By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Colleges around the country have no earthly idea how they are supposed to house students next month. Figuring out how to educate students is a real quagmire as well.
Despite those issues being quite difficult to resolve here in Month Five of the COVID-19 era in America, there is still somehow some hope and some optimism that officials will be able to conceive of a way for college football to be played … as if that is somehow feasible.
The illusion of that possibility is starting to fade — first, with the Ivy League suspending all fall athletics, and then with the Big Ten limiting fall sports to conference-only affairs. (How playing tackle football featuring two Big Ten teams as opposed to one Big Ten team and one Big 12 team is somehow safer and more manageable is not entirely clear at this juncture in time.)
Now, the voice of radio host Paul Finebaum can be added to the trending tide of pessimism. The ESPN host was a guest on “Get Up” on Friday morning, and as the kids say, he dropped some truth bombs that really can’t be ignored.
In a mere 76 seconds, Finebaum presented a case that explained the singular reason that college football hasn’t already been canceled across the board for 2020. That reason, of course, is the almighty dollar.
Here’s what he said;
One thing I would like to hear [Big 10 commissioner] Kevin Warren or [SEC sommissioner] Greg Sankey or any of these commissioners say to you or me or anyone else … forget talking about whether we will play a college football season. Give us a reason why you should play a college football season. Tell us why it’s worth all this effort.
And by the way, you’re not allowed to say, ‘If we don’t play, we’ll go broke.’
That’s what this is about. This is a money grab. Because I think if money was not an issue, some of these decisions would have already been made — like what they did up in the Ivy League. But right now, this is a house of cards.
And whether Joey [Galloway] thinks we’re being negative or not, he did say one thing that was accurate: the numbers are spiking all over the country, especially in the South, in Florida. You can just look up and down the news channels for this. And it’s a serious, serious problem.
Finebaum was then asked to give a percentage on the chances that the college football season actually gets played:
“I would probably be about 25 percent, and that’s based on [the hope of] maybe getting some good news in the next few weeks. But I could not go any higher than that.”
This message was a continuation of what Finebaum said on “Get Up” a day earlier, when he reacted to the Ivy League news:
“It is a dreadful indicator for college football. And I think what you heard Sankey say there a minute ago was fascinating. I mean, he’s talking about reality now. And I think it’s about time that commissioners and athletic directors and football coaches start dealing with the reality. And the reality is that the college football season is slipping away.
They can hold on hope, but if you look at what is going on in the country, it is dreadful news. And [Wednesday] with not only the Ivy League story, but the story at Ohio State and North Carolina shutting down practice, at least temporarily. It was the worst day college athletics has had since that March day when the whole world shut down. And I don’t really see it getting any better.”
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) July 9, 2020
Clearly, a large part of Finebaum’s livelihood depends on college football, but that’s not stopping him from expressing some harsh truths about the reality of the situation in America right now.
Certainly, back in March, nobody thought we’d be where we are right now. Back then, losing March Madness was a major loss, but the consideration of losing a football season seemed to be a bit extreme. Some people — especially those who stand to make millions of dollars from a football season — never seem to have progressed from that outlook.
But as it stands now, the prospect of involving some 100-plus players in workouts on campus, plus coaches and staff, and getting them ready to travel even in a slightly limited capacity to play tackle football against people from other schools seems to be beyond far-fetched. (The fact that these players have no union to protect them from conditions that will surely be unsafe is another matter entirely, as is the fact that they’ll be risking their own health and the health of their friends and family without receiving any monetary compensation.)
How many people in the college football world are viewing things that way is not clear at this moment in time, but surely it will be seen quite soon that half-measures like conference-only competition will do absolutely nothing to buoy the possibility of collegiate sports starting up next month.