Michigan President Doubts Season

Michigan President Doubts Season
File photo. University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

One thing has become clear with regards to the potential start of the college football season.  Very little is actually clear.

Michigan muddied the waters a little more over the weekend. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, school president Dr. Mark Schlissel said he had “some degree of doubt as to whether there will be collegiate athletics (anywhere), at least in the fall.”

Conversely, schools in the SEC have been adamant that they anticipate a full campus opening and will be ready to start football on time. This despite having a new outbreak of the virus in Arkansas and Tennessee, among other places.

No Single Plan

There has been a mix of misreporting and realistic answers when it comes to schools across the country and how they will deal with the COVID-19 virus when the Fall term starts.

West coast schools made headlines two weeks ago when it was erroneously reported that Cal State University schools would be on-line classes only with no students on campus. That raised questions as to whether San Diego State, Fresno State, and San Jose State would even be playing football this season. Truth be told, the CSU’s will have some in-person classes in a handful of majors. The ratio of online to in-person classes will be about 80-20. Because most of the schools are commuter schools, on-campus living was always minimal and will continue to be so. As of last week, it is anticipated that SDSU athletes will begin their move to campus in early to mid-July.

The University of California campuses have not made any formal announcement. And it is unclear whether there will be one unified proposal for the 10-campus system, or whether the individual schools will be left to manage their individual situations. Some of the UC schools have suggested they will move the incoming freshmen on campus for direct learning classes, and others will be predominantly on-line learning. Those schools are of the thought that if it is mostly the freshmen and athletes living on campus, there is plenty of space for social distancing on the spacious grounds.

Decision For Fall And Spring

Schlissel said he expects to make a decision soon on what the Fall will look like. He noted that whatever plan is put in place, will likely be for both semesters. “Any decision we make for this coming fall is likely going to be the case for the whole academic year. What’s going to be different in January?” It is worth pointing out that Schlissel is a trained a immunologist, with an Md and PhD from Johns Hopkins.

The NCAA issued a statement that the ban on in person workouts for Fall athletes would end on June 1st. Of course, the NCAA has no real jurisdiction in the matter as states and municipalities have the prevailing legal authority. None the less, Michigan’s Big Ten Rivals Ohio State and Illinois quickly announced they would quickly be returning to campus, (Illinois on June 3rd, and Ohio State on June 8th).

The SEC presidents voted last week to allow all 14 schools in the conference to open for athletic workouts on June 8th.  But with recent upticks in outbreak numbers, some schools may not be as ready as they thought they were a week or two ago. So what if a conference is open for business, but not all of its schools are ready to play?

Dividing Conferences?

What is becoming a real possibility is that there is no unified opening of the college football season across the country. Some schools and conferences are moving faster than others. Penn State’s James Franklin recently told ESPN he could see bifurcated starts even within a conference as well as across the country. “I can’t imagine that right now we’re all going to open at the same time. If the SEC, for example, opens up a month earlier than the Big Ten, and the Big Ten is able to open up and 12 of the 14 schools, if two schools can’t open, I don’t see a conference—any conference—penalizing 80% or 75% of the schools because 25% of them can’t open.”

With most coaches agreeing they need a six to eight-week training period to get players ready for a season in any form, the calendar starts becoming a factor once we hit mid-June.

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