I am not that excited for College Football this year.
That seems like an absurd statement to say in early August. Normally at this time of year we’re in full-on prep for the upcoming season. Usually I am wrapping up my “Know Thy Opponent” series, the rest of the staff is starting to do position previews, and we’re starting to get early word from practice about position battles. That final month before kickoff is normally filled with anticipation (then followed by immediate disappointment since Purdue has lost 5 of its last 7 openers).
We don’t have that this year. The steady patterns of summer watch lists, media days, practice reports, and season previews have been shattered by COVID-19. Yes, we have continued our countdown to kickoff, but I am to the point that I won’t believe we have football until I see Michigan and Purdue actually kick off in Michigan Stadium in four weeks. When the last live sports event I saw was Michigan and Rutgers warming up before the Big Ten Tournament was cancelled back in March it tends to make me a bit skeptical.
The news that Rondale Moore would forgo the season and declare for the draft yesterday was one of the final blows. Yes, I understand the why. With he high levels of positive cases in this country it makes perfect sense why players would opt out. The NHL and NBA have thrived with their bubble concepts. Major League Baseball has had issues, but for now they are going. The NFL, as usual, is charging full ahead in the spirit of “We just have to be tougher and may the odds be ever in your favor”. The NCAA has been milquetoast at best in its response, punting down to the divisional and conference levels to the expected chaos that would result from no centralized leadership.
There are thousands of college football players around the country. Only 255 are drafted each year, and NFL careers are shorter and shorter with smaller windows to earn the big bucks. Rondale Moore is one of those players that will get drafted in 2021, likely in the top 50 picks. That means a lot of money. I do not fault him one bit for sitting out. Avoiding injury is one reason, but throwing in COVID-19 and the potential risks of debilitating after effects such as Brady Feeney at Indiana makes it pretty much a no brainer.
His departure only adds to the apathy I have for the season. One of the things I was most looking forward to since November 30 last year was seeing him and David Bell tormenting secondaries across the conference together. We got three games and change from them on the field at the same time, and Bell wasn’t really at full speed yet. While I wish Rondale the best and 100% agree with his decision, the fan side of me is like, “man, this sucks” because we don’t get to see him play.
The apathy also stems from the haphazard way things look right now. We MIGHT get football, but we’re very likely not getting it with fans. Maaaaaaaaaaaaybe if things slow down enough by late October or November we can have a few fans in the stands, but there is no way we have the expected sellout crowd when Ohio State comes to town in September. When faced with a season that has several stars protecting themselves and their future earning potential, the likelihood of no fans at games, and the strong probability that it will start only to be cut short after a few weeks, it just does not have me excited in the least.
The last five months have been so strange. This is such a strange illness because of the randomness of it. I tend to think a lot more people have been completely asymptomatic because of a lack of testing, but the effects can be so random. You can be completely fine or it can wreck you. You can have a 2-3 day illness or it can attack your heart, lungs, and other organs, leaving you debilitated, but alive. In talking with my dad (a pharmacist) he mentioned how zinc levels can play a role, but it is odd because we’re studying this pandemic and still learning about it while trying to also fend it off.
The loss of the NCAA Tournament was a devastating blow in the spring. The spring sports season is not normally as popular, but the NCAA probably wasn’t thrilled about losing the College World Series, which grows in popularity every year. Losing college football, even if it starts then stops, could be catastrophic.
And there is no end, no easy answer in sight.
I wish I had answers for you, I really do. I am just some jackass college sports writer that just wants to watch Rondale Moore smoke Ohio State again. Sadly, short of firing up NCAA ’14 and creating the roster correctly we’re not going to see that. In fact, I would be shocked if we see a completed season even in its currently scheduled format, and that is why I can’t get excited. I’ll consider us lucky if we get conference-only college basketball in the winter, and it will be a full year before anything is even remotely normal.