Drew Davison: Will coronavirus disrupt the college football season? Don’t rule it out.

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The coronavirus pandemic is going to be over by football season, right? Right?

Time will tell but Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby acknowledged the possibility that playing the season could be in jeopardy. At the very least it could be delayed depending on when teams and players are able to start training properly again.

Canceling the season would be a nightmare scenario, but one that has crossed the minds of those involved with college athletics.

As Bowlsby talked about the conference being able “to make members whole” on forecasted financial distribution for the current academic year, citing the league’s cash reserves, he added: “It’s a whole new ballgame if we find ourselves not playing football. It affects everything we do. It affects the largest portion of our TV contract.

“If that doesn’t happen, the underpinning of what we know as normal goes away and we’ll have some major changes to make.”

During an hour-long teleconference with reporters on Thursday afternoon, Bowlsby provided straight-forward answers without sugarcoating anything. With all of the spring sports being canceled, the big topics now center on football and the financial impact being felt by the conferences and universities across the country.

TCU athletic director Jeremiah Donati said no formal discussions have been held on postponing, or possibly canceling, the football season. But it’s hard to ignore that possibility with how many major sporting events have been postponed or canceled in the last three weeks.

“It’s certainly on people’s minds,” Donati said. “No one would have imagined a month ago all the sporting events that have been delayed, rescheduled or canceled, so it would be naive to rule anything out.”

With that being said, Bowlsby shot down any notion that spring practices or spring games may be held at some point in the near future, calling it “highly unlikely.” Instead, he sees at least another eight- or nine-week period before schools go back to “live activity on campuses.”

With that timeline, it’ll likely be another 60-90 days before any resolution will be known with regards to the football season. And it won’t be the Big 12 making the decision on its own. It’ll be a collaborative effort.

But you can’t understate the impact a lost football season would have on colleges and conferences across the country.

“It’s a driver from a popularity standpoint,” Bowlsby said. “It’s a driver for schools from a fundraising standpoint. It’s a big driver from a TV standpoint. It’s a big driver from ticket sales and revenue standpoint.

“We certainly are looking at the next 60 to 90 days. Depending upon how that goes, we’ll begin modeling around what the fall looks like.”

It could be an interesting and unique time next fall to say the least. If the season is held, Bowlsby didn’t rule out football games being played without fans.

Or seeing fans being seated six-feet apart at stadiums.

“It’s possible that we could end up returning to some form of competition before we get to the point where we’re comfortable with public assembly,” Bowlsby said. “We could end up with what we thought we might end up with basketball and that is playing in front of no crowd.”

The idea of a delayed football season could pick up steam in the coming weeks, too, depending on how the pandemic problem is being handled.

Much like the 2020 Tokyo Games being pushed back to 2021 because of insufficient training options and limited time to conduct trials, the football season could be delayed if there isn’t a proper buildup for student athletes.

TCU coach Gary Patterson, for instance, estimated it would take eight weeks or so to go through a proper strength and conditioning program with student athletes away. Then programs would have to go through a month-long training camp to prepare for a season.

Bowlsby acknowledged the issues with getting players ready for the season, mentioning there may have to be some sort of OTAs (organized team activities) or a minicamp in the summer to make up for lost spring practices and time.

“If we get to the point where we don’t open up again until June 15, I think we need to look at what that transition window is,” Bowlsby said. “What it can include and then what impact it has on the rest of preparation. The month of May is typically a heavy lifting and training month, and then the kids get a little bit of time off and then they report back and the coaches have camps and clinics going on. And you know, maybe we can’t do any of that this year. So what do you do to get ready? What do you do to get your kids physically in condition?

“You can’t just turn it on and turn it off.”


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