Three weeks ago, few foresaw the widespread cancellations that were coming across the sporting world.
Then, in a flurry, the NCAA tournament, all conference basketball tournaments and all college spring sports got canceled. The NBA, MLB and other professional leagues postponed their respective seasons. The Big Ten suspended all organized team activities until April 6, but there’s essentially no chance spring practices resume as planned at this point.
So, with everything on hold, everyone’s left to wonder what’s next.
No one really wants to have the conversation, say the words or ask the question.
But should the country be concerned about the college football season getting either delayed, shortened or outright canceled? At least right now, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day’s not ready to go there.
“I don't know. I really don't,” Day said on Wednesday afternoon. “For me to comment on it, I would just be ignorant to really what's real and what isn't. There are just so many scenarios out there. You can go down a lot of rabbit holes. Until we know for sure, I feel like we're kind of wasting energy because we don't know. Certainly it's a concern. That would be awful. But trying not to get that far down the road.
“Trying to just do a great job with today. I know that sounds cliche, but until we start to know more, which I'm hoping we do over the next 2-3 weeks, at least to forecast it out, it's hard to get that far ahead of ourselves.”
Still so far from the start of the season, nothing needs to be rushed. Ohio State isn’t scheduled to play its season opener against Bowling Green until Sept. 5, which is 164 days away.
Keeping that in mind, though, the NCAA will be in uncharted territory if the spread of coronavirus doesn’t slow down. Without knowing just how large this outbreak gets, Day said he simply hasn’t yet let himself wonder about the possibility of a college football season cancellation.
“I've done that in my past, and it's a lot of wasted stress for something that maybe isn't going to happen,” Day said. “I try the best I can not to do that. Now when it's appropriate we need to forecast and plan for something, then I think we do that. But there's just so many things that could happen and you could just stress yourself out, worry about it when maybe it doesn't even happen. Certainly pray and hope that this thing starts to flatten out soon, and we just solve it from there.”
As of now, provided the regular season goes on as expected, Ohio State won’t resume practices until preseason camp begins in August. If Day has his way, though, that might not be the case.
He mentioned the possibility of having a workout period mimicking the NFL’s organized team activities (OTAs) that typically happen in late May, saying that’s a model that needs to be considered. To align with the NCAA’s schedule, maybe they happen in June or July. Maybe players could work out in groups of 10, he theorized.
“I'm not sure how that's all going to look, so it's hard to come up with a model until we know exactly what we're dealing with,” Day said. “But I think there are some things like that out there that are definitely worth conversation.”
Those types of workouts, in his mind, could help alleviate the gap between teams that only practiced a couple times in the spring – including Ohio State – and those that got multiple weeks of spring practice. Day noted that as “a little bit of an unfair advantage.”
Conversations between coaches and athletic directors from schools throughout the conference about how to progress forward will come in the near future, Day said. He’s already spoken to other Big Ten coaches about potential adjustments to the preseason.
“We’re taking it one day at a time,” Day said. “We’re not sure what the future brings, and each week kind of unveils something new that might be coming down the road, and so we’re just going to keep doing the best we can.”
As long as the future brings a full, uninterrupted college football season, everybody will be happy.
But as Day mentioned, it's difficult at this point to know just how much the sport will be affected when the season is still nearly six months from kicking off. A month ago, the world had no idea sports would essentially be on hold in late March. Good luck trying to project how COVID-19 concerns affect college football in half a year.