Is college football returning too soon?

Georgia State Football stretches during warm-ups against University of Tennessee. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

College students did not return to the same schools they left in March. They returned with two masks waiting for them at the student center, not many students on campus and no sports events being advertised. 

For the southeast, college football is their cash cow. Make no mistake, college sports are a business: Most Power Five programs, including the University of Georgia, Louisiana State University and the University of Alabama, rely heavily on the revenue generated by the football season to fund their athletics departments. 

There are a couple of reasons for colleges to elect not to play any fall sports this year, primarily health and money. Those were the main issues that plagued schools and conferences, such as the Pac-12 Conference, and were pivotal in their decisions to cancel fall sports.

Colleges knew there would be a financial strain coming as the fall semester inched ever closer to the beginning. The main cause of lost profits comes from having to reduce on-campus dorm capacity. Now, it is coupled with students electing to take the semester off as well. 

Taking those hits while shelling out even more money to pay for all the aspects of keeping players safe isn’t a recipe for financial stability in a semester full of uncertainties. Colleges would have to pay for frequent testing first. Then, they would have to possibly quarantine players in a safe location. 

They would also have to be responsible for the health and safety of everyone in their program while not having the luxury of creating a “bubble” or designated safe space. Under those circumstances, it makes sense that colleges would cut the cost for their proposed commitment to player safety and their bottom lines as well. 

SEC schools that generate more considerable revenue can afford to pay for testing, play and mitigate the losses somewhat. In contrast, smaller schools like Kennesaw State and the University of Nevada, have cut their losses where they can and gave up on fall sports early enough to give proper notice to their athletes. 

The Panthers football home opener on Sept. 9 against Murray State was canceled, and more could follow at any point given how little can be predicted right now. 

On the other hand, basketball is still yet to return. The NCAA pushed back the season’s start until at least Nov. 25, and for a basketball conference like the Sun Belt, it could be a good thing. 

The crowds at sporting events will tell anyone which teams the students and alumni enjoy more than any other: men’s and women’s basketball.

It would be worthwhile and financially more secure to focus on something that would be easier to enforce. It is possible to play winter sports that will provide a higher ceiling in terms of return on investment for Georgia State, including basketball. 

Classes are already online, and the NBA bubble has provided the blueprint for health and safety protocols. Throw a flag on the 2020 football season, and prepare for the college basketball season.