This week has been a roller coaster ride of emotions. With the recent news of the Big Ten Conference cancelling all athletics for the fall of 2020, the net result was no Wisconsin Badgers football in 2020 at all. There still appears to be a glimmer of hope for spring football though.
I, myself, have some reservations and doubts about the possibility of a spring season given the fact that many of the same factors that cut down a fall season may be still present in the winter/spring. Head coach Paul Chryst, who has coached a spring season in the World League, also shared his concerns over the idea during a Zoom meeting with media Tuesday.
However, the conference has begun modeling out tentative plans for some semblance of a spring season, something both Chryst and athletic director Barry Alvarez stated would be a truncated version of the fall. Alvarez specifically said somewhere between six and eight games could make sense.
While there are many nuances that will need to be figured out prior to any competition in the spring such as health and safety protocols, eligibility issues and much more, there are many power brokers within the conference already sharing their hopes.
#Purdue coach @JeffBrohm has put together a very detailed and thoughtful proposal for spring football in the #B1G and how it would work in fall 2021. Will have more later but here’s the overview. pic.twitter.com/2hKtArzqgJ— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) August 13, 2020
Thursday morning, Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm shared a lengthy (and color coded) proposal that was extremely well thought out, and his plan makes a ton of sense. There are definitely some benefits within this suggestion, such as it allows for an extension of a playoff and some insight into practice structures. On the flip side though, there also some draw-backs, such as it shortens the fall of 2021 season, which is where most athletic departments will have the biggest opportunity to recoup the financial losses suffered this past fall.
With that in mind, we at B5Q thought it might be a good idea to begin postulating on what a spring season might look like?
To begin, I will preface this by saying I will be leaning into the KISS principle in which the goal is to make everything as easy as possible. Additionally, I will acknowledge that in my mind any football is better than no football for the spring. For example, I am on board with three or four games if it can be managed.
Alas, here is a layout of a possible plan, with three central tenets that helped to frame out what a season could look like this upcoming spring (if a spring season actually happens).
The earlier that a camp and practice schedule can get going, and the faster a season can going the better. The goal at this point needs to be — in my mind — to preserve a full fall schedule. The more space between a spring schedule and the fall of 2021, the higher the probability that a full slate of games in the fall can happen.
Starting up camp in early January, with regular season games starting in early to mid-February and running through the end of March would be best case with this idea. This timeline allows for creativity at the back-end of the schedule for post season play, if needed.
Six game division schedule
I think that a six game divisional schedule makes the most sense. I believe eight games is pushing too far, and that crossover divisional games are not needed. A six game regular season that allows the crowning of a divisional champ is enough. Not to mention this outline also allows a conference champion to be anointed using a B1G Championship Game per usual. A shorter, division only schedule not only lessens the physical toll on players, but it also allows a greater break between spring and a fall season.
If players, schools, fans and pundits alike feel a Rose Bowl game between the winner of the B1G/Pac-12 is necessary, that is also a very real possibility in this model to tack on at the end.
Paul Chryst on eligibility: "That is something that has to be discussed in terms of spring season."— Matt Belz (@savedbythebelz) August 11, 2020
"They don't want to waste a year. They don't want to waste an opportunity."
Paul sees his role to speak and advocate for the players. Common discussion point moving forward.
Preserve the fall
I will reiterate this again, any schedule that is built for the spring should not sacrifice the fall of 2021.
If — and it is a gigantic if at this point — the Big-12, SEC, and ACC are able to successfully maneuver through a fall 2020 season, one has to imagine they will power forward with their 2021 schedule as usual. The B1G and Pac-12 need to try to realign with the other power conferences as soon as possible, or the outlook of their conferences will suffer far beyond 2021.
Additionally, the fall of 2021 will hopefully be a clearer runway to pull off a full regular season, so a chopped and screwed spring season that may or may not get off the ground should not be of higher importance than a full fall schedule next year.
Obviously this is all conjecture, and no matter the plan, there will be unintended consequences that have impacts moving forward. However, the Big Ten should be modeling and planning in hopes of a spring season, regardless of how many actual games are played.
After all, while the ultimate decision to cancel fall sports seemed somewhat inevitable, the lack of planning and foresight throughout the last five months I believe led to the public relations mess that transpired this week for the conference. Kevin Warren and the folks in power within the Big Ten don’t want to have that occur again come the spring.