By Max Brown
On Aug. 11, the Pac-12 and Big-10 conferences decided to cancel all fall sports seasons due to concerns of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Of these cancellations the idea of no football on Saturdays may come as the biggest shock to American fans. For the first time in almost a century, University of Southern California and University of California Los Angeles will not meet on the gridiron at the Los Angeles Coliseum. This fall, Paul Bunyun’s axe will not be raised by the winner of Wisconsin versus Minnesota. Most notably, there will be no game between Ohio State and Michigan, college football’s most highlighted and fabled rivalry.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and Big-10 commissioner Kevin Warren both cancelled their fall sports seasons on Tuesday August 11, citing various health concerns the two conferences have with athletes being grouped together for competitions, and the threat that other health conditions that may arise as a result of contracting COVID-19 pose to athletes. Other conferences like the Big- 12 and Southeastern Conference plan to play this fall despite these concerns.
Although keeping student athletes safe is a top priority of any large conference, the lost revenue will surely impact these Division One schools. After the cancellation of the football season, the University of Iowa, a Big-10 member, decided to discontinue their swim and dive team as well as men’s gymnastics and men’s tennis. “Each of these teams will have the opportunity to compete in their upcoming 2020-21 seasons, should the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 permit, before they are discontinued at the varsity level,” wrote University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld and Director of Athletics Gary Barta. Even though these cancellations seem extreme, especially to those that will not be able to compete, the message is clear. College football makes money. A lot of money. So much that discontinuing other athletic programs is necessary without the revenue from football. An estimated $250 million was made during the 2018-19 Big-10 football season. The bulk of that from televised games. The Pac-12 netted $123 million in revenue that season, more than the combined salaries most of these athletes will ever have at the next level.
It is clear that football is important to these schools that are barred from playing in the 2021 season, and even though their conferences may not allow them to reach the field this fall, schools like Nebraska are considering playing out of conference. This despite warnings from Big-10 medical staff including the concern of Myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, which has been found in at least five Big Ten Conference athletes. Regardless, coach Scott Frost of the Nebraska football team is still ready to play this fall, saying, “There will be COVID whether we play football or not.” College football insider Desmond Howard commented on the matter, regarding Frost’s ideas about playing out of conference as, “extremely disrespectful, asking, “Do you really think [Nebraska] is the only team that wants to play [this fall]? Of course not.”
Hope is not lost for Big 10 fans nationwide. On Sunday September 13, all 14 school presidents and chancellors met to discuss reviewed updated medical data. The Big 10 has been forward on their plans to move forward as a conference and not individually. Previous plans were hopeful to start conference play over Thanksgiving weekend. Even if these conferences begin play before 2021, rankings and a potential college football playoff are not likely.