College football is about to lose billions of dollars to the NFL, and it couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch. NCAA leadership has proven itself barely bright enough to comprehend the operating instructions for a door hinge, and now major-college football is about to be crushed by an NFL land grab by Robert Kraft, Jerry Jones, and Roger Goodell.
Every college conference in the country will soon be dropping football for the 2020 season. The NFL should announce a schedule of Saturday games within minutes of the last domino falling.
And then Goodell and the NFL owners should hold on to ownership of Saturday nights on TV for as long as they can.
NCAA football is going belly-up for 2020
Let’s be clear: COVID-19 was always going to be too big for college football to overcome this fall. The logistics of keeping FBS schools across the country on track to make it through the season would be impossible. Major League Baseball is in over its head keeping 30 rosters of 30 players operational. Thinking that 130 FBS teams of 85 or more players could make it even halfway through the season on party-filled campuses was always ludicrous.
The NBA and NHL restarts are working because they’re using bubble environments that aren’t feasible for colleges. The Mid-American Conference gave up the ghost over the weekend, the Big Ten is following suit, and the rest will arrive at the same inevitable decision within days if not hours.
The sport was going to succumb to COVID-19 this fall no matter what, but the lack of competent, coherent leadership assured it. Whereas the NCAA maintains iron-clad control over every other level of every sport – God forbid if a Division III swimming coach treats a recruit to a bagel with cream cheese during a campus visit – FBS football is something more akin to the Wild West.
The conferences call the shots, and the Power 5 conferences wield disproportionate power that leaves the others fighting for scraps. And all of them are corporations masquerading as institutions of higher learning. They should have been taxes as such before, and now the NFL can inflict its own financial penalties.
The No. 1 reason college football deserves this kick in the teeth
The rules were clear for years: Friday nights in the fall belonged to the high schools, Saturdays were the domain of the colleges, and the NFL played on Sundays. It had to work that way, because the pro league needed the colleges to be their farm system and the colleges needed high schools to supply them with prospects.
And then the colleges got greedy. Conferences sent up a warning shot in 1991 by agreeing to play on ESPN on Thursday nights. And then they did the unimaginable in 2001 by moving some televised games to Friday nights with no regard for the potential effect on attendance at high school games.
The NCAA leadership should have had the guts to reel in the conferences right then and there. Instead, they let the greed go unchecked. The impotence of the NCAA at that time signaled it would be no match for getting its arms around COVID-19 now.
With no one at the highest levels riding herd, colleges began bringing football players back to campus for “voluntary” workouts in July with no uniform code for testing and protection. It’s led to repeated small outbreaks of positive tests that have left experts telling the colleges that what they’re trying to do is unworkable.
The networks will pay handsomely for Saturday NFL games
There’s little doubt that the NFL will pounce on the opportunity to move three games from Sunday to Saturday in the absence of college football this fall. Technically, there’s an antitrust hurdle for the league to clear, but the reason that law exists is to protect college football, which soon will no longer be a concern in 2020.
Democrats and Republicans put in a room together can barely agree on what day of the week it is, but even they’re not foolish enough to go against a change that the public will demand in the absence of college games. A “no” vote in an election year will be akin to telling voters that they no longer wish to remain on the federal payroll.
So, bring on the Saturday tripleheaders all season long.
The change would be an immediate windfall for the owners – and help address impending dents in the salary cap. The additional TV money would make up for some of the lost revenue from empty or nearly empty stadiums this fall.
It’s a win-win for the NFL and its fans.