BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — It's July now, and plans are in place for college football teams to get to work in a few weeks. But all over the country, including here in Indiana, positive COVID-19 results are still a concern.
So that clock is ticking is ticking, and it's banging hard in our ears. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. If this college football season is going to start as planned, there needs to be a lot of good news in the next few weeks from every college campus.
Indiana was an outlier last week when it came to reporting test results, The school announced that 187 players, coaches and staff members were tested, and there were zero positive results. Dozens of other schools reported numbers in the double-digits, though,
And that's just a start. There is serious concern that when 40,000 students return to campus, that there might be an outbreak. There's even more concern about a stadium full of people watching a game.
There's so much concern that blowing up the season is a legitimate concern. There are plans in place to delay a start, to shorten the season, and to play the season without fans.
None of those are enticing ideas. But they are becoming very real. And even the usually optimistic Paul Finebaum of ESPN has turned the corner and become a fall-football doubter.
"The only people who are selling delusion and hope right now are folks who run college football. They're talking about on-time beginnings and full stadiums, but, they're all full of crap,'' Finebaum said on the Golic & Wingo radio show on ESPN. "The push to get players back on campus is fine, but it's reality time now. Anyone who believes the college football season is in good shape is wrong.''
It could be that bad, that blow-it-up bad. It's not what makes college football special, with no fans or shortened seasons. So we need something else.
What about this? If it's too dangerous for student-athletes, university officials and fans to pull off a college football season in the fall, instead of canceling it, how about we just move it to the spring?
In my mind, that makes a lot of sense.
Hear me out here. You'd need to work with several other entities, of course, but what if you could play a full 12-game season that would start on March 13 and end the first weekend in June. Then you could have the playoffs, and maybe crown a champion on July 4 weekend.
And if things are better with COVID-19 by then, you could play that entire season with players staying healthy — and with fans in the stands.
Weather really wouldn't be an issue. Playing games outdoors in early March — even at northern outposts like Minnesota or Wisconsin — really wouldn't be any different from late November games.
In Madison, for instance, the average daily temperature on March 13, our proposed first day of the season, is 38 degrees. On Nov. 28, the last day of the regular season this fall, the average temperature is exactly the same — 38 degrees.
There would still be students on campus to enjoy it all, we're presuming. And if the pandemic has wound down by then, the stands could be full, too, or close to full like we do it at Indiana.
You'd need help to pull it off, of course. The basketball regular season would need to finish the week before, but that's workable. Just play four conference games in December instead of two. That would sure make December more entertaining. I'd take games against Iowa and Michigan State over Directional State and Southwest Somewhere.
The NFL would have to jump in too, of course, and move the draft back from April. (There's a much better chance the NFL plays in the fall, by the way.)
There's this, too, with the spring idea. For the health and well-being of players, having a spring season followed by a fall season just a month or two later is asking a lot on their bodies. Another one-time-only idea might be to just play back-to-back 10-game seasons, which saves a month on the calendar.
The almighty dollar drives a lot of this, of course. But safety concerns trump that right now, too.
Giving up a fall would be tough, but a real season in the spring is far better than a fractured fall season with no in-person eyeballs enjoying it.
Would it be different? Of course it would. Can you imagine Purdue at Indiana for the Old Oaken Bucket on Memorial Day weekend under sun-drenched skies on an 80-degree day. That would be a huge departure from end-of-November 40-and-rainy games.
We're all having to adjust right now. What's one more thing, right?