As we wait for SEC schedule plan, college football is in chaos

Florida cheerleaders smile

So, the SEC will release a 10-game completely conference schedule fairly soon, certainly by the end of the first week of August… or at least, that’s what I and many others think. This delay can’t go on forever.

By Matt Zemek

Decisions will also have to be made about training camp and the start of the season before too long. We discussed what an SEC schedule might look like, so we won’t revisit that topic.

What is news in late July — as we wait for the SEC schedule reveal — is how much is happening in the other conferences.

Very little of it reflects any real degree of coordination or cohesion among college football

This isn’t an SEC commentary; it’s a commentary about the wider college football industry.

Very few people are on the same page.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 have also proposed 10-game conference-only schedules.

The ACC 11-game conference schedule which includes Notre Dame. The Irish will compete for a conference title for the first time ever.

The Big 12 is trying to play 12 games, starting August 29.

Four Power Five conferences, three very different approaches. The SEC hasn’t even leaked or revealed its schedule, and yet whatever it does, it will not match at least two of the other Power Five conferences, because these conferences are in different positions. It’s every man for himself.

It is somewhat understandable that the various conferences want very few nonconference games, if only because working with a conference partner makes coordination a little easier. Fine. That makes a certain degree of sense.

South Carolina-drum majorYet, the pandemic hit in March. It’s not as though the various schools and conferences didn’t have some time to coordinate and plan together. I said earlier in the year, this past spring, that while public announcements of plans didn’t need to be made — given that it was too premature to commit to a plan which could be rendered obsolete by the flow of events — college football’s leaders DID need to work behind the scenes so that when the time came to make big decisions, the conferences would be ready.

It’s hard to say at this point that the conferences were ready.

Did the NCAA need to provide far better help than what it has offered to this point? Yes. Did the federal government and Congress need to do their jobs a lot better? Yes. It’s not as though college football’s leaders and power brokers should have been expected to deliver a great plan without help; they DID need help, and they haven’t gotten much of it.

Yet, can we also acknowledge that the leaders of universities — people in a position to make a legitimate claim for government assistance (either funding or testing infrastructure, if not both) — should be skilled in the art of securing resources and arranging logistics? This should be their sweet spot, their wheelhouse.

Color me very unimpressed by what they have done… or more precisely, NOT done.

Whether it’s the United States, or Canada, or Japan, or France, or any other nation, one would think that in a moment of profound crisis, the people of that nation all pull together. We put aside our political and ideological differences and say, “Hey, we all need to pull through this. We don’t want you to suffer, just as we don’t want our own community or family to suffer. Let’s get through this together.”

Tennessee cheerleaderCollege sports and the leaders of universities have not exhibited this mindset in their actions.

The Mid-American Conference needs games with the Big Ten to get checks which fund their athletic departments for the financial year. Some Mountain West schools need games with the Pac-12 to do the same. Conference USA and the Sun Belt need the ACC.

Only the Big 12 — with its attempt to play 12 games — is honoring a commitment to the other smaller FBS conferences plus the FCS. We will see what the SEC does, but even before the SEC reveals its adjusted schedule, college football has shown its cards. Those cards reveal an inability to coordinate across conferences, in a way which has visited economic pain and suffering on smaller schools.

Again, I understand the comfort of being able to coordinate on COVID-19 with fellow conference schools, but why are the various Power Five conferences going in so many different directions? It didn’t have to be this way. It is a failure of leadership.

Let’s see what the SEC does next. Don’t blame the SEC for anything; the other conferences felt they had to go their own way, and except for the Big 12, they haven’t tried to help their fellow schools which are lower on the college sports food chain.

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