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Why spring college football won’t happen

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College football is either happening in the fall or not at all.

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Why don’t they just move college football to the spring?

With COVID-19 cases spiking (and especially spiking in a lot of states that have schools in the Southeastern Conference), college football this fall is looking less and less likely. With that said, simply postponing the season until the spring probably isn’t workable, either. My opinion is that college football season will either happen roughly as scheduled or not at all. Here are some reasons why a spring football season is probably unworkable.

Players need a break, too!

There is a reason why college football has a long offseason, perhaps the longest of any major sport in the United States. The regular season ends Thanksgiving weekend, and if you’re playing in a bowl game, your season ends right around New Year’s. And then, the next season won’t begin until Labor Day weekend. That’s a full eight months without any college football games, but there’s a reason for that, if you haven’t figured it out.

The season is a grind, and that means that players need a break. Typically, players will go two months or so from the end of the season until the start of spring practice. And, after approximately three weeks of spring practice, they’re taking another month or two off before ramping up their offseason workouts in June. A couple of months of that, and it’s time for the final push before the new season starts with fall camp.

Stripping all of this out just isn’t feasible. This is something, too, that the NBA and NHL will have to deal with as they resume their seasons after being postponed for a few months; starting next season on time just won’t be possible. And that’s especially the case with a punishing sport like football; you’re simply not going to be able to end the season in April or May and hope to start the next one on time.

The NFL

Oh, right. The Shield, as VandyImport calls it.

Guess what: the NFL is probably going to proceed with the 2020 season as planned. When we talk about playing amidst a pandemic, there are issues specific to college sports (such as the need to have campuses open, which, uh, increases the risk of players contracting the virus off the field) that don’t really apply to professional leagues. It’s a little bit easier to justify having sports in the midst of this when (a) the players are getting paid for the risk and (b) the players can collectively bargain around the conditions under which they’ll play.

But more importantly, from the perspective of college football, this means that the NFL’s offseason schedule (read: The Draft) probably isn’t changing, either. With the NFL Draft at the end of April, how many draft-eligible players are even going to play? When they can instead just go to the Combine and impress scouts that way? Why risk injury when you’re going to get drafted either way?

TV Contracts

This one’s kind of an underrated reason, but it’s a big one if we’re talking about a universe in which television money is the only source of income for college athletic departments.

Ask yourself this: is CBS going to relegate The Masters to CBS Sports Network because the Iron Bowl is being played on the same weekend? No. (Granted, this might be an issue anyway what with the 2020 Masters being moved to November.) The conference networks are one thing — those, after all, essentially exist for the sole purpose of broadcasting conference members’ games — but other networks carry other sports that simply aren’t going to allow college football to elbow their way into the spring calendar. That’s even true of ESPN, which has a big contract with the NBA. (Granted, much of what ESPN is broadcasting in the spring is college basketball which would... also be affected by moving college football to the spring.)

TV networks can only move things around so much to accommodate a spring schedule. There’s too much else on the calendar and too many other leagues that would be upset about getting elbowed aside.

There’s a decent chance we’re dealing with the same issue in the spring

Ah, yes, finally we’ve arrived at the most depressing part of this.

If college football is deemed unplayable in the fall because of the coronavirus, it may also be unplayable in the spring. It may actually be worse.