Tuesday night I gave a college football preview to a group of folks on Zoom.
During the Q&A I got the questions you would expect:
**--Will we start the season on time?
I didn’t feel this way a month ago but now I’m optimistic that we’ll start the season as planned. Of course, that could change. We have lived with this reality since the sports world was shut down in March: The virus is in charge and every day we have to be flexible enough pivot to a new plan.
**--Will we get through the entire season as scheduled?
It’s the toughest question of all because we don’t know what’s going to happen when the games start. You could argue early on that the heat and intensity of the games will make the players more vulnerable to catch the virus. But you can also claim that the people who play college football at the highest level this season will be among the most tested and monitored people in the country.
“Our guys are not going to catch it (virus) on the football field,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said in a recent press briefing. “They’re going to catch it on campus.”
The Power Five conferences plan to test players three times a week before the season starts. Those tests will include a rapid-response test the day before game.
**--After all the external pressure, will the Big Ten and Pac-12 change their minds and try to play this season?
Not a chance. The Big Ten presidents asserted their authority in this case and the job of commissioner Kevin Warren is to deal with the fallout. Yes the parents of a lot of Big Ten players are mad. Yes, it was a communications blunder. But it ain't gonna change.
But the best question of the evening—at least the one I had to think about the most—came near the very end:
**--If we get through the entire season and a national champion is crowned, will that championship always have an asterisk by it?
Here’s essentially what I told them:
If things stay the way they are, you cannot ignore the fact that the Big Ten and Pac-12 did not compete for the championship. That’s 26 Power Five teams that didn’t even suit up.
Having said that, I shared with them something a Power Five coach told me about a month ago on this very subject.
Not only should there NOT be an asterisk by the name of the 2020 college football champion, he said, “there should be about five exclamation points next to it.”
His point? Winning a national championship under these extraordinary set of circumstances would rank among the greatest achievements in college football history.
Think about it.
Back in March, when the virus shut down sports, coaches started scrambling to stay in touch with their players. They used ZOOM, Apple watches, and various other technology to hold team meetings and to keep the players engaged. The players came back to campus in June and have been working ever since.
Then, later in the summer, the conferences changed their scheduling model.
Then the students came back to campus and that presented some additional challenges.
The point is that at every turn the players and their coaches have had to adapt to an ever-changing reality.
N.C. State has already moved its first game at Virginia Tech from Sept. 12 to Sept. 26 because of an outbreak of COVID cases on their team. There will be more of these. That’s why the conferences built open dates into their scheduling model.
The teams that are able to adapt and manage and keep their players on the field are the teams that will be in the hunt come December. And you can argue that if a team holds up the CFP national championship trophy on Jan. 11 in Miami, it will have navigated the toughest, nerve-wracking road ever for a title.
If it happens, and it’s a big IF, you can keep your asterisk.