Bob Bowlsby: Big 12 'Thinking About' but Has No Contingencies Working Yet for 2020 College Football Season
John. E. Hoover
Big 12 Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he and his league “haven’t done anything with” forming contingency plans if the Coronavirus ends up disrupting the 2020 football season and “would like to see a little more information.”
Bowlsby spent an hour Thursday afternoon discussing numerous aspects of the pandemic shutdown, including revenue lost from the Big 12 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments (about $6.6 million), total projected revenue lost so far from the loss of the NCAA Tournament and other championships (roughly $15-18 million), and what football season this fall might actually look like.
“It’s hard to imagine looking up into a grandstand,” Bowlsby said, “and seeing people sit six feet apart.”
Bowlsby did say that individual officers within the Big 12 office, such as executive association commissioner for football Ed Stewart, has “given a lot of thought” to various contingencies.
But he reiterated several times on the call that it’s simply too soon to begin planning one way or the other. He’s looking at a 60- to 90-day window for planning such things.
“We’re two weeks into this, and people tell us it’s 6-8, some say it’s 10-12, some say we’re gonna get a (viral) rebound,” Bowlsby said. “I just don’t think there’s a lot of credibility in anything other than putting together very rudimentary plans.
“And right now, our plan is to play our football season as it’s scheduled. If we find out that we have to depart from that, then we will do so. And we will do it with plenty of time to let people know what it is we’re thinking and to challenge what we’re thinking.”
Whether it happens to be a full 12-game season, a conference-only season, a reduced season of some kind or no games whatsoever, Bowlsby said it would be a collaborative effort between all the Power 5 (or Autonomy 5) conferences.
“That’s another area where I think collaboration with the other A5 and with the other FBS programs, it really makes a lot of sense,” Bowlsby said. “I think we all want to do the same thing. If we get forced into an eight-game season, I don’t think we want to be playing eight and somebody else is playing nine and somebody’s playing six.
Bowlsby said inter-conference cooperation is usually how things get done.
“When the time comes,” he said, “I don’t believe it’ll be the Big 12 acting unilaterally. I believe it’ll be a collaboration with a number of other conferences.”
There is a ringing desperation to play the 2020 football season beyond just the thrill of competition and the pageantry of college football.
Without the massive revenue of football coming in this year, there could be catastrophic consequences — including, worst-case scenario, the defunding of other sports.
"It’s a whole new ballgame if we find ourselves not playing football because it affects everything we do," Bowlsby said. "It’s the largest portion of our television contracts, and it’s the largest section of campus revenue, which is live gate. Anything I say regarding finances has to be with the assumption that we will be back to playing football in the fall. If that doesn’t happen, the underpinning of what we know as normal goes away and we’ll have major changes to make."
West Virginia University president Gordon Gee told Yahoo Sports this week that “Basketball at West Virginia will pay for itself. Football pays for everything else. … A world without college football in the fall? It’s something the haven’t had the courage to contemplate.”
Said Bowlsby, “I don’t want to do too much in the area of armageddon forecasting. But football drives an enormous amount of the resources that our universities rely on. As a percentage of the total university, the athletic budget is generally a fairly small percentage.
“Having said that, all of the universities are gonna be under stress. People are gonna under stress sending their children to universities. So I don’t know that the universities are gonna be in position to bridge-finance athletics programs in any sort of meaningful way. So there could be a very wide range of things.
“I don’t want to get into forecasting what those could be, but if the money goes away, it certainly necessitates difficult decisions.”
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