This is a tough time for our country’s leaders as they continue to work in the best means possible to fight COVID-19, but also begin plans to re-open the businesses to limit impacts to the economy.
Conversations about trying to re-open the country have already begun and it appears the states are not going to re-open the same way or at the same time.
What does this mean for college athletics, in particular the college football season? Over the last week or so, The Clemson Insider has been researching this very topic, while talking to people in the know on what might play out over the next several months.
The good news is football season—the season itself—is still four and a half months from starting. Since most schools had very little time to practice this spring, schools are hoping to get student-athletes that play fall sports on campus and training at some point this summer and back to some form of practice at a minimum of 40 days before the start of the season.
Fall camps for college football usually begin by the first week in August. During that time the NCAA mandates a five-day acclimation period. With the current situation, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the acclimation period could be increased from five to 15 days.
First of all, as the conference commissioners indicated on Wednesday to Vice President Mike Pence, there will be no football if the campuses cannot not re-open in the fall. Most universities, including Clemson, have closed their campus through the summer. Students are getting their course work done through e-learning.
However, Clemson is planning for a number of possibilities, including having classes and playing football in the fall. It is planning for its campus to open and for the football program to be playing its Sept. 3 opener at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
“We are just moving along, right now, that we are going to play and that we are going to play on time,” Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said to Mickey Plyler on The Roar, 105.5 FM in Clemson earlier this week. “We are just trying to make every contingency possible for things that may move a little left or right of that goal.”
There are three main contingency plans being discussed at Clemson and in the ACC. The goal is to first exhaust each of these plans before going forward.
The first plan, as Radakovich said, is a plan to start the season on time. Obviously, this is what all schools want to see happen, whether it does or not will remain to be seen.
The second plan is a season that will start later in the fall. Schools are hoping maybe, in this scenario, the season will begin on the weekend of Oct. 3 or Oct. 10.
Some national pundits have indicated starting the season later in the fall means conferences, such as the ACC, will go to conference games only. They are wrong from what we have been told.
For example, if the college football season begins in Week 5, TCI was told the game scheduled for that week, which in Clemson’s case is an Oct. 2 date at Boston College, will be the first game. The rest of the season would play out from there just as it appears on the 2020 football schedule.
In other words, Clemson’s game at Georgia Tech and home games against Louisville, Virginia, and Akron would be canceled in this scenario. It also means the Tigers would play just five conference games – at BC (Oct. 2), at Florida State (Oct. 10), vs. NC State (Oct. 17), vs. Syracuse (Oct. 24) and at Wake Forest (Nov. 21). They would also play non-conference games at Notre Dame (Nov. 7), vs. The Citadel (Nov. 14) and vs. South Carolina (Nov. 28) in this scenario.
TCI was told trying to reschedule conference and non-conference games at this point would be a logistics nightmare and it would be easier for the conferences to just figure things out, in regard to crowning division champions, by using a formula on paper, similar to the way they did it before there were conference championship games.
The third scenario the conferences are looking at is what ESPN’s Chris Fowler mentioned on Instagram last week. There are discussions about starting the season next spring, possibly in February. This is only being talked about if the first two scenarios cannot occur.
But, keep in mind, this is a last resort for the conferences. College presidents want to open their campuses in the fall because their universities would take a huge financial hit if the campuses are closed. Remember, from an economic standpoint, this is much bigger than just football.
However, the spring football season idea is getting push-back from the schools, as Radakovich explained earlier this week. Clemson’s director of athletics thinks it will be very difficult to have a spring football season in 2021, especially with players such as Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne and Justyn Ross, guys who have aspirations of playing in the NFL, while the NFL moves into their ’21 year.
“We can play, but it might not be with the same people we were looking at playing with us this fall because they could be looking at NFL opportunities because the NFL would continue to march on,” Radakovich said to Plyler. “That is why the idea of making sure we are complete with our football season and our championship prior to the start of the 2021 NFL year, I think, is really, really important.
“If that means starting a little later and ending a little later, but still in time to let that other obstacle out there, the NFL, keep doing what they are doing, I think that is really important.”
Another concern with planning to play next spring is nobody can predict what things will be like next spring with the coronavirus. If there is a way for Clemson to play football this fall, then is it worth taking the chance that they can play next spring?
TCI also learned there are other contingency plans being thrown around. Remember, some states are going to be opened differently and at different times than other states.
It is possible schools such as Boston College and Syracuse, where the COVID-19 pandemic is more prevalent in their region of the country, will not be able to play football this fall. However, schools like Clemson and other ACC members will be able to.
What does Clemson do if BC, Syracuse, or other ACC schools cannot play because their governors have not re-opened their states?
TCI was told Clemson has spitballed a couple of ideas just in case there is such a scenario where this occurs. Now keep in mind, this is not something they are planning right now. This is a back-burner idea, but it has come up in conversations as a “what if scenario” if everything else fails and Clemson and other universities in the South have re-opened their campuses in the fall.
In these conversations, a lot of things are being thrown around, but one idea is having a football season where Clemson would play a schedule that would involve playing other teams from other conferences, such as from the SEC for example.
Would the ACC allow this?
TCI was told if the ACC it is not playing as a conference, but Clemson and some other schools can still play, then they will try and salvage as much as they can. In this situation, they are not sure how it will work, but they cannot imagine the ACC frowning upon its member institutions trying to save their athletic departments, if indeed it is safe for them and other teams to play.
TCI, again, was told all of that is on the table. Could we see it? These are just spitball ideas. The universities and conferences will try to exhaust the three main options first before even beginning to look at some of these other options.
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