Peterson: Why the decision to close some California campuses doesn't signal the end to 2020 football
My phone blew up Tuesday from people sending the story about the Cal State university system’s virtual shuttering of campuses for the fall semester. Messages mostly were from Iowa State fans, a product of being the Register’s Cyclones columnist.
Some immediately thought it meant the end of hope for a fall college football season in Ames and nationwide. Others wondered what the decision means for the following basketball season.
My response to each person: Don’t overreact.
The only people who can flat-out say there should be no football at specific schools are university presidents, conference commissioners and local government officials. That’s about it.
When it comes to college football, it’s not an NCAA decision; don’t blame Mark Emmert, at least not for this one. It’s beyond the NCAA president’s purview to mandate playing or not playing games. When it comes to football, conference commissioners and university presidents hold the power.
Well, and the College Football Playoff committee, too. And the television networks.
“Normally, there’s an agreed-upon start date for every sport, but under these circumstances, now that’s all been derailed by the (coronavirus) pandemic,” Emmert told ESPN Tuesday. “It won’t be the conferences that do that, either. It will be the local and state health officials that say whether or not you can open and play football with fans.
"We already saw the Oregon governor (Kate Brown) offering her views on what's likely to happen in September. The Pac-12 can say, 'Gee, we'd all like to open up on this date,' but whether or not you can, is going to be ultimately up to the state and local health officials, and the campus itself making a decision whether or not they want to go forward."
I asked an athletic official Wednesday morning if I was off-base about my assumption that what happens in California doesn’t automatically mean it will spread everywhere. The response ranged from agreeing totally, to also saying that just because some schools are planning to open with at least some fans in the stands, doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will open with fans.
My assumption still leans toward there will be college football in the state of Iowa in the fall. Somehow, our leaders will figure out a plan that could include:
Limiting attendance to family and select fans. Social distancing will be imposed. If a major donor seated in an open-air club section, for example, wants to hang out up in the corner of the stadium, then that person will be able to do that.
Defining "select fans." That’ll be interesting, if schools go that route. Can you say no to big-time financial backers? Can you say no to the average fan who doesn’t have a ton of discretionary money to donate these days? I’m not saying that’s going to be the situation. I’m just tossing it out there. But I assume it’s being discussed at some places.
Staggering stadium entry times. Don't bet against people with tickets in specific sections entering at pre-determined times, so everyone isn’t crowding into the stadium simultaneously. Exiting could be wedding-like — by row, or in this case, by section. If you want to leave during the game, that’s all right. Again, I’m just tossing this out as an idea.
Quick-testing at the gate. Taking everyone's temperature when entering the stadium? It could happen. Handing out small bottles of hand sanitizer might happen, also.
"These are localized decisions," Emmert told ESPN. "Local campuses have to decide: Are we opening up, and are we bringing students back to play sports? The NCAA doesn't mandate that, nor should it. The schools themselves have to make those choices.”
Iowa State plays South Dakota, Iowa and UNLV during the nonconference season. Iowa faces Northern Iowa, the Cyclones and Northern Illinois. Administrators from Iowa State and Iowa have expressed hope for a 2020 fall season.
"We'll support the conferences who make the decisions with the schools about what the conference schedules are going to look like,” Emmert continued. “(The NCAA will) make whatever adjustments need to be made in the rules, to move seasons around so that we can accommodate all of the needs that are going to be popping up right now.”
Emmert concluded with this:
“And recognizing this is going to play out in different ways in different parts of the country."
So to football fans concerned that California’s decision could be a preview of what will occur elsewhere: Chill out.
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been writing for the Des Moines Register for parts of six decades. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete. No one covers the Cyclones like the Register. Subscribe today at DesMoinesRegister.com/Deal to make sure you never miss a moment.