College football season likely to be canceled

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.


  1. Matt G says

    I went to Oberlin College in the late 80s. Our football team had the biggest budget and the worst record of any team. I used to joke that we score one touchdown per season and win one game per decade. The school newspaper once published a photo with the caption “Oberlin quarterback so-and-so puts the moves on [other school’s] defense.” The photo was of our quarterback about to be driven into the turf by four or five offensive linemen!! Good times!

  2. moarscienceplz says

    I know of several adult amateur softball, baseball and basketball leagues. I even know of a few adult amateur soccer leagues. I am not aware of a single adult amateur football league, not even flag football. It’s almost as if all these sports fans know that football would be very bad for THEIR bodies, yet still they expect young people to take the hits simply for the amusement of the older folks.

  3. says

    A cancelled season was inevitable, but that’s not my biggest concern for the players. The question is whether they’ll still be allowed to take classes as non-playing and non-paying students.

    Some of those colleges may say, “we lost revenue, so we need to cut expenses!” and deny players their education. Considering how many coaches violate rules and force players to skip classes, this may be the one year those kids have the chance to learn anything.

    When Sandusky and Peterno damaged Penn State, players were allowed to quit the team and their scholarships would be fulfilled. (If any did, I never heard about it. They would likely be harassed into playing or transferring.) When UAB planned to eliminate its football team (they didn’t) those players were given the same option, to actyally study without playing. But would hundreds of colleges be willing to do this?

    I would imagine track and field athletes will still be expected to perform (probably weight lifters too). Individuals can still run alone on a track, do shot put or other events. Expect to see “virtual track meets” where runners have synchronized starts or their races run separately and their times and distances compared.

  4. johnson catman says

    Matt G @1 & 2: “Offensive linemen” would have been more humorous because it would mean that either the defensive line was mercilessly driving them back over the quarterback or that the offensive line had turned and were running away from the defensive line and ran over the quarterback.

  5. Mark Dowd says

    I have only once been legitimately excited watching a sportsball game, and it was back in high school. Our team ran a 96 yard touchdown and it was fucking AWESOME to see. Other than that it’s all pretty boring.

    And you can get that hype without risk of physical injury with video games, like Daigo’s Evo Moment. Even if you’re not a Street Fighter aficionado you can probably appreciate this. Just listen to that crowd go nuts.

  6. Katydid says

    My university campus was whatever the lowest division was. We might as well be playing against elementary schoolers. There were no sports scholarships. Instead, actual students were able to try out for the teams. HOWEVER, most of our tuition dollars that went to sportzballz went to the flagship campus with the huge footballz and bazketballz teams. Their players were bought and regularly OD’d.

    My oldest went to the flagship campus and lived on campus. His last year, they had a roommate who was on the soccer team. He had flunked out previously, the school sent him to community college for a semester so they could re-admit him. He never went to classes, spent his time not on the field drunk or stoned, and was going to play professionally for the team in the state he came from as soon as he graduated him. How many actual students who wanted to learn were denied financial aid because of idiots like this kid?

  7. publicola says

    When it comes to the religion of college football, I’ve been an atheist for many years. Good riddance, I say! That goes for basketball, too. But I will miss college hockey.

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