Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby appeared on ESPN's Get Up on Thursday to discuss his expectations for the 2020 college football season.
Bowlsby expressed a desire to start working toward the season as soon as possible, but he acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic could create some challenges even once the season begins:
"I just think that it's going to be a fascinating thing to watch. Sports is such a part of our culture and such a sign of the American psyche that I just think we do need to get back to it as quickly as we can and as close to what we had previously as possible.
"We also have to remember one thing: the virus is going to define how this progresses. We will have disruptions during the season. I fully expect that we'll have an outbreak on Wednesday afternoon and games may need to be canceled on Saturday. We'll need to understand shutdown procedures and how we go about quarantining when the need arises. Campuses are petri dishes for the delivery of viruses, and when the flu, cold and virus season comes back, we'll have some challenges on our hands.
"I just think we have to be patient. I think we have to be thoughtful and make sure that we keep student-athlete health and safety first and foremost and, of course, all the people around it."
College football programs have been unable to meet in person and hold spring practices thus far because of fears about the spread of COVID-19, and it is currently unclear how that may impact the start of the 2020 college football season. The pandemic may also result in some or all of the season being played without fans in attendance should a season occur as scheduled.
College football and college sports in general are in a tricky spot compared to professional sports based on the sheer amount of programs it has to account for. Since some areas of the country are opening up more quickly than others amid the pandemic, decisions may have to be made about potentially having a season without all teams involved.
Duke head men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski discussed that possibility during an appearance on 94WIP earlier this month:
"We could have, in our country, a disjointed way of doing things in that certain regions may be playing where other regions aren't. Or conferences have to make decisions as to whether or not everyone in the conference plays. In other words, in our conference, we have 15 schools from 10 different states. What if, five states you allow things that in the other states you don't. Do those schools have an abbreviated schedule or a schedule without the others? There's a lot of talk about that, very complex."
There are also plenty of questions regarding whether college football games will be allowed to occur on college campuses before they officially open to students. As things stand, college campuses may not open in time for the start of the fall semester, and determinations have to be made about how that could impact college sports, including football.
Last month, University of Arizona President Dr. Robert Robbins appeared on Arizona radio station KVOI-AM (h/t ESPN's Mark Schlabach) and expressed his belief that a late start to the season is a strong possibility:
"We're waiting to see what the NCAA does, what the Pac-12 does. As much as I want it, you know, it just seems as though if we do play any football in the fall, it's going to be delayed because I've heard nothing and we're headed to May 1. My hope is we're going to get some clarity on this very soon, but it seems unlikely to me. I'd love to see it happen, but we're waiting every day to get some guidance."
Most states have at least begun the process of reopening, which may be a positive sign for college football, but the inability to properly prepare for the season to this point could become an issue if teams are kept apart significantly longer than they already have been.
While many questions still have to be answered, the NCAA's chief decision-makers will undoubtedly be motivated to make a 2020 college football season happen in some form, as ESPN's Schlabach and Paula Lavigne estimated Thursday that a canceled season could result in $4 billion in total losses.
Bleacher Report's David Gardner interviews athletes and other sports figures for the podcast How to Survive Without Sports.