What are long-term implications if Big Ten football doesn’t play in 2020?

There are several long term implications that can be damaging on Big Ten football if it doesn’t play this season. What are those impacts?

This isn’t something that was previously envisioned by the Big Ten last week when it canceled its fall sports seasons, including college football. What if the SEC, ACC and Big 12 keep it all together and actually play college football? What if they jumped the gun and canceled the season too soon?

You see, the thought process when the league and commissioner, Kevin Warren, announced that the season was canceled was that everyone else would follow suit. Thirty minutes later, the Pac-12 canceled its season.

Unfortunately, for the Big Ten, it was not followed out the door. The SEC and ACC stood pat while the Big 12 didn’t make any decision other than to wait. Now, the sides have been set for an epic showdown of the biggest conferences in college sports.

The plan has backfired on the conference. Players and coaches are reasonably upset. They had been following the protocols and safely practicing for two months before the decision was made, and it was made rather quickly and without real warning. In fact, the implications from the league had been that they were a go for the season — their 2020 amended schedules had just been released five days prior.

Reportedly, four Big Ten schools desire to play football this season, per the report of an independent freelance reporter, Jeff Snook, on Facebook on Aug. 18. According to anonymous sources, Snook reported that Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa and Penn State all want to get six of the Big Ten teams together to play out a “home-and-home” series against each other, totaling 10 games. The schools are pushing for Michigan and Wisconsin to join them.

What is the hold-up?

According to Snook, Wisconsin athletic director, former football coach Barry Alvarez, loves the plan. Up to this point, he has been unable to convince the university president, Drew Peterson, to get on board with it.

On the Michigan side of things, per Snook’s source, both Michigan head coach, Jim Harbaugh, and Michigan athletic director, Warde Manual, are both pushing the university to get in on the plan, too. However, university president, Mark Schlissel, is staunchly opposed to the plan and wants to wait for the Big Ten to make decisions regarding the Spring.

Clearly, if the schools could make this happen, television contracts could be huge. Best of all — you probably wouldn’t have to share the profits with the rest of the conference not playing.

What will happen if the schools don’t play (or wait until the spring)?

The Big Ten’s biggest competitor for television markets, the SEC, has been a quarrel between the two conferences that goes back to the late 1980s. The two conferences had a few different opinions before the SEC emerged as the front-runner between the two on the college football spectrum. Since then, the SEC has been the leader of college football.

If the ACC, the SEC, and the Big 12 play, it’s going to have a ripple effect on recruiting. Remember, the majority of the prospects that schools woo have a very short memory. Recent national titles mean more to many prospects than one fifteen years ago. First-round draft picks mean a lot too.

An entire year is an eternity on the recruiting trail. Do you really not think that the SEC is going to go around bragging after this is all over about how they played safely despite a worldwide pandemic? “Come play for us,” coaches will say, “you don’t know if USC or Michigan is going to play next year. Will you be a first-round draft pick there?”

Factoring the NFL Draft into the equation

That’s another shift you will see if prospects don’t play in the Big Ten or the Pac-12 this year. Many prospects make a huge leap on NFL draft boards between their sophomore to junior seasons. That’s why we see so many underclassmen declare for the NFL draft every year. That being said, these guys in the Big Ten won’t be making a jump this year if they don’t play. Can you guess who will make that jump, though? You got it. The conferences that play football.

The decision to cut the sport this season didn’t just hurt the chances of schools being competitive in the future. It hurt the pockets of most prospects entering the NFL draft. Big Ten prospects have just potentially lost out on millions of dollars of income in NFL contracts because other people get drafted higher than them because they played more and put more production on tape. Why would a kid coming out of high school with big dream aspirations want to commit to that potentially happening again?

The people that are calling for the NCAA to grant an extra year of eligibility to schools who don’t play don’t realize entirely what that will mean. Let’s discuss this a little bit farther because this is another important point.

Yes, it could be beneficial to prospects, but not always. Schools are limited to a certain number of scholarship athletes they can have on a roster, and now schools are about to embrace an entirely new class of incoming freshmen. That means that either the scholarship numbers on these schools will have to increase, or the schools are going to have to pull scholarships — and a lot of them. Now we have a bunch of angry kids. The transfer portal goes brrr!

If they raise the number of scholarship athletes permitted on a roster at the same time, would it be limited to the schools that didn’t play? Because if it is, you know that athletic directors and boosters will be calling “unfair” and be about ready to tar and feather the entire NCAA.

Rumor is that the NCAA is willing to give an extra season of eligibility to every player across the board, whether they play or not. That proposal will be made at the NCAA Board of Governors meeting on Friday.

Summarizing thoughts

There isn’t much that the NCAA gets right. They are constantly criticized (rightfully so) for their lack of leadership and constant attempts to dip out of positions that are uncomfortable.

The Big Ten situation is not only detrimental to the league, it’s bad for the kids, the coaches, and the fans. They clearly made a decision too early and should have gathered more information — even if it simply delayed the inevitable.

If there are schools working on playing this fall, it might just save the conference from combusting in the imminent future. Let’s hope so, because who doesn’t want Big Ten football?