On Thursday, the Big Ten announced that it is moving to a conference-only schedule for the 2020 season. Other leagues, including the ACC and Pac-12, are considering the same move, which could help cement it as a trend throughout the entire sport of college football.
The move got ahead of a new survey sent out by Stadium‘s Brett McMurphy. In April, the college football insider polled 130 FBS athletic directors about different options for how the sport may handle the current public health crisis. He sent the same survey back out this month, with some stark changes in perception.
Across all ADs, regardless of competition level, only 27-percent believe that the season will start as scheduled. That is already out of the question for the Big Ten, so that number may even be lower today than it was earlier this week. Power Five ADs are even less optimistic, even with the SEC and Big 12 potentially holding out on adjusting their schedules for the time being. Among them, the number is 22-percent.
As far as the Big Ten’s current solution, there’s a stark divide between Power Five and Group of Five ADs. 45-percent of those at P5 schools put this down as their prediction, the most popular option by a decent margin. For the G5 ADs, losing non-conference games means losing a ton of revenue from visiting those schools. Just 9-percent of them opted for that idea.
Nearly 3/4 of FBS ADs believe football season will be delayed & 36% say it will be only conference games in @Stadium’s survey of all 130 FBS ADs. In April only 1 AD said there wouldn’t be a season. This week 8 ADs predict no season in 2020-21 academic year https://t.co/PjX4C10Vft
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) July 9, 2020
The notion of a delayed fall schedule, with the full 12 games, has fallen off considerably. Only 10-percent of ADs (8-percent P5, 11-percent G5) think that it is the most feasible plan, down 31-percent from the April survey.
Conferences have pushed back against the idea of pushing the season to the spring, in hopes of a vaccine or at least significantly improved testing and treatments popping up in the meantime. That may even allow for some fans to attend game, if things go very well between now and then. The idea has merit, but also presents real challenges. What happens with the 2021 season schedule? Would top players opt to sit out with the NFL Draft coming up during the year?
It is still not a super popular option, but between a conference only and full 12-game spring college football schedule, 31-percent believe it is the best choice, up 17-percent from April. 11-percent of P5s think the conference-only option is the best plan, while 33-percent of G5 ADs like the 12-game spring schedule.
At the bottom of the survey is the nuclear option. 7-percent of ADs think that the season will be canceled completely, a notion that only 1-percent supported in April. The number among P5 ADs is 11-percent. On G5 AD brought up the possibility that few want to imagine, but would probably grind all of college sports to a halt.
“I am worried about playing a season and hope we are not selling our soul just to play a season,” a Power Five AD said. “I truly believe we will have games canceled.”
Also, seven percent of the ADs told Stadium they don’t expect the season to be played at all during the 2020-21 academic year, while nearly one-third think the season will be moved to the spring.
“One death [of a coach or student-athlete] and we will all regret pushing this competitive envelope so hard,” a Group of Five AD said.
That is a terrifying notion, but unfortunately not out of the realm of possibility at all. Hopefully it isn’t one that we have to confront, but by playing a season at all, it becomes more likely.