The Big Ten conference announced this week that they will play a conference-only football schedule this year as a result of Covid.
This means that the Wisconsin versus Notre Dame game that was supposed to be played at Lambeau Field in October has been cancelled.
It also means that the highly anticipated matchup between Michigan and Washington at Montlake, which was supposed to be Labor Day weekend, is also likely off the table. Darn. Some of us had been waiting years for that matchup, especially as of late. The Huskies would have been breaking in a bunch of new personnel, including quarterback and head coach. Never-quite-good-enough Michigan is always entertaining, especially with Jim Harbaugh stalking the sidelines. Oh well. It feels like par for the course for 2020.
The larger relevance for football fans in the Pacific Northwest is that the Pac-12 is expected to follow suit in the coming days and announce a conference-only schedule of their own.
What’s the thinking behind playing only in your conference? It’s clearly meant to limit exposure and spread of the virus. No airplanes, no hotels, no extraneous travel. All games would be played close enough to home so that teams could load up on buses in the morning, go play the game and then turn around and drive right back home at the end of the day.
Now that system would work better in the Big Ten, located of course in the Midwest, where most schools are within one state of one another.
But if the Pac-12 adopts a similar scheduling system, would the same short distances apply?
Not really. Schools are much more spread out on the West Coast. Imagine the schools within a day’s drive of the Washington Huskies. They could play the Cougs in Pullman, the two Oregon schools, and perhaps the Bay Area schools—Stanford and Cal—though that might require bus drivers with backgrounds in long-haul trucking.
So what might this new, temporary system look like?
Could each Pac-12 North team play each other twice? Can you imagine the Huskies getting to face the Cougs or the Ducks twice in one year? For die hard fans, that could be terribly exciting. It might feel more like the NFL, where each team plays its division opponents twice per year, once at each location.
It could bring us older fans back to the days where the conferences were small enough that you played every opponent in conference, once, each and every year.
I guess we could squint and pretend that gasoline is only $.85 a gallon and a Happy Meal is only $3, just like back in the old days. Maybe we could also pretend that we see fans in the stands for the games, which seems very unlikely at this point.
The reality is that right now all of us are clinging on to whatever reality we can, so long as it involves football this fall.
At this point it’s still a possibility. The prerequisites will be getting our MLB, NBA, and MLS seasons underway before then. (MLS technically started this week).
And it goes without saying that the health of players, coaches and staff should be the most important criteria for whether we have college football this year.
But for now, let’s take whatever we can get. What we need more than anything is positive thinking.