Kirk Herbstreit, the college football analyst who said nearly a month ago he would be “shocked” to see a football season of any kind due to the coronavirus pandemic, believes everything is being done to avoid such a scenario. And that includes a college football campaign in the spring.
“They’re going to do everything they can if it comes to that extreme to be able to potentially have a 2020 season,” the ESPN/ABC broadcaster said on a conference call Monday.
Herbstreit, who will be part of the NFL draft coverage on ABC this week, described moving the season to the spring as a “last-ditch effort,” the final of many contingency plans being worked on by “decision-makers” in the sport. That plan would entail the season beginning as late as February or March, with the College Football Playoff being held in June. According to Herbstreit, it “just proves how willing the administrators are with the NCAA and the conference commissioners and the ADs and the presidents to have a college football season.”
On March 27, Herbstreit went on ESPN Radio and said he would be “shocked” if NFL and college football seasons went on as scheduled in the fall. On the conference call, he walked back those comments, saying he was “just thinking out loud at that point.”
“It was the day baseball was supposed to start, Opening Day, and we were reminiscing about how sad it is that we weren’t having any baseball,” he said. “I was like, ‘Hey, man, this thing’s scary. We may not even have football. … I was trying to explain how real this pandemic is.”
It obviously remains a fluid situation. College campuses nationwide are closed, and it remains uncertain when they will open. On a conference call with Vice President Mike Pence last week, the College Football Playoff Management Committee — which consists of commissioners from the Power Five and Group of Five conferences along with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick — made it clear there will be no games until students are back on campus.
If college football does have to push its season into the spring, one potential storyline to follow, Herbstreit believes, is the sport could be missing its premier players. The top draft-eligible prospects would have a tough choice to make: Play out the season, risking injury, or train and prepare for the draft? It would create a quandary for the likes of Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields.
“It does make you kind of wonder what some of the players at that level would do,” Herbstreit said.