Throughout much of the weekend and Monday, rumors swirled that two major conferences would be canceling or postponing their football seasons. Tuesday confirmed those reports as the Big Ten and the Pac-12 postponed all fall sports and will instead look ahead to the spring, much like high school fall sports across many states.
Big Ten Statement on 2020-21 Fall Seasonhttps://t.co/BCiRSzeAPL— Big Ten Conference (@bigten) August 11, 2020
Update on the 2020-21 Pac-12 season below.https://t.co/G6VxDO2VM2— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) August 11, 2020
Late last week the MAC became the first Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conference to cancel its football season. After Tuesday’s announcements, four of the ten FBS conferences have confirmed that they will not be playing football this fall - the Mountain West Conference being the fourth.
Counting the seven FBS independent schools, there are 130 schools at the FBS level. As of writing, 50 schools are out of the fall season, 38%. The conferences still planning to play at the moment include the ACC, the SEC, the Big 12, the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA and the Sun Belt Conference.
However, Conference USA member Old Dominion has already announced plans to sit out the 2020 fall season. Rumors are swirling that the Big 12 is on the fence and that Conference USA may be the next group to make the official decision to punt to the spring. If the other Group of 5 conferences sit out, that would be nearly 90 of the 130 FBS schools. At what point does the NCAA step in?
That brings us to Virginia Tech and the ACC. Right now Virginia Tech is trying to bring back thousands of students and restart classes in this new reality and with a background of uncertainty. Schools will be extremely lucky to get through the entire fall semester without having to take further steps towards online activity.
Even VT’s own social media posts today eluded to the uncertainty the school and the sport faces at the moment. The key at the moment is ensuring students can return and classes can resume safely. At a minimum it seems as though fall sports could have been delayed earlier in the summer to stagger the two processes of classes and sports. Even if fall sports can’t happen, the players can remain in Blacksburg, with the resources Virginia Tech offers, and continuing to get their education. They don’t have to go home until campus becomes unsafe to be there.
It’s hard to make these decisions. It was hard to see college basketball and spring sports be shut down last school year. But it’s even more difficult for these athletic and university leaders to make these decisions, to go first, to do so for the massive cultural touchstone that is college football. And it’s that much harder because of the delay in deciding and the recent release of football schedules. They’ve waited as long as they reasonably can and now we are seeing conferences come to uncomfortable conclusions.
Every day brings new updates, but by this time next week, expect everything to look different yet again. All eyes will be on the Big 12 and Conference USA for the rest of this week. Once the number of schools opting out of the fall tips past 50%, can the ACC really hold out and play?