As the spread of COVID-19 has left many with questions about the near future of college sports, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby hosted a teleconference on Thursday to discuss some of the effects the virus has had on the conference.
One of the biggest topics of concern Bowlsby addressed was the 2020 college football season. While he has not changed anything regarding the season’s schedule yet, Bowlsby said he wants to see more information regarding the virus before making a unified decision.
“I don’t think there’s just a lot of credibility to putting anything together other than very rudimentary plans,” Bowlsby said. “Right now, our plan is to play the football season as it’s scheduled. If we find out that we have to depart from that, we will do so, and we will do it with plenty of time to let people know what it is we are thinking and to challenge what we are thinking.”
While each conference is subject to making different plans with its season, Bowlsby said the Power Five commissioners, along with other Football Bowl Subdivision programs, are all working together in reaching a mutual decision.
“Believe it or not, we work like crazy to beat the heck out of each other when our conferences play one another, but the five (Power Five) commissioners, and to an extent the 32 commissioners, we get along pretty well,” Bowlsby said. “We share a lot of information, and we share a lot of common problems. When the time comes, I don’t think it will be the Big 12 acting unilaterally. I think it will be a collaboration with a number of other conferences.”
As no changes to the 2020 football schedule have been made yet, Bowlsby recognized the possible concerns regarding the time off before the season. He said with a lot of student-athletes home, they are not getting the same workouts as they would get at their universities.
If the Big 12 does not open back up on June 15, Bowlsby said he will look at the transition window and the impact it will have on the rest of the teams’ preparations. With the cancelation of team activities due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, student-athletes may not be able to participate in camps and clinics along with the heavy-lifting and training month of May.
Aside from the Big 12 teams’ schedules possibly being affected, fans could see changes, such as social distancing, which are key to prevent the spread of the virus.
“It’s hard to imagine looking up into the grandstand and seeing people six feet apart,” Bowlsby said.
Although it might be hard to imagine, he is not downplaying the effects as he read an article about the Italian League soccer match which was reported to be the epicenter of the problems in Spain and Italy. He said the crowd at the soccer match was relatively small compared to the crowds at the Big 12 football games.
If the virus is still around, Bowlsby said another option could be to have games played without the presence of fans in the stands.
“I do think it will cause people to wonder what kinds of things they are sharing other than enthusiasm for the game and enthusiasm for a school or a team when they go into a stadium,” Bowlsby said.
While everything is still up in the air and nothing is set in stone regarding the football season, if the 2020 season does get canceled, Bowlsby said it would have an enormous effect on the rest of the schools’ athletics programs. One of the concerns that was brought up was the possible effect on scholarships of sports that are dependent on their football team’s revenue.
“I don’t want to do too much in the area of Armageddon forecasting, but football drives an enormous amount of resources that our universities rely on,” Bowlsby said.
Athletics programs’ budgets are a fairly small percentage of their university’s total budget, he added. With universities and parents under stress with the global pandemic, Bowlsby said he does not think universities will be in the position to finance athletics programs in a meaningful way if the football revenue is not there.
“If the money goes away, it certainly necessitates difficult decisions,” Bowlsby said.
As of right now, the Big 12 Football Media Day is still set to be hosted in Frisco from July 21-22.
Bowlsby made it clear in the teleconference this is subject to change as more is learnt about COVID-19.
“I think it’s going to have to be almost entirely dictated by the circumstances once those circumstances are known,” Bowlsby said. “Right now, I don’t think there’s a crystal ball on the planet that can tell us what’s gonna happen in the coming months.”