Today comes welcome news that the Big Ten conference made up of 14 of the biggest powerhouses in college football (it started out with just 10 but retained the name after expanding its roster) has canceled the upcoming fall season due to the pandemic. Another smaller conference had announced its cancellation a couple of days ago.
The Big Ten has voted to cancel the 2020 college football season in a historic move that stems from concerns related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, multiple people with knowledge of the decision confirmed to the Free Press.
The sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the decision. A formal announcement is expected to Tuesday, the sources said.
The presidents voted, 12-2, Sunday to end the fall sports in the conference. Michigan and Michigan State — which both has physicians as presidents — voted to end the season, sources said. Only Nebraska and Iowa voted to play, Dan Patrick said on his radio show Monday.
The move comes two days after the Mid-American Conference became the first in the FBS to cancel ts season, and sources told the Free Press the Big Ten is trying to coordinate its announcement with other Power Five conferences.
Many of the biggest programs make a lot of money from attendance and TV broadcast rights and in those schools the football coach is often the highest paid employee, making hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars per year, much more than any employee involved in doing the primary mission of college, which is education.
The more than 50 public universities in the Power Five conferences generated $4.1bn in revenue in the 2019 fiscal year – an average of more than $78m per program. That’s more than 60% of those schools’ combined total operating revenues, according to USA Today.
While large chunks of that revenue are derived from lucrative broadcasting deals and apparel contracts that enrich schools and coaches directly, it has a trickle-down effect on smaller programs, many of which depend on road games against giants like Alabama to fund their entire athletics programs.
But for many smaller colleges, the football program is a money sink and its main function is to serve as a recruiting tool for students. But despite this, getting rid of the program was always a tough battle. Football is like a religion for many and university alumni tend to fight bitterly against any reduction in the programs. Those college presidents who try to get rid of this albatross face enormous pressures from alumni to keep it, and they risk losing their own jobs.
I have long been railing that colleges and universities should cancel their football programs, ever since the evidence came out about the serious brain injuries suffered by players but had little hope that it would happen. Now the pandemic has shut it down, at least for the fall season. What I am hoping for is that at least the smaller colleges will seize on this chance to show that there is college life without football and that the programs never return.