Brown: Big Ten’s Decision Comes with More Questions Than Answers
IOWA CITY, Iowa – March Madness. Remember that?
It’s hard to believe how much the world of college athletics has changed since March 13, when the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament was canceled. Turns out that was just the tip of the iceberg.
The NCAA basketball tournaments followed. Iowa’s march to the 2020 NCAA wrestling title hit a stop sign. And spring sports seasons also were stopped in their collective tracks.
Surely things would be OK by football season in the fall, right? The Big Ten Conference gave a resounding “no” to that on Tuesday, when the fall sports seasons were put on ice. No Kinnick Stadium. No “Back in Black.” No Nile Kinnick speech. No high-level football. No marching band. No fight song. No waving to the kids at the end of the first quarter. Nothing. Nothing but a bunch of questions.
Does a student-athlete get to keep their scholarship and have another season of eligibility? And how in the world does a university cover the cost of all those scholarships, and finance all the sports that rely on football money?
If playing in the spring is really on the table, that seems a bit demanding. Can a football player get through 20 games or so in a calendar year?
The college basketball season is scheduled to start in three months. Is anyone optimistic that will take place? The Pac-12 followed suit with the Big Ten Tuesday and canceled fall sports. That league took another step by deciding to delay the start of the basketball season to January.
Could Iowa’s wrestling program be denied again? It will take a nation in unison to make hoops, wrestling and the other winter sports seasons take place. But reaction and debate to the pandemic, both in Washington, D.C., and every community in this country, is a sobering reminder that there are two sides to every story and nothing is going to change until we have a vaccine for the coronavirus.
The year 2020 is just madness, pure and simple.
Life as we know is has been altered drastically in the last seven months. And college sports may never be the same.
Tuesday’s news was the latest staggering blow to college athletic departments trying to figure out how to survive. Not to mention the economy in Big Ten towns that rely on football and the financial windfall it provides. Dropping sports seems to be crawling closer and closer by the day.
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Iowa placekicker Keith Duncan sent out an interesting take on Twitter Tuesday, shortly before the Big Ten announced its decision:
“The NCAA should have a LEADER who should be able to make a decision for all P5 and G5 conferences after talking to multiple experts from around the country. What we’re missing right now is that leader.”
Just like he did against Nebraska last season, Duncan split the uprights with that opinion.
The NCAA needs someone in charge of college football, as well as every men’s and women’s sport under its umbrella. Conference commissioners are holding the power cards now. Getting five power conference opinions to mesh, and be on the same page, can be problematic. That lack of leadership will be magnified if some Power Five leagues go ahead and play football this fall.
But I don’t think an NCAA sports czar will ever become a reality. Because I think the door is now wide open for a Power Five mutiny. I can see these conferences – the Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12, ACC and SEC – saying goodbye to the NCAA and heading out on their own.
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The TV revenue would be through the roof, and non-conference schedules would be as compelling as the conference games to come.
But the other side of the story would be the staggering loss of revenue for the teams that used to find their way onto the non-conference portion of the schedule. For programs like Northern Iowa, losing that $650,000 check from Iowa this season is more than a drop in the bucket.
And if this happens, the magic that is the NCAA men’s basketball tournament will be gone for good. Cinderella will leave the room. No more Northern Iowa over top-seeded Kansas.
Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz called Tuesday’s news “an extraordinarily disappointing day for everyone involved with Hawkeye football.”
I’d guess that 2020 is a year he’ll never forget. No spring practice, to start with. Sobering racial allegations that will hopefully leave the program in a much better place going forward. And now this, a football-free fall.
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It’s time we kick 2020 to the curb.