Just a week ago, Oklahoma football coach Lincoln Riley said it would be wrong to take any option off the table having to do with a 2020 college football season, including delaying the start until next spring.
In a Zoom call with reporters who cover the Sooners, Riley said everyone wants college football in the fall, but with COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in many part of the country, particularly in the southern and southwestern states, it is beginning to cast more and more doubt on whether we will be real-time college football this fall.
Two major conferences — the Big Ten and the Pac-12 — have said their members will play conference games only. The Ivy League and Patriot League have cancelled all fall sports activities for this year. The Big 12, SEC and ACC have deferred taking any definitive action until the end of this month.
All of this is in response to continuing health and safety concerns over COVID-19.
With information and conditions continuing to change rapidly and with time growing shorter before the scheduled preseason training leading up to the start of the new season, the only-as-a-last-resort option of a spring college football season is gaining steam.
While the strongest sentiment remains in favor of playing some kind of season in the fall, even if it means starting later and with a shortened slate of games, Riley is one of the first to openly advocate for keeping an open mind on the option of a spring football season.
“I think the people who say it’s not (an option), in my opinion, just don’t want to think about it,” Riley said last week. “I just think it would be wrong of us to take any option off the table right now. And I think (spring football) is very doable.”
As with any option there are pros and cons. The most obvious benefits of pushing back until the spring is the better chance of having a COVID-19 vaccine available and allowing fans in the stands.
The other side of that coin, though, is that some players would be playing as many as 30 games over a nine-month period when you consider both the spring and fall schedules. Also, those players who are NFL draft eligible might decide to forgo spring ball in order to be ready for the 2021 draft in April.
Oklahoma football coach Lincoln Riley believes spring football is a viable option.
“I’ve always considered (a spring football season) a viable option, but it’s certainly not first choice and probably not second choice either,” said Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby in an interview with ESPN.
With a spring season, it would probably be a conference-only season and a postseason, Riley said.
“We’ve seen other teams go in and play well into January in the College Football Playoff,” said the OU coach in an interview this week with ESPN, “and start spring practice at some point in February and nobody says a word about that.
“You’d have to adjust your schedule to give players plenty of time to get their bodies back in the summer. Maybe a little later start in the fall,” he said.
Something tells me the conference commissioners and school representatives are going to do everything they can to play college football this fall, until they can’t. Spring football will be the last option considered, but it may soon be the only option — short, of course, of cancelling the entire 2020 season.
One national writer creatively used the language of football in summing up the situation this way:
“For now, college football seems to be facing third-and-very-long when it comes to a 2020 season this fall. The sport might need a Hail Mary to pull it off.”