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College Football Poised To Return For Big Bucks

SupportPDX via Flickr

It’s been said that you learn a lot about people when money’s on the line. If that’s true, we’re about to learn a lot about the integrity of the men and women who run colleges and universities.

That’s because in the next few weeks, those presidents and chancellors will have to make the call on whether college sports return in the fall or if they’re delayed on account of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

You’ll notice that cancellation was not among the choices. The games will go on and for the most obvious of reasons: there’s too much money to be made. 

As you’ll recall, the NCAA, the governing body that runs college sports, mostly, pulled the plug on the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in March, then ended competition in all spring sports a couple of weeks later.

And with all due respect to sports like baseball and lacrosse, which take place in the spring, the fall is where the real ducats are earned across campuses. 

It’s when football is played, and if you know nothing else about the American athletic psyche, you should know that football is at its core.

While baseball and basketball officials publicly dither about where and even whether to bring their sports back, football leaders have no such compunction. It’s damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.

The NFL, for instance, held its draft last month and unveiled its 2020 schedule for the usual 16 games to start at its usual time in September with no apparent provisions for change if the situation doesn’t improve.

And then there’s college football, where the message is a bit more muddled. For example, NCAA President Mark Emmert proclaimed in a discussion on the organization’s Twitter account that he doesn’t believe fall sports can return until students are physically back on their respective campuses.

Said Emmert: “If a school doesn't reopen, then they're not going to be playing sports. It's really that simple."

Now, normally, when someone of Emmert’s prominence speaks, that would be the definitive word. Except, when it comes to football, the dominant college sport, Emmert is the ultimate empty suit.

That’s because, at its highest collegiate level, football is controlled, not by the NCAA, but by the conferences and their member schools. There is no recognized NCAA championship and all monies from football stay in the respective leagues to be distributed among the schools.

And we’re talking a lot of money. While most college football programs lose money and are subsidized, the 20 biggest brought in a collective nearly $1 billion last year, with the University of Texas leading the way with $92 million after expenses.

And that’s why the words of Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby resonate. Bowlsby, in whose conference Texas is a member, floated the idea that online-classes, the place where most schools are presently, might be enough to get things restarted.

People like Bowlsby will cross the requisite speed bump about safety and testing, but in the end, it will be let’s make this happen, because, again, in the end, money talks and you know what walks.

And that’s how I see it for this week. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games…whenever they return.



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Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.