NCAA president Mark Emmert recently confirmed something that seemed fairly obvious from the get-go of the pandemic: There can be no college football without college.
“College athletes are college students, and you can’t have college sports if you don’t have college [campuses] open and having students on them,” Emmert said on the NCAA’s Twitter channel, via the New York Post. “You don’t want to ever put student-athletes at greater risk than the rest of the student body.”
Emmert’s right. But there’s another principle at play here. You also don’t want to admit that college football players don’t play college football as a supplement to the college experience. That would be the biggest step toward admitting that college football isn’t about college at all, and that the student-athletes who play the game aren’t really students but cogs in a billion-dollar machine.
As a result of the reality that the student-athletes who play the game aren’t really students but cogs in a billion-dollar machine, the concept of the open campus likely will be malleable.
“That doesn’t mean [schools have] to be up and running in the full normal model, but you’ve got to treat the health and well-being of the athletes at least as much as the regular students,” Emmert said. “So, if a school doesn’t reopen, then they’re not going to be playing sports. It’s really that simple.”
The notion of reopening colleges creates plenty of questions and concerns, from multiple students wedged into oversized closets masquerading as dorm rooms to shared facilities to the freshman-15 food-trough cafeterias to the tendency of people in the 18-21 age range to congregate collectively and consume copious amounts of alcohol or something stronger before retiring in groups of two (maybe more) to one of those oversized closets masquerading as dorm rooms to nibble at a bowl of wild oats.
As with the NFL, however, there’s too much money at stake for college football to press pause for a year. Thus, look for the NCAA to establish a baseline definition for “open campus” that almost passes the smell test, and that preserves the sweet scent of freshly-minted TV money.