The rampant pessimism about the possibility of playing college football in the fall of 2020 has spiraled to fatalism.
Take a deep breath, and begin to get comfortable with the idea there's virtually no chance of playing college football in any recognizable form this fall. Start digesting the notion that the next time we see a college football game could be in more than 13 months, as the sport remains the most unlikely of all the major sports to execute a successful return. Consider any semblance of college football prior to Week Zero of 2021 as a bonus, an improbable gift from the football gods.
"Right now, I don't see a path in the current environment to how we play," said a Power Five athletic director. "I'm confident we'll get back to what we all think of as normal, but it may be a year before that happens."
"Ultimately, no one is playing football in the fall," said a high-ranking college official. "It's just a matter of how it unfolds. As soon one of the 'autonomy five' or Power Five conferences makes a decision, that's going to end it."
The most interesting development in calls this weekend was the rampant uptick of pessimism in NFL circles about the season, as there are increasing obstacles for that league to play football this fall.
One high-ranking NFL team official pointed out that players with guaranteed money would be owed their entire salaries if one regular-season game is played: "The NFL is hell-bent on playing, but I just don't know how it works functionality-wise, based on health risks and financial structure. It's hard to see how it's all going to happen."
The best way to look at the Pac-12 and Big Ten's decisions aren't through their "health and safety" talking points. They're best viewed as inevitable chronological steps that will unfold.
- Status quo (The SEC, Big 12 and ACC are here.)
- Conference play with the ability to delay (The Big Ten and Pac-12, which will soon have company.)
- The Spring (This is gaining conversation, but detractors remain.)
- Cancel (More people are talking about this than fans want to know.)
The Pac-12 and Big Ten going to conference-only models is going to likely be remembered in the upcoming months like the day in March when the NCAA announced there'd be no fans at the NCAA tournament. It was a big story for a day, then forgotten as subsequent news cycles tornadoed on.
College coaches are stuck somewhere between bewildered and exasperated. They have to motivate a staff and juggle unprecedented logistics to get their players to campus safely and remain COVID-19 free. Yet they do it knowing that they are preparing for a season that isn't happening.
"I hope I'm wrong, but I think the season being canceled is a foregone conclusion," a Power Five coach told Yahoo Sports on Sunday.
"The thing that's starting to settle in for us," said a high ranking official at a Power Five school. "We've been talking about this as a one-year problem. I'm not sure it's a one-year problem anymore. To me, it's more likely we're in this situation the same time next year than we play college football in the fall."
[Mod Edit: Remove image to eliminate confusion.]