College football, an annual sports tradition that kicks off the fall season, will be much different than in past years due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. At least two college conferences, the Big Ten and Pac-12, have announced a shortened football regular season in 2020.
The Big Ten was the first conference to announce its new schedule for the fall, with the Pac-12 following some days later. Sources told ESPN that other major conferences, such as the ACC, Big 12, and SEC, will follow suit in revamping their member schools’ football schedules this upcoming season.
Instead of playing its normal schedule, with non-conference opponents, the conferences said that their conference members will play each other and will cancel their non-conference games.
College football generates billions of dollars in revenue for major athletic programs and the NCAA, the governing body of college athletics. Lucrative television contracts with CBS, Fox, and ESPN created a boon of revenue for college athletic programs, but with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the revenue is at risk. There are repercussions from canceling games, such as smaller football programs losing out on game revenue now that their games with well-funded and prominent opponents are canceled.
Also, it is unclear whether the NCAA will create a coronavirus testing structure or will delegate it to its conferences to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus among athletes, fans, and coaching staffs. Professional athletic leagues, such as the NBA and MLB, have created testing guidelines and both leagues plan to play out the rest of the 2019-2020 season in an isolated setting away from the public.
The pandemic also exposed the NCAA’s amateur athlete model, where college athletes are not paid for their athletic services nor have a right to make money off of their likeness and image. As a part of the model, their scholarships could be at risk if they decline to participate in a shortened season.