SDS Roundtable: What should SEC do if other conferences don't play football this fall?
Each SDS roundtable discussion involves the SDS staff providing individual answers and comments to questions covering a wide range of sports and non-sports topics. In this discussion, we ask the question: What should the SEC do if other conferences decide to not play football in the fall, and how might all of this impact a Playoff format?
A bit of background …
We have no idea when college football will resume, or what it will look like once it begins. There are numerous scenarios. Some suggest starting on time. Some involve playing only conference games. Some suggest delaying the start and finishing in March. Some suggest waiting until the spring of 2021 to even start. We don’t know if there will be fans in the stands. What we do know is we all want college football in 2020. So what should the SEC do if other conferences balk at resuming?
Jon Cooper, SDS co-founder
All the Power 5 conferences except the Pac-12 appear to be dead-set on playing college football this fall. There’s too much to lose, and eventually, all conferences will come to the conclusion the season must be played, assuming proper safety protocols can be met.
If I’m the SEC and Greg Sankey, I’m playing. If the data supports it, I’m making sure all 14 SEC programs are ready to roll. I also would be lining up wide-spread testing for all these major universities for all students, as well as teachers, coaches and athletes. I also would be putting together the proper resources to ensure things get enforced properly, i.e. temperature scans for players and students to test for fevers.
The Pac-12 is already pretty irrelevant to college football as a whole with respect to the national picture, so, if it decides to forgo the 2020 season, oh, well.
Connor O’Gara, Senior national columnist
Absolutely the SEC should play football regardless of what other conferences decide.
To be clear, that means it has to be done with the right measures in place. Honestly, I’m not sure what that looks like. Will stadiums enforce social distancing? Will we have crowds with the majority of people wearing masks? I don’t know. But it sure as heck beats the alternative.
This is the part where I’m supposed to say that the SEC basically pretends the Pac-12 doesn’t exist anyway, so what difference would this make? Hearing some of the comments from Greg Sankey makes me believe that the SEC will act independently. I think it’s different if all 4 of the other Power 5 conferences said that they won’t play a football season. But if it’s only the Pac-12 that doesn’t wish to partake, I think the SEC can and will do whatever it can and will have football. What that looks like remains to be seen.
If it does mean that 1 conference is out, I suppose this would be a year in which the selection committee could take the winner of every conference as automatic bids. And believe me, I hate automatic bids under normal circumstances. But if we’re going to get a shortened season with potentially 9 or 10 games — something that seems very much on the table — then that strategy makes a lot of sense this year.
Here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that and everything will find a way to make this work.
Michael Bratton, News editor
Believe me, the Playoff won’t even notice if the Pac-12 decides not to play football in 2020. Oregon could possibly get there next season, but there will several teams eager to step up and take their place if the Ducks don’t field a team this fall.
If the SEC is the only major league willing to play, I’d give them all one warmup contest against an FCS type team then just play out the conference schedule. That could leave multiple bye weeks on the schedule, but that’s probably a good thing just in case teams need a flexible schedule for any potential hurdles that could arise.
The national championship runs through the SEC more often than not, so I couldn’t care less if the rest of the nation plays football in 2020. Even if there isn’t a Playoff or any bowl games, crown the SEC champion as the national champion for 2020 — as they would have likely gone on to do it anyway.
Chris Wright, Executive editor
As weird as this season might be, let’s never forget that this sport has handed out national championship trophies to teams that lost its bowl game.
So college football, most certainly, will find a way to crown a champion in 2020, with or without any specific conference’s involvement.
Even in a truncated season, we can still maintain the 4-team Playoff format. Virtually nothing would change from how the Selection Committee has picked the previous 6 fields.
I’ve heard some express concern about the impact eliminating nonconference games would have on the process. You know, as if playing 1 nonconference headliner a year somehow has provided clarity to college football’s imbalanced scheduling issue.
Please. That didn’t matter when Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech in 2014. In 2016, Washington made the Playoff and its best nonconference win was against Rutgers. In 2018, Alabama’s best nonconference win was against Louisville, which finished 2-10.
These nonconference Power 5 vs. Power 5 games look good on paper, sure, but let’s not act like they solve everything. Oregon, remember, lost to Auburn last year but still would have made the Playoff … except it also lost a Pac-12 game in November. That loss knocked them out of the Playoff, not the nonconference loss.
Bottom line for 2020: I don’t care how many conferences participate or whether every team in a conference participates. As long as a team that wins its final game is crowned, it’s still better than it used to be.