Two of the nation’s “Power 5” college football conferences have taken a knee, officially suspending their fall seasons. The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences announced their intention to move the upcoming season to the spring of 2021.
However, the remaining three, including the Big 12 which contains four of Texas’ five biggest football schools — Baylor University, Texas Christian University, Texas Tech University, and the University of Texas at Austin — are moving forward as planned.
The Big 12 presidents reportedly reaffirmed their commitment to play this fall on a conference call Tuesday. The updated schedule was released on Wednesday, and no non-conference games will be played.
Stadium capacity decisions will be left up to the schools and their respective government authorities.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby stated, “Ultimately, our student-athletes have indicated their desire to compete in the sports they love this season and it is up to all of us to deliver a safe, medically sound, and structured academic and athletic environment for accomplishing that outcome.”
Their health and safety plan includes three coronavirus tests per week for “high-contact” sports such as football along with other protocols.
The Southeastern Conference (SEC), in which Texas A&M University belongs, remains equally as bullish. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement, “I remain comfortable with the thorough and deliberate approach that the SEC and our 14 members are taking to support a healthy environment for our student-athletes.”
He further added that if all other conferences cancel their season, it is “unlikely” they will play as well.
The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) sides with the Big 12 and SEC.
MarketWatch estimates the “Power 5” schools would lose $4 billion collectively if the 2020 college football season is canceled.
The American Athletic Conference (AAC), not part of the “Power 5” but considered the highest level of the remaining Football Bowl Subdivision conferences, also currently plans to play. The University of Houston and Southern Methodist University are members of the AAC.
In a 2011 study done by Oxford Economics, Texas A&M home football games were estimated to have a $177 million impact on the College Station local economy — adjusting for inflation in 2020 brings that total to over $200 million.
An analysis of the 2014 football season found that UT football generated $511 million in 2020 inflation-adjusted commerce.
But even with a football season as is currently planned, those figures will be seriously depreciated as crowd capacities will be limited and businesses, to varying degrees, are closed under state and local orders.
Governor Greg Abbott, when asked about the football season, told KVUE, “You know, I’d defer to the position of the college football players. And what I see from the college football players is they really want to play. It’s their careers. It’s their health. And I think schools should work with them on protocols to make sure that their health can be maintained and secured and allow them to play. And then, once they are able to establish that, we can work out how many people can be allowed in the stands to watch them play.”
Many of college football’s biggest figures have taken to social media to lobby for a season.
Clemson University’s quarterback Trevor Lawrence tweeted, “People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play. Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract [COVID-19].”
“Players being safe and taking all of the right precautions to try to avoid contracting [COVID-19] because the season/ teammates safety is on the line. Without the season, as we’ve seen already, people will not social-distance or wear masks and take the proper precautions,” he concluded.
The other side effect of no football season likely means widespread discontinuation of other low-revenue sports which are financed by football. Men’s and women’s collegiate sports could be cut as universities face revenue shortfalls. And that, combined with Title IX requirements, could mean especially the elimination of some collegiate men’s sports.
Professional leagues that were postponed have resumed but the amateur leagues carry with them the added educational component.
But Texas universities are, for now, moving forward with bringing tens-of-thousands back onto campus for in-person classes with revised schedules, such as sending students home for the remainder of the semester after Thanksgiving.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.