magee wrote about Racheem Booth, Jacques Turner, and Jaylond Adams from USM all sitting out this season and transferring. Later running back Steven Anderson announced he is doing the same.

The league’s official position is “we are totally looking at this, guys” and all indicators are that the policy will be to do as much testing as the budget allows, while playing as many games as is possible, and collecting as much revenue as can be collected.

There is still a lot of uncertainty in everything. Whereas earlier this summer the proponents of playing highlighted the seemingly unaffected youth population as evidence that the risk was low. The new studies highlighting the heart implications are evidence for those who favored a more cautious approach to say “this is what we were afraid of”.

There is an inevitable budget crisis at nearly all levels and everything rests upon a splintered federal response. It is unsurprising that there is no unified college football response to the pandemic, as there is no unified federal response. The state governments are left to sort things out on their own, and so have the leagues and the teams.

That kind of process can be useful, but it it will always result in disparities and incompatible models. For a league like this one, that crosses so many state boundaries and without the resources to self-advocate, it is a great challenge.

There will be some college football played, no doubt. But it looks like it will only be regional and will look nothing like the past 25 years of CUSA. It is then unsurprising to see some programs and teams ask themselves “What is the point here?” and opt out.

  1. There is some question about whether the Big Ten decision-making process is flawed, but the league has publicly announced a cancellation/postponement of the football season.

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