Yesterday, I wrote a piece wondering out loud what will happen in the event that not all 130 FBS universities and/or not all 66 Power 5 schools are open for business and prepared to play football this fall... but most are. When push meets shove, is Alabama really going to sit out the fall if, say, Vanderbilt and Kentucky don't re-open their campuses until January?
It's easy in April to say all Power 5 conferences will get together on Zoom and sing kumbaya, but linking all 66 Power 5 schools as one essentially gives one university president, one governor, one state epidemiologist veto power over the entire college football season. That just doesn't fit with the character of college sports' city-state structure, where each conference is essentially a nation unto itself.
In an interview with 1010XL in Jacksonville on Thursday, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey essentially co-signed on that premise.
"The hope is we all move along together and today that's been the conversation, collective thinking about how we have to adjust. That's most healthy," Sankey said.
Sankey then wound back to March 11, what will be remembered as Day Zero in our nation's remembrance as COVID-19 as a public health epidemic. The NBA shut down that day, and so, too, did a number of conference basketball tournaments. Sankey noted that, while each conference within the NCAA eventually arrived at the same decision, they all reached that destination on their own time, with their own decision-making process.
"If that's the template, there is room for different conferences to make different decisions," Sankey said. "If there's a couple of programs that aren't able, does that stop everyone? I'm not sure it does, but the ability of us to stay connected will remain important."
While Sankey doesn't come right out and say it, the timing of the COVID-19 outbreak mattered greatly into how the conferences played it. Conference tournaments, of course, lead into the NCAA tournament, which requires coordination from all 33 Division I conferences and the NCAA itself.
But a college football season? NCAA HQ has zero oversight over the scheduling and implementation of a football season. The conferences and the schools do their own scheduling, and the conferences run the postseason. Not that anyone would want to, but you could easily stage an entire football season with one, or two, or three conferences on board.
Similarly, a 14-team conference could easily shed a team or two or four and stage a season. Ideal? No. Possible? Absolutely.
The Power 5 conferences -- in conjunction with their state governors, health directors, et cetera -- will decide if the college football season is played. And who are the conferences? They're the schools themselves.
Again, it's still April (for a few more hours, as I write this). There are a number of possibilities still on the table, and it's too soon to know which are more realistic than the others. But it's becoming clear that a conversation between Greg Sankey and one, or two, or three of his league's presidents that the SEC is playing ball with or without them, because Alabama, Georgia, Florida and LSU wanted to play. Or, perhaps more realistically, a conversation between Sankey and his colleague Larry Scott that the Pac-12 could play whenever it felt good and ready, but the SEC will play in the fall.
That conversation would be anything but pleasant, but it would be a downright joy compared to the reverse -- that Alabama couldn't play because Stanford, UCLA and Cal weren't ready.
Here's hoping that possibility doesn't become reality, but Sankey acknowledged Thursday it is indeed a possibility.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.