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Momentum builds for a February-to-May college football season in 2021

Chris Simms looks at some of the top RB prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft and explains why J.K. Dobbins' speed separates him from others.

Spring football won’t work. Unless, of course, it’s college football in the spring.

Via Sports Business Daily, ESPN’s Chris Fowler believes that the possibility of a 2020 college football season played from February to May (2021) is “gaining momentum.”

Fowlers admits that the possibility “on the surface might sound preposterous.” He adds that a lot of “reasonable people feel like it might be the most prudent course of action.”

In order to maintain the facade that football players are student-athletes, football can’t be played if colleges aren’t allowing on-campus, in-person classes. I So if they can’t be students, they can’t be student-athletes. And without the cover of schoolwork, college football players become what they are: Interchangeable parts on a billion-dollar assembly line.

Whatever the decision, the clock is ticking toward a practical timetable for making it.

“By the end of May, there has to be clarity,” Fowler said. “If you’re going to have college campuses open, which you have to have if you’re going to bring the players back, that’s about the deadline.”

Given that college football operates in every state, and given that every state is in a different spot in the lifecycle of the coronavirus outbreak, it will be very difficult to get everyone on the same page.

“It seems unlikely, given the fact that the virus is cresting and the peak is at different places at different times, we’re suddenly going to be back to normal to get the crowd back in stadiums everywhere by late August and early September,” Fowler said.

He’s right. It also may be impractical to push college football onto a February-to-May timetable, given what would then be a quick turnaround to a normal season in 2021. Unless college football plans to gradually ease back to the normal calendar, the notion of giving college players just a couple of months off before starting up the season again could be problematic.

It also will be problematic for the NFL to conduct a draft in April 2021, if college football games are still being played. Surely, the 2021 draft would have to be delayed until college football season ends. Then the question becomes whether and to what extent extra time after the end of the season would be built into the process to give teams a chance to properly prepare for the selection process.

A delayed college football season would potentially benefit the NFL, however. If the NFL is able to play its season on the usual calendar, the NFL could be able (if it chooses) to play games on Saturdays, up to and including the same three-window slate that the NFL stages every Sunday. Likewise, Fowler and his booth partner, Kirk Herbstreit, would be able to handle Monday Night Football, since they otherwise would be unoccupied during the fall.