Remember the good old days all the way back in January and February when the biggest questions about Ohio State football were who was going to be the back-up quarterback behind Justin Fields and if there were enough healthy running backs?
Now the big questions are more like will there be a football season and what will it look like if there is a season?
Ohio State is scheduled to open its season against Bowling Green on Sept. 5. Michigan would open that day with a game at Washington and Alabama would play at USC. Notre Dame and Clemson are scheduled to begin even earlier, with the Fighting Irish playing Navy on Aug. 29 in Dublin and Clemson is scheduled to go to Georgia Tech on Sept. 3.
Whether those games, some games or no games at all are played this college football season is still an unknown which depends on the course of the coronavirus over the next few weeks and months.
No safety, no season. At least you would hope that would be the most important factor when governors, doctors, health officials, university presidents and athletic directors around the country make their recommendations and decisions.
No one knows exactly what the decision will be. But here are some possibilities:
— Somehow the coronavirus recedes enough that teams can play all 12 of their regular-season games, league championship games, College Football Playoff games and bowl games.
This might be full-scale magical thinking. Or maybe it’s more like the mindset of lottery ticket buyers who believe with a little luck there is early retirement or a mansion in Scottsdale in their future.
— The season starts in late September and teams play 10 regular-season games or maybe fewer than 10. Or maybe they play only the conference games on their schedule.
Attendance at games might be limited or there might be no fans at all in the stadiums.
Some fans might be hesitant to go to games. In a poll I did on Twitter, 58 percent of the 122 people who voted said they wouldn’t be uncomfortable going to games. But 28 percent said they would be uncomfortable and 14 percent said they weren’t sure.
Some people think if football games are going to be played students will have to be back on campus. But other people disagree.
Money, of course, is a major factor in the hope of having some sort of season or a full season.
Ohio State, for example, makes $5 million to $7 million dollars from every home football game. It also gets around $30 million a year from the Big Ten’s football television contract with ABC, ESPN and Fox and more than $50 million a year overall from the Big Ten Network.
— The season doesn’t start until after the Super Bowl in February. This is kind of an idea of last resort for reasons that go beyond playing in outdoor stadiums in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska and other chilly places in February.
If the season started in February, college football would be going on at the same time as the NCAA basketball tournament. Also, playing the entire 2020 season and the 2021 season in the same calendar year would raise wear and tear issues for the players.
And many scientists and epidemiologists predict a second surge by the virus anywhere from December to February, especially if restrictions on social and business interactions are abandoned too soon.
— Some teams start on time, others don’t. Penn State coach James Franklin stirred things up when he said if some teams in a league are ready to play and others aren’t then those who are ready should play on without the ones who aren’t ready.
— There is no college football season. Those are words no one wants to hear. But two or three months ago who thought there would be no March Madness, no Wimbledon, no British Open and so many other iconic events would be canceled or delayed?