The commissioners of the major college football conferences said that there will be no 2020 college football season if the school’s campuses are unable to open this fall, according to the Associated Press.
The ten commissioners, along with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, were speaking with Vice President Mike Pence on a conference call Wednesday to discuss the continued coronavirus shutdown that has impacted many industries, sports among them.
But unlike professional sports, which are developing plans to begin competition without fans in the stands by isolating players universities do not see playing without fans as a viable solution, the commissioners told Pence, who is the head of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force.
“[We] made the point we were concerned and wanted to get back to having kids attending college and opening up our colleges and universities,” Big 12 commissioner Todd Bowlsby said to the AP. “That until that happened we weren’t going to be having any sports.”
The stance that college football cannot be played without fans mimed the stance Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke took when speaking with the local media on April 2.
“If we’re playing the game, I think we’ll be playing in front of fans,” Lyke said. “If there’s a concern about human contact, we wouldn’t be playing the game. The social distancing, if those orders are still in place in the fall, we won’t be having games as we know them now. So I don’t anticipate playing games without fans.”
There are several concerns for universities that don’t impact professional sports in the same way. Student-athletes live and practice on campus, meaning that in order for athletes to return, support staff would also have to return to the campus.
Also, while NCAA football does make a significant amount of money from television contracts, other college sports are not. Schools would have to open campuses to soccer, volleyball and other fall sports teams, as well.
Financially, there is less of a benefit for colleges to play without fans as they derive a larger portion of their income from ticket sales than the professional leagues. They are also not on the hook for players salaries and bonuses if games are not played.