A survey of FBS ADs found near unanimous agreement that some sort of football season will happen at some point during the 2020-21 academic year, though the timing and the form of said season remains anyone’s guess.
The survey, conducted by Stadium, revealed a creeping optimism that some sort of season gets played. A similar survey conducted on March 31 found that every AD believed at that time that a season would be played, though close to 20 percent placed their confidence level at 50/50.
Of course, such optimism can be attributed to three weeks’ worth of data about how brutal life would be without a football season. The coronavirus pandemic has already devastated budgets across the college sports landscape, and that’s without a canceled football season. The survey also comes as states have announced plans to reopen their economies, and universities have begun to articulate plans on how to safely resume on-campus instruction in the fall.
As for what form the season will take, opinion remains scattered.
A plurality (41 percent) believes we’ll have a 12-game season beginning in October or November, while 24 percent believe the season will start as scheduled and 20 percent think the season will be reduced to a conference-only schedule beginning in October. Of note: 23 percent of Power 5 ADs believe that option will happen compared to 18 percent of Group of 5 ADs; a season that saw guaranteed games canceled would be especially harsh on Group of 5 budgets.
Only 11 percent of FBS ADs foresee a season starting in the spring.
While delaying the season until later in the fall or the spring does buy the medical community time to ramp up testing and develop therapies and/or a vaccine, playing through December, January and/or February carries risks. For one, playing outdoors in the winter would be a significant hurdle in northern states and, relatedly and more importantly, experts fear a second wave could emerge alongside the typical flu season as the weather cools nationally.
When asked if they found their optimism growing, shrinking or remaining static in regards to an as-scheduled season, the pessimistic group grew by four percent over the optimistic group. However, among Power 5 ADs, a total of 10 percent are now more optimistic they than they were in March, while Group of 5 ADs are collectively 17 percent less optimistic.