SEC (and others) will pounce if B1G is only Power 5 league to opt out
On Monday morning, it seemed inevitable that the Big Ten would postpone its season until the spring. Dan Patrick reported on his radio show that the Big Ten voted 12-2 in favor of postponing. As of early Tuesday morning, the Big Ten had not made anything official, even after presidents and ADs reportedly met again Monday night.
So what happened? The B1G got cold feet. It refuted Patrick’s report because it wasn’t quite ready for that information to leak. The B1G didn’t have its ducks in a row quite yet. It knows that if it is the only Power 5 league to cancel and it is out on an island, it would be a disaster and set the conference back years.
The B1G thought it had the backing of the other Power 5 leagues, mainly the Pac-12, but that is not the case yet. Yahoo reported that the B1G was trying to convince the other leagues to join it in making an announcement, but that has been met with resistance, particularly by the SEC and ACC — each of which seems content to be patient for now and cautiously continue down the road of trying to play.
The ramifications would be significant if the B1G fails to convince any of the other Power 5 conferences or programs to join it. I think it could be a disaster even if the B1G only convinces 1 or 2 other leagues to join it in postponing. There’s a reason that the B1G wanted a united front, even if it failed to be united when announcing it was moving to a conference-only schedule. Can you imagine what would happen if the B1G is the only Power 5 league to postpone? I can, in 3 letters.
If you’re not familiar, SMU got the death penalty in 1987 for repeated NCAA violations. A program that was ranked in the top 10 for most of the 1980s all of a sudden couldn’t have its season in 1987 or 1988. Once that was announced, it was open season on all of SMU’s players as all of the country’s top programs lured them, with the promise of, you know, actually getting to have a season. SMU’s roster was gutted as over half its scholarship players transferred, and the program didn’t appear in the Top 25 again until 2019.
What would happen if all of a sudden, 1,400 Big Ten football players were no longer having a season, but the rest of their competitors from around the country still were? You can bet there would be a rush of transfer waivers to those other conferences. The floodgates would be open, and how in the world would the NCAA handle that? Is there a better excuse for a waiver than “my conference canceled the season?” Tate Martell and Taulia Tagovailoa got waivers for a lot less than that. A lot of players have.
I think this is why coaches like Scott Frost and Ryan Day chose their words very carefully Monday. They asserted that even if the B1G postpones its season, Nebraska and Ohio State will look for other ways to have their season.
“We certainly hope it’s in the Big Ten,” Frost said. “If it isn’t, I think we’re prepared to look for other options.”
Day added on ESPN2 that Ohio State would “need to look at every option.”
That’s a plea to their players to stay put, even if the Big Ten makes it official on Tuesday that it is postponing (barring another last-minute change, of course).
What could these teams possibly do? It’s unknown if Ohio State, Nebraska and others could get out of their TV contracts with the Big Ten and play an independent schedule. What I do know is that there would be a lot of lawyers cashing in trying to settle the inevitable lawsuits from both sides.
I’m in!! Dial it up. https://t.co/8dySKqv5yY
— Brian Hartline (@brianhartline) August 10, 2020
It’s clear that the players want to play and are going to do anything to make that happen — even if that means transferring. They’ve put in way too much work to have the rug pulled out from under them, as B1G commissioner Kevin Warren did this weekend. There are high school players like 5-star QB Jake Garcia who moved from California to Georgia so he could have a season.
The Big Ten essentially would have to go behind all of the players’ backs and get a guarantee from the NCAA that it wouldn’t grant immediate eligibility to transfers. The athletes would be stuck, and an unfortunate situation would be even worse.
Even worse, the recruiting consequences would be catastrophic. Ohio State currently has the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. Imagine the top recruits in the country sitting at home all fall, and there are no Ohio State and Michigan games on TV. Instead, Alabama and Georgia are playing. Notre Dame and Clemson are playing. Penn State and Wisconsin would be out of sight, out of mind to the top players in the country.
The slogan “It just means more” will be thrown around endlessly every time Nick Saban and Kirby Smart enter the home of a blue-chip prospect who is considering Ohio State or Michigan. (Two of the top 3 pro-style quarterbacks in the country are committed to OSU and Michigan.) When James Franklin and P.J. Fleck go into Florida or Georgia and try to convince a recruit to come north and play in the Big Ten, they’ll be asked why their league didn’t back up their players that so desperately want to play. And you know, they might have trouble coming up with a good answer.
Just got a text from a top prospect in the 2022 cycle,
"This is exactly why I'm going to the SEC. It means more"
— Brooks Austin (@BrooksAustinSI) August 10, 2020
A vacancy by the B1G would leave the door open for other schools to pounce. Maybe a team like Cincinnati, which has become a Top-25 fixture under Luke Fickell, can rise up and move in on some of the B1G’s recruiting round. Group of 5 leagues like Conference USA and the American Athletic Conference would move into the spotlight.
Suddenly, the B1G isn’t just chasing the SEC, but everyone who chooses to move forward with a season.
Will this all happen? No one knows for sure. This would be the worst-case scenario. But if the Big Ten isn’t able to convince the other leagues to postpone, too, that worst-case scenario might become reality.