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What If There Is No Season?

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The 2020 Purdue football could be postponed or cancelled.

We’re only three weeks into quarantine and it sucks. We’re all bored. We all miss sports. More importantly, we’re also all mourning nearly a quarter million cases in the US alone and 5,000 deaths from this coronavirus with no end in sight. On Wednesday I was excited it was trash day because not only did it mean I got to go out through my back yard... but all he way into the garage and OUT THE BACK to set out my trash can!

This is clearly a larger world issue at the moment, but this is a sports site and I want to keep it more sports related. We already saw a premature end to Purdue men’s and women’s basketball, as well as baseball and any spring sports. Now we’re hearing rumblings about football being pushed back or cancelled in the fall:

Specifically, there have been models for college football teams reconvening on June 1, July 1 and Aug. 1. In addition, there has been discussion of a truncated season, including one with only conference games being played.

Everything is on the table.

Right now it is looking like June 1 is the earliest date. Since schools in Indiana were closed for the year as of yesterday it seems unlikely college football teams will gather together before then. It only takes one case resulting in death among the thousands of college football players out there for everything to go awry, and in two months we will have a much better idea on where this is headed.

To me, getting back together June 1 is probably the lone scenario that sees the season start on time. Many schools already lost spring practice. Offseason conditioning can partially be done individually, but missing two months in the weight room will put a major dent into teams. Getting everyone back by June 1 allows incoming freshmen to get on campus and get most of the summer too. June 1 will mark 96 days before Purdue’s opener. I could see the NCAA allowing some early summer practices to make up for lost spring practices. A June 1 date may allow the season to start on time, but I could see there being some real rusty teams by then.

If things are delayed until July 1 or August 1 I just don’t see the season starting on time. Too much preparation time would be lost. At that point, I think you see the season delayed a month or two, or truncated into conference games only. If that were the case, what happens with Purdue’s three non-conference opponents in Air Force, Memphis, and Boston College? As of right now Purdue does not have another open non-conference date until 2027.

That is a season where Purdue has five Big Ten home games, but it is slated to go to Notre Dame and host Miami (OH). Would Purdue want a second non-conference road game with Boston College that season? That seems to be the most likely of the three games to be shifted and actually played since it is the back end of of a home-and-home. Having a nine year break in the home-and-home is a bit long, but not unprecedented for Purdue. Right now Vanderbilt’s return date is 9 years from when we played them and TCU is 10. By the time we played Virginia Tech in 2023 it will have been 8 years since that one started. Then there is Rice, who came to Ross-Ade in 1998 and we did not give them their home game until 2011.

As far as Memphis and Air Force, slotting hem into 2027 or later could be done. 2028 is full right now with Notre Dame, Western Illinois, and at Wake Forest. 2029 and 2030 only have at Vanderbilt and at TCU, respectively.

Those are just scheduling generalities aside. Playing any portion of the 2020 season could be really odd. If we play a conference-only season what happens to independents like Notre Dame? When would it start? Most schools have an on campus stadium, but how does it affect teams like Miami, Temple, Pittsburgh, and others that share stadiums with pro teams?

Some of the proposals out there have the season starting in October or even November, which could have some strong crossovers with basketball season. A November start is great... if you’re in Miami. If you’re in West Lafayette that means potentially brutal weather for football. Imagine playing the Bucket Game in Bloomington in a January blizzard.

The good news is that there probably will be some form of football season, mostly because athletic departments financially need there to be one:

Several ADs mentioned the ongoing anxiety of not knowing what will happen and when “the all-clear” will be given to return to normal.

“This has been crazy with high anxiety,” a Power Five AD said. “The potential financial impact is starting to be understood.”

Added another Power Five AD: “As of right now, I have no clue if there will be a full season. But if we don’t, it will get ugly.”

“Most of the Power Five schools wouldn’t miss a beat,” a Group of Five AD said, “but it would be devastating to the rest of us.”

Again, think of Memphis and Air Force here. Memphis is getting $750,000 to come play their one game at Purdue. Granted, they just got a very nice bonus for being the “Group of Five” team in the big boy bowls last season, but the $750,000 is more than 10% of their usual football revenue. Air Force is getting $800,000 to come play us, but their total finances are unknown (also, they are Air Force. If we can waste billions of dollars on the boondoggle of the F-35 they can afford a football team).

Another factor in this is the virus itself. Some are projecting a resurgence of it in the fall, right when you’re getting 50,000-100,000 people packed into stadiums as giant disease vectors. It is still so early and we know so little about this disease, but that is a factor that people are beginning to consider. This is far more important than how unfair it would be to have a transcendent player like Rondale Moore, only to see him for just one full season because he lost most of 2019 to injury and 2020 to a global pandemic.

Right now we’re 155 days out from the season opener at Nebraska, and it is depressing to think about it being postponed or cancelled because it means this mess has dragged out for almost 6 months by then. Unfortunately, we’re all on hold until the curve is flattened and things get better. I am so desperate for sports I would even watch the NBA right now. I just lost my spring break Miami trip, tickets I had to four MLB games (and we probably would have gone to a couple more in Miami), and potentially a trip to Disneyland I have planned at the end of May. This is nothing compared to the real crisis we are in the midst of. Cases are getting worse and people are dying. If cancelling a football season helps stop that I will welcome it.

I can always continue playing out the 2020 season on NCAA ‘14 (where Purdue is already the two-time defending National champion).