When we started this countdown 43 days ago, it came with a very important disclaimer - “maybe.” There was even a poll as to whether or not you thought we would have college football. I’ll save you a click and post the results:
Will there be college football this fall?
62% Yes, but with attendance restrictions
9% Yes, but with no fans at all
8% Yes, but they’ll cancel after a few weeks
Well folks, I gotta tell ya, options D and E, which garnered the fewest votes, are looking more and more likely. Consider these odds from Vegas bookmakers as of Thursday morning, July 9:
First FBS conference to postpone fall football
Big 12 +250
Big Ten +400
Will any FBS game scheduled for 8/29/20 be cancelled or postponed?
Yes -500, No +300
Will FBS season be postponed until 2021 spring semester?
Yes -120, No -120
If I understand odds correctly, this tells us that it’s most likely that the “Week 0” games on August 29 will not be played as scheduled. The Ivy League has already announced (on Wednesday, July 8) that all fall sports would be cancelled. This likely affects KU basketball, who has a game with Harvard scheduled at Allen Fieldhouse on December 29. However, that game has somehow not been officially cancelled and still shows on KU’s schedule.
Then Thursday afternoon (July 9), the sky began to fall. The Big 10 announced that it would go to a conference-only season for all fall sports, including football. While so far the Big 10 is the only conference to officially announce a conference-only schedule for football, a few hours later it was reported that the ACC would follow suit, and rumors are swirling that the PAC-12 won’t be far behind.
Of course, being the reactionary entity that it is, the Big 12 has no plans to do anything at the moment:
When asked if the Big 12 planned to announce soon the likelihood of a conference-football-games-only plan, commissioner Bob Bowlsby responded to me one word: No.— Randy Peterson (@RandyPete) July 9, 2020
Cool. Way to be on top of things, Bob.
Bowlsby also indicated that Big 10 commish Kevin Warren “gave no indication of a conference-only schedule move” on their Thursday morning conference call. I’m not really sure what to take from that, but it can’t be a good thing.
It seems that in general, optimism around the country is fading that the college football season will start on time, and administrators are “not expected to entertain a full cancellation of fall sports as early as August,” which to me means that a decision on whether or not to outright cancel games will be held off as long as possible.
Meanwhile, Covid-19 infection rates continue to spike across the United States, with 41 of 50 states seeing an increase in infections over the last two weeks, and the country overall seeing “the largest one-day increase by any country since the pandemic emerged in China last year.” (Is Reuters politically neutral enough? I don’t know.) The virus is especially strong right now in Florida, Texas, and California, with the latter two announcing a “record increase in Covid deaths on Wednesday.”
As of Thursday (July 9), the United States surpassed 3.1 million cases and 133,000 deaths, which accounts for about 25% of the global numbers for both statistics. That’s quite a stat considering that the country only has 4.25% of the world’s population.
So yeah, football this fall is in trouble. The NFL has already cancelled two preseason games, and high school football depends on what state you’re in. Texas and Florida are still planning on starting in late August, California won’t make that decision until July 20, and Tennessee teams are barred from contact drills until August 30 with an official decision yet to be made about the season. Meanwhile, junior colleges are considering moving all fall competition to the spring semester, but won’t determine an official course of action until July 13.
But this is a KU site, so let’s discuss, how does this affect Kansas? Well, the players want to play, which is understandable:
Dear @NCAA ,— Kyle Mayberry (@moneymayberry) July 9, 2020
Please don’t jeopardize my last season by just playing half a season, or playing only conference games. I need all of my games every last one of them! Thank you.
Sincerely, Money ‼️ #MayWay
But Kansas is also one of several schools across the country (K-State, Clemson, Houston, and Boise to name a few others) that have suspended team activities while dealing with an outbreak on the football team over the summer.
If the Big 12 goes to a conference-only schedule, that’s likely not good news for the Jayhawks, who have FCS New Hampshire, a revenge game with Coastal Carolina, and a rematch with Boston College. As we have been breaking down the upcoming season in our countdown, my prevailing thought has been that Kansas was probably going to get half (or more likely, most) of its wins this year in the non-conference portion of the schedule.
So on paper, a conference-only schedule does not fill me with good feelings. Some local beat writers are throwing out what-if scenarios and alternate scheduling possibilities, which includes playing some conference opponents more than once, or replacing non-con foes with more regional (i.e., driving-distance) options. That’s all just blogger-esque conjecture, but anything is possible at this point.
RCT noted a few days ago that the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 shortened KU’s season by two games; that is certainly a possibility as well. As much as I’d love to watch Pooka Williams in what could be his final year as a Jayhawk, the health and safety of everyone - athletes, students, coaches, fans, officials, reporters, everyone - is the most important thing.
And that probably means no football this fall.