Were you worried about Missouri having to play BYU in Provo or Louisiana-Lafayette in the second to last game of the year?
It seems like we won’t have to anymore.
Earlier this afternoon the B1G announced that be going to a conference-only season for all fall sports, including football. This follows on the heels of the Ivy League’s announcement yesterday that they were delaying all fall sports until the spring due to continuously high levels of COVID cases in the United States.
Even ignoring the fact that we now won’t see Ohio State-Oregon, Michigan-Washington, Penn State-Virginia Tech, or any of the marquee P5 matchups from B1G teams, this is a Power 5 conference making this call. Not a Group of 5. Not an FCS. A conference with contracted broadcasting obligations tied to millions of dollars saying “No, we’re not doing this the way you want it in 2020.”
This is a big dang deal.
It takes away the aforementioned P5 conference games. It alienates the few Independent programs — Army, BYU, Liberty, UMass, New Mexico State, and Notre Dame — from playing games against the B1G. It’s a huge dent in the budgets of G5 schools who were banking on a multi-million dollar check from the B1G programs to take a pummeling and keep their athletics budgets in line. And it could, quite possibly, create a domino effect where the remaining P5 conferences make the same move.
Because all 14 teams of the B1G are now no longer playing anyone outside their conference, several teams have a vacant spot in their schedule. And since many people would view the necessary move as a panic-induced overreaction, other conferences who wanted to do the same are now clear to do so with out any backlash directing specifically at them, since the B1G did it first: now they can just point to the B1G and say “well, we’re just following their lead”.
So, if the SEC were to follow suit and if games are still going to be played in the fall, what does that mean?
The first thing would be contracts. As in: tv, coaches, and scheduling. If a team doesn’t provide the necessary inventory for broadcast companies to show, do they get sued? Are there clauses baked in for disasters that force shorter schedules? I’m sure there are for “acts of god” (i.e. hurricanes) but does COVID count? And if it doesn’t do we see a lawsuit - as ugly and petty given the circumstances - come to fruition? And what about coaches? They all have clauses in their contracts for total wins or bowl games and benchmarks for winning the division/conference/New Years Six bowls/etc. Do we have a postseason? If ten wins is a benchmark for a contract extension but teams only play 8 games, then what? And as far as scheduling goes, the G5 and FCS need the P5 to pay them to keep their athletic departments afloat. If any P5 teams says, “No, we’re not doing that this year,” do the smaller schools sue so that they get their money to keep their program? How many programs will we lose this year if the athletic departments don’t get that influx from the bigger schools? And in the case of the P5 vs. P5 schedule cancellations, do those games just move to 2021 or are they cancelled outright? My thought is that they are pushed back a year, but schedules are figured out decades in advance and some of these teams might not still exist by the time the game rolls around.
The second focus is, of course, on Missouri. If the SEC does a conference-only schedule, the Tigers have 8 SEC teams on the schedule. That would mean Central Arkansas, Eastern Michigan, BYU, and Louisiana-Lafayette are no longer on the 2020 schedule. If the SEC decides to get 12 games for each team come hell or high water, that means four teams from the SEC West get to play our Baby Tigers. And since we already have Arkansas and Mississippi State on the docket, that would mean we would be blessed with the presence of Alabama/LSU/Texas A&M/Ole Miss into our lives. Last I checked those four teams are quite a bit better than any of our non-con opponents. Not that any coach should be graded with equal weight to this season, but that would certainly hold true for Eli Drinkwitz with his young team and that killer schedule.
Obviously the dust hasn’t even settled yet on this decision, and we are, as of now, unsure of how other conferences will react. But it’s hard to think that the other P5 conferences won’t follow suit and if/when it does the fallout will be widespread and chaotic.
It would be easier to just not play this year, but never underestimate the NCAA’s ability to force unpaid athletes to make money.