Depending on who you talk to, there may or may not be a college football season. I’m going to tell you that there will absolutely be a 2020 college football season. Will it be played as scheduled? I’m not certain about that but I am certain in will be played. Maybe not a full 12 game schedule or even concluded by January, but the season will be played. Unless this virus mutates and starts to spread beyond control, it will get played.
Why am I so confident that they will figure out a way to play while keeping the players safe?
One word: MONEY
I say money not necessarily based on greed. I say money because football is the life blood of all college athletics. Almost every college sports team operates at a deficit (besides men’s college basketball) and that deficit is offset by money generated through the schools football team. College football generates profits from ticket purchases, corporate sponsorships, endorsements, licensing fees, television contracts, alumni donations, capital campaigns, student athletic fees and, for the elite few, bowl game fees or playoff revenues.
While some of those revenue streams may continue, the majority are solely based on actual playing the games.
According to a USA Today analysis, the loss of revenue from a canceled college football season stands to be “at least $4.1 billion” for the fiscal year — and that’s only for the 50-plus public schools in the Power Five conferences. That averages to a loss of $78 million in revenue for each school’s athletic department.
If the games were to be played without fans, the damage is still quite substantial. Power Five public schools reported about $1 billion in football ticket revenue last season. According to USA Today, in the fiscal year of 2019, 19 schools reported football ticket revenue of at least $20 million, including 11 at more than $30 million. Of course, some tickets have already been sold for the coming season, but most fans will surely be asking for refunds if the season is canceled.
A major factor that I feel most fans overlook is that there are so many “college football towns” that depend on the season to stimulate their economy. College football fans are largely responsible for consumer spending, as well as traveling fans who spend money for lodging and dining. Cancelling the season or playing without fans could cost billions for all these towns.
So what are the options to get the season played?
The hope is that state governments and/or individual universities ease or rescind their restrictions on gatherings, some of which currently extend into June or later. But that is just a hope and not a very strong possibility. So there needs to be alternate plans in case that does not happen. Student athletes need 4-6 weeks to be properly conditioned to safely start the season. It is a common thought among coaches that July 1st would be the latest student athletes could return to campus and start the season as scheduled.
I believe the most logical plan is to go ahead and announce that the season will start in January, or even February. Either way, just come up with a start date and start scheduling bowl game dates in April/May. Let the television networks go ahead and start making their scheduling arrangements. Let the stadiums and arenas start getting staff, concessions, etc lined up to keep everything as normal as it can be. Let the NFL adjust their draft date. Get all the logistics worked out and give everyone a sense of hope.
By going ahead and setting dates and planning on having a season, schools can stop refunding season tickets, start selling more season tickets and collecting seats donations. More importantly, schools can go ahead and negotiate sponsorship deals. Schools can also go ahead and start to get an idea of how much of a decline ticket sales will be this year and adjust accordingly. We can assume many fans will stay home this season out of fear. Stadiums won’t be at 60-80,000 capacity. My best guess is that Louisville would average around 25,000 per game if the season gets played as I expect. That’s a huge loss in ticket sales and concessions. Louisville has already reduced salaries of coaches and let go many members of their athletic staff to give some relief of current and anticipated budget issues.
In an article by Brett McMurphy, (spring-football-eight-game-season-ads-ponder-contingency-plans-04-01-2020) they discuss several options for playing the 2020 season
- Start the season in October or November, concluding in the spring semester.
- Spring football, anyone?
- Universities determine that students may not return to campus in the fall and must take online classes, but allow an exception for student-athletes to return to campus to compete in athletics.
- Cancel early-season non-conference games and play only conference opponents.
The decision makers are chasing an uncertain and moving target and I don’t envy their job but regardless, the season will be played. It simply has too – because money rules all in the amateur sports world know as college athletics.
As Always, GO CARDS!