The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.


Sports Authority

Moller: The fate of college football

| Friday, April 24, 2020

COVID-19 has affected a lot of things so far, and I constantly worry that college football will be affected come the fall. What if there’s no college football? What if there’s college football without fans? I think about these questions multiple times per day, and it’s scary to think about fall without Notre Dame football.

Nobody can truly predict what will happen come the fall, as the COVID-19 pandemic has been anything but predictable. Below I am going to rank the best and worst options for college football in the fall, as well as share what I believe the approximate likelihood of each scenario is. Some of these options are very likely and have already been discussed, and others are just ideas I came up with on my own.


One: Season proceeds as normal with stadiums at full capacity, probability: 15%

In the ideal world, this is what happens. The coronavirus will die down in the summer, and by the time fall comes around everything will be normal. Unfortunately, I think the chances of this are rather slim. Based on how things are going right now and the fact that major sporting events this summer have already been cancelled, it’s hard to believe that everything will be fine come August. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but it is not looking good.


Two: Season is played in fall with stadiums at half capacity, probability: 10%

I don’t think this scenario is too likely either because if the coronavirus is still a major issue it is unlikely that many fans would be let into the stadium at all. Even at half capacity, having 40,000 people in one place seems like a great place for the virus to spread. Having people sit a seat apart would definitely control the spread to some extent, though, so it is definitely a possibility.


Three: Season is played in fall with only students and essential personnel allowed in stadiums, probability: <1%

This is one of my ideas that has not been discussed at all among the NCAA to my knowledge. My thought process behind this is if all of the students are living together on campus anyways, why not let them into the game. It is true that there would have to be additional security guards and personnel hired, which is a possible issue, but they can wear masks and socially distance for the most part, right? Students could spread out across the stadium to social distance if needed as well.

I put this option ahead of all the spring options listed below because selfishly this sounds really fun to watch a Notre Dame football game with only 10,000 other people in the stadium. However, while I think this option should be considered, it probably won’t be.


Four: Season is played in spring with stadiums at full capacity, probability: 10%

There are rumors circulating that college football could be played in the spring. In concept this sounds like a great idea, but is this really possible in the Midwest and other northern states? If the season took place in the spring, games would likely have to start in February. While some schools could play at a nearby NFL stadium if needed, that’s not the case for schools like Notre Dame.

I’m fine with braving the elements as a fan, but I am not sure Notre Dame Stadium and other stadiums in the Midwest are built to host games in the middle of winter. One option could be to tweak a team’s schedule and try to schedule teams from cold climates in warmer areas at the beginning of the season. At the end of the day though, I don’t really like the idea of playing in the spring because football is a fall sport, but it is definitely a viable option at this point.


Five: Season is played in spring with stadiums at half capacity, probability: 10%

If college football is not able to start in the fall, COVID-19 definitely could be still affecting things come springtime. For this reason, if the NCAA decides to play in the spring it is definitely possible that the stadiums are not full.


Six: Season is played in spring with only students and essential personnel allowed in the stadiums, probability: <1%

As I explained earlier, this is just a possibility I came up with on my own. This scenario is even less likely than something like this happening in the fall though, as I don’t expect the NCAA to delay the season until the spring.


Seven: Season is played in fall with no fans, probability: 25%

Unfortunately, I think there is a very high probability that this occurs. I am just not sure the NCAA can risk putting people’s health in danger by packing stadiums. Especially for schools like Notre Dame where people come from all over the country to watch the game, it is going to be hard to justify packing fans into a stadium. Not to mention the craziness of tailgating before the games.

This would be a horrible scenario, and I don’t want this to happen, but it is definitely better than no football at all. At least there would be something to watch on TV and players would get their chance to play. At the same time, though, I am going to be very sad if Notre Dame plays Clemson and I have to stand outside the stadium.


Eight: Season is played in spring with no fans, probability: 5%

This is another possibility if the NCAA determines that they will play in spring. If the coronavirus situation is still bad enough, then playing behind closed doors makes sense.


Nine: A shortened season is played, probability: <1%

This is unlikely to occur just because of the scheduling difficulties with college football. There are so many teams and games going on at once that cutting the season down is very tough to imagine. If it comes to this, I think the NCAA will delay the season to the spring or not play at all. I don’t like this scenario either because I don’t know how a committee could select teams for the playoff if there are around ten undefeated teams.


Ten: Season doesn’t occur, probability: 25%

This is my nightmare. Is it really possible that there will be no Notre Dame football come the fall? If this is the case, then what am I going to do with myself? Any of the above scenarios are better than this doomsday situation. Unfortunately because of the nature of this pandemic, this is definitely a reasonable possibility. Until adequate treatment or vaccines are available, playing sports of any sort might be too risky.


Whatever happens with college football this coming year, it is almost certain that it won’t be a normal season. In fact, teams have already been affected with the loss of spring practice. At this point all we can do is pray that college football is back at least in some capacity in late 2020 or early 2021.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Tags: , ,

About Nate Moller

Nate is a junior majoring in chemical engineering. He is originally from a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota and is currently living in Siegfried Hall. Some of his passions include running, cross country skiing, and getting too worked up about Notre Dame and Minnesota sports teams.

Contact Nate