With the Coronavirus pandemic still dictating life in the United States, the sports world remains mostly in limbo as fall draws ever nearer. But while we tend to focus on the NFL and the New England Patriots in particular on this here website, we need to take a look at college football as well because its potential and increasingly likely cancelation would have a major impact on the pro level next year.
Let’s start at the beginning, though.
The commissioners of the so-called “Power Five” conferences — the Southeastern Conference (SEC), the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Pac-12 and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) — held an emergency meeting over the weekend to discuss concerns that the upcoming season cannot be played. The Big Ten is reportedly leading the charge to possibly postpone the season into spring, reportedly canceling its own fall schedule on Monday, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The expectation, according to a report by ESPN, is that the other conferences will eventually follow suit and effectively cancel the season as it would normally look like. At this point in time and after the Big Ten’s cancelation, such a move does seem inevitable despite players’ recent #WeWantToPlay movement on social media. If a decision to postpone the 2020 season is eventually made, the fallout on the NFL would be massive.
Under a normal schedule, the college football season would be over by mid-January — a point at which players eligible for the draft would turn their attention to the different workouts from the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl to the Scouting Combine and various Pro Days. The whole procedure would culminate in the draft that is scheduled to take place between April 29 and May 1 next year.
“If we lose the 2020 college football season, this year’s NFL Scouting Combine will be the most important one in league history. We always preach ‘it’s all about the tape’ but if you haven’t seen a player on grass in over a year, this event will take on a whole new meaning,” said scout-turned-analyst Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter.
The process of gaining valuable information about prospects and setting a draft board based on it would obviously look different on a new timeline. Meanwhile, the little information available could become hugely valuable — all while new one will need to be processed and added to the equation fairly quickly.
Scouting departments all over the league would be under a decent amount of stress, despite having some time to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead.
The league’s schedule will also likely have to change if the college football season is indeed moved to the spring. The draft would likely have to be rescheduled, with subsequent rookie minicamps facing the same fate. Timing could become an issue, though, considering that the NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits the event from being held later than June 2. Any delay beyond that would require an agreement by both the league and the players’ union.
All in all, the impact of canceling the college football season as currently scheduled would go beyond college campuses and also be felt at the pro level.