Point-counterpoint: Will any major college football be played this fall? Money will fuel season
Major college football will be played in some manner this fall, and there’s one major reason that will happen.
I just want to make it clear that this column, for me, is not about whether or not college football should be held. I’m not an expert in the medical field or politics. I am sticking with why I believe it will be played based off contracts and how other entities have handled the COVID-19 pandemic.
The numbers I found for the college football television rights tell you all that you need to know. According to an article from Forbes.com that cited ESPN, the Sports Business Journal and Wells Fargo, the ESPN/ABC contract to carry college football played in the SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, AAC and Mid-American conferences is for a combined $788 million in 2020 alone. If you are curious, $185 million is just for the rights to the Big Ten.
FOX has a contract with the Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12, Big East and Mountain West conferences for $496 million combined, and CBS is set to pay $90 million for the rights to show SEC and Mountain West games.
Unfortunately for Division I conferences that have already suspended fall football like the Ivy and Patriot Leagues, no such television contracts exist.
Schools and athletic departments at the Division I level have plenty of costs involved at keeping their programs competitive, and losing out on this money would be crippling.
We haven’t even discussed possible refunds for season ticket holders, loss of concessions and parking passes and lack of merchandise sells, because those are all drops in a bucket compared to television contracts. But still, each lost dollar matters to the bottom line.
Remember that long list of proposed changes and upgrades to Beaver Stadium, including ridiculous suggestions such as adding a restaurant serving steak dinners? Not happening any time soon without a lot of money.
But will football even be allowed to be played? Well, yes. And look no further than professional wrestling.
The WWE and AEW, the two largest professional wrestling companies and ones with major television contracts, have not missed a single week of shows since the pandemic began. The WWE in particular has a massive television contract with FOX and would stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars if it didn’t continue to produce new content.
Professional wrestling is even harder to practice social distancing in than football, and none of the wrestlers competing in the ring or the referees has been wearing masks (though crowds have been mostly eliminated).
In addition to the financial aspect, it’s often said college football is a religion in the southern part of the United States. People in rural areas have grown frustrated with lockdowns and cancelations of their favorite activities, because the pandemic has not hit their areas the way it has major populations.
The combination of frustration from the past four months with losing something they hold so dear as college football could lead to more violence, and it’s something I’m sure the leaders of college football and these television networks are trying to avoid.
Michael Boytim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.