Decisions by the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences to postpone their fall sports seasons sets up a conflict that can best be described as one of titanic proportions. Will those two leagues go it alone among the Power 5 in trying to play football, as well as other fall sports, in the spring, or will the Big 12, ACC and SEC fall to what might be an irreversible momentum swing?
As of Tuesday evening, indications were, though certainly not unanimous or concrete, that the ACC and SEC were leaning toward trying to play fall sports in their original windows. The Big 12 was viewed as being a bit more on the fence, though not necessarily swayed by the decisions of other leagues. The Big 12, whose board of directors was scheduled to meet on a Tuesday evening teleconference, will get the latest input from the members’ athletic directors as well as medical professionals who have helped shape best practice safety protocols and provided guidance and help throughout the pandemic.
Statement from the ACC: pic.twitter.com/9lBY5h8jNy
— The ACC (@theACC) August 11, 2020
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby recently noted that the league’s medical panel has not given any indication that it is unsafe to play football this year. Clearly, the Big Ten’s group disagreed with that assessment. The SEC’s health professionals were reportedly more aligned with the Big 12’s view, as commissioner Greg Sankey noted recently that his league’s medical group had given the go-ahead for play, at least for now.
TAKEAWAYS OF THE MOMENT
— The decisions of the Big Ten and Pac-12 put another dagger in the efforts of some league commissioners, including those of Bowlsby, to get all of the Power 5 leagues working, if not in perfect synchronization, at least in common directions. Both of those leagues acted independently (or perhaps only in tandem with each other) in announcing conference-only football schedules for this fall earlier this summer and in pulling the plug on their seasons today.
That’s despite the efforts of Bowlsby, who on the day the Big 12 men’s and women’s basketball conference tournaments were cancelled back in March, noted that it would be important for the Power 5 to work together with common goals in mind. That has been a frequent talking point of his throughout this summer of strife, but it clearly hasn’t happened.
Random thought: If the Power 5 leagues can’t coordinate on even one decision\task such as this, why does anyone think they could break away from the NCAA and form their own governing body without all of the same problems that have been exhibited over the past few weeks?
— It is important not to stamp the Big 12 as a “deciding vote” in the fate of fall football in 2020, although it could carry a good bit of weight. The SEC and ACC could decide to stick it out on their own if the Big 12 postpones fall sports, or they could decide that trying to go it alone isn’t practical. Several other factors are involved there, including broadcast contracts, as well as …
— Championships and bowls. If leagues split between playing in the fall and spring, would some bowls move to the spring? Would their contracts allow them to take schools from a non-contracted league if that league isn’t playing? (That seems likely.) Would the CFP only involve teams playing in the fall? Many of these questions will be addressed once decisions are made by the remaining three leagues.
— Finally, it’s important to note that even on this relatively narrow decision, the Big Ten and Pac-12 couldn’t function in lockstep. The Big Ten postponed only fall sports to the spring, while the Pac-12 pushed every competition, including those of “winter” sports that have games in November and December, back until at least Jan. 1, 2021. That includes basketball — which is another huge money-maker and attention-grabber on the sports scene.
The Pac-12 was at least consistent in that it decided to cancel all competitions over the same timeframe. The Big Ten, despite its insistence that it was making its decision for player safety, did not.