• Eric Fisher

Suspend APSU Football; Reboot in 2021

The Clarksvillian

Professional athletes are adults functioning in a business environment and being compensated for all risks in this Covid-19 world. Student-athletes are not compensated for those same risks.

As the days roll by, it becomes increasingly clear that college football is moving towards a cancelled 2020 season. The ACC has “postponed” their fall sports without a return date. Ohio State football has ceased voluntary workouts after multiple positive tests for covid-19. The Big Ten has canceled non-conference games. The Ivy League has canceled fall sports, confirming the intelligence level at those institutions. Several other schools in other parts of the country, including Clemson, LSU, Auburn, Alabama and Kansas State, have reported positive covid-19 tests among athletes during voluntary workouts.

Fall sport student athletes will not use a season of Ivy League or NCAA eligibility in the fall, whether or not they enroll. That’s the fair response.

Each of those larger athletic program’s decisions are being debated against the tens of millions in revenue they bring to the universities and local communities. Those same decisions cannot be applied to APSU or the other OVC programs. It's a difficult time full of unknowns and APSU leadership cannot push the student-athletes onto the field simply to balance the $2 million athletic budget increase for this season.

For the past few weeks, APSU has shuttered their offseason workout program. Compounding the program was the recent “resignation” by the Govs head football coach. Not only is APSU football facing an environmental health crisis but it’s also facing a short-term leadership crisis.

Moving forward is openly announcing college football is a business not a college experience. There’s simply no way to effectively monitor college football player’s activities without quarantining the teams and that quarantine removes the college from college football. Can you imagine the pending NCAA investigations for universities accused of allowing student-athletes to cheat on their remote tests?

There are 13 FBS schools generating more than $90 million in football revenue in 2018-19. The Big Ten generated $759 million in revenue, more than the SEC's $721 million. Football is the main source of many athletic department budgets at major universities. How can the NCAA justify putting college kids at risk when the adults get all the money? That has an easy answer, if you want to hear it.

The student-athletes do all the work while they also assume all the risk. The adults keep all the money resulting from the student-athletes work. Sounds a little bit like pimping, huh?

What are the options? College football in the spring is just a ridiculous suggestion. Underclassman will need to play two football seasons within a 12-month period which greatly increases risk of injuries and those players set to be drafted into the NFL would never agree to play a spring season. Knock-knock - How would university basketball programs be impacted by March Madness blending into college football? The NCAA canceled March Madness in 2020. Do you really think they want their crown jewel minimized again in 2021?

The absence of a college football season could mean disaster for a huge number of school’s overall athletic budget. As of last week, there have been 51 Division I teams, 56 Division II teams and 52 Division III teams have been dropped by four-year colleges for reasons related to the pandemic, according to the Associated Press. Recently Iowa and Michigan State announced they have paused football ticket sales due to the coronavirus.

The Orlando Sentinel recently held an interview with University of Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin and UCF Athletic Director Dana White.

“For right now, it’s all manageable, but the question your mind goes to really quickly is if this lasts into another school year. From a financial standpoint, if we’re not playing football games in the fall, it will shake the foundation of college athletics. As everyone knows, football pays for the enterprise to go forward.”

Change a few nouns and it becomes basic pimp speak.

It’s something we’re all making too complicated. The OVC isn’t in the same position as the larger football conferences with regards to generating revenue. Understanding the revenue situation only makes it more difficult to justify a 2020 season. When university leaders are debating the student-athlete health risks and university liabilities against the revenue generated from the 2020 football season, your answer is obvious.

Sounds easy, right? Not so fast on that conclusion. Make no mistake with the drawn out 2020 debate on campus' around the country - this discussion is justifying lost revenue and not ensuring student-athlete safety. The universities are a larger part of the foundational push to close the national, private business driven economy. That debate is hotly contested with private businesses seeking greater input into operational questions. That input is not being provided or even acknowledged by the university world as they push for closures during their own non-peak business season. The national suspicion of there being a more open dialogue before fall classes begin is high. Of course, that's when "their" money is on the line..

What's good for the goose is good for the gander, right?