Finally, we had the first major blow caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in the world of American football: several College Football conferences, including two of the so-called “Power 5”, announced the cancellation of the games during the fall and the postponement of the season until the next. spring (from the northern hemisphere), that is, something between the months of February and May 2021.
As we know, college football and professional football are umbilically linked by the annual Draft process, so anything out of the ordinary that happens in the first can have huge consequences in the second.
Summing up the chaos at College Football
The NCAA left it up to the conferences and the universities themselves to decide how to proceed with the College Football season. In other words, each one does what he wants, as long as he notifies his decision in advance.
What happened then was a shower of delays: conferences from FCS and lower divisions (Division II and III) were the first to announce that the season would be moved to spring. Then it was the turn of the Mountain West and Mid-American Conference, minor representatives of FBS, to take the same step. Finally, Pac-12 and Big Ten also announced the rescheduling of the games for 2021. Both belong to “Power 5”, the select group of the five largest university conferences – Big Ten, for example, is home to the all powerful Ohio State.
For now, the SEC, ACC and Big 12 – the other “Power 5” conferences – remain firm in their plan to play the season normally. However, given the complicated situation of the pandemic in the United States, it is still impossible to know whether we will actually have College Football games in 2020 and, above all, what the competition will be like, since most teams will not enter the field.
To worsen the situation of uncertainties, there is also the possibility that individual university athletes choose not to act in 2020, as occurred in the NFL. Some of the main prospects for 2021, by the way, have already decided to do this.
Read too: History: How the Spanish flu pandemic affected football in 1918
Possible impacts on the NFL
First of all, it is important to keep in mind that the supply of young players will not decrease for franchises. Even if they do not enter the field once – either by their own will, whether by university decision or conference – prospects will not lose their eligibility to participate in the Draft. Micah Parsons and Rashod Bateman, for example, chose not to play in 2020 and are preparing directly for recruitment.
What changes, however, will be how to evaluate these young players. How will scouts analyze prospects in March and April, with Draft knocking on the door? This, of course, if we really have matches played in the spring.
One of the options to give more time to scouts and general managers would be to postpone Draft. According to the new collective bargaining agreement of the league, Roger Goodell has the autonomy to move it until June 2 if he wishes, and any date other than that would also depend on the approval of the players’ association. In this scenario, the Combine – always held at the end of February – would inevitably also end up being rescheduled.
Scouts are more likely to have to cope with little or even no current video material from prospects, which increases the likelihood of poor analysis and bad decisions being made. Furthermore, the chance of anyone having a meteoric rise in his final year of College Football, as with Joe Burrow, will be almost nil in 2021.
Without “fresh” tapes for most prospects, the value of Combine, Pro Days and the visits that young people make to franchises in the weeks prior to the Draft will increase, as in many cases these will be the only means of evaluating the most recent physical and technical form of future freshmen.
In short, there is a considerable risk that the postponements at College Football will affect the schedule of the next NFL season. Nobody will win with long delays in the schedule, nor will anyone win if the league does not change the planning in any way, leaving scouts and general managers unable to adjust to the unprecedented university season played in the spring.
Everything points to a very complicated situation in a few months. In any case, before worrying about the coming year, Goodell needs to ensure that the 2020 NFL season starts and ends without any major problems.
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