College football on the brink

Published 2:41 pm Wednesday, July 22, 2020

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If you love college football, prepare to be disappointed.

Nobody seems to know what this season of college football will look like, or if there will be a college football season or not.

Many were looking forward with eager anticipation of the opening week game between Southern Cal and Alabama, at the neutral site of AT&T stadium. That game will not be played. USC announced recently that it will only play Pacific 12 conference opponents. So, scratch that big game with BAMA to start the season.

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The BIG 10 made a similar “conference only” schedule announcement earlier this week.

What does it mean?

We may see no college sports this year.

Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith said Thursday, “we are very concerned” about playing sports in the fall. Most athletic directors have expressed concern for “the health and safety” of our student-athletes, in the middle of a sweeping pandemic.

It’s only July, but it appears that the college football season is beginning to unravel.

If it does the results will be financially catastrophic.

Alabama and USC will lose an estimated 6 million dollars apiece because of the cancellation of the season-opener. BIG 10 and Pac-12 opponents estimate that they will lose 45 million dollars from cancelled games with money guarantees.

Eliminating games means losing money.

USA TODAY says that FBS schools will lose $138 million in revenue, if the 227 games involving FBS schools are cancelled. And it appears that those games will be canceled.

Most of those contracts have an escape clause that allows the bigger schools to pay the FBS schools nothing “if the game is called off by the authority of the conference.” Some state that if the game is canceled for reasons beyond the parties’ control “both parties shall be relieved of any and all obligations under this agreement.” Simply stated, no game, no money.

The big boys will survive.

Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, USC, Penn State Notre Dame, Texas, Oklahoma and similar programs have enough reserve to outlast this problem. In fact, most Power 5 programs do.

But what about New Mexico State? Central Michigan? Middle Tennessee or Southern Miss?

Most will feel the impact, and it has the potential to wreck athletic budgets. Some smaller programs derive most of their money from guarantee games against FBS opponents. It could be disastrous.

The loss or reduction of the 2020 college football season will surely be disappointing to many college football fans, but the real damage may be felt most by small schools who rely on money from FBS opponents.

New Mexico State has two games scheduled against FBS

opponents — UCLA and Florida. From those two games alone, New Mexico State was to receive 2.7 million dollars. If the SEC follows the BIG 10 and the Pac-12, and plays only conference opponents, that 2.7 million will be gone. And with it, very likely, one program’s financial viability.

The big schools are worried and concerned. The small schools are scared to death. And time is running out.


Jack Lazarus is an attorney and a freelance writer in Natchez.