Today is July 28. There is FBS football scheduled to be played four weeks from this Saturday and we still have no idea whether teams will even be able to start fall camp or not. But it seems safe to say at this point that college football, as presently constituted, is on its last leg.
Stewart Mandel of The Athletic has suggested a model to salvage this season that I didn't think was particularly feasible until I gave it some more thought: college football bubbles. Now, in order to do this, every Power Five conference would obviously have to do their own thing this season because there is simply no way to house 64 college football teams in one city. And we would be doing away with the Group of Five conferences, as they simply don't have the money do implement such an idea.
But let's say every conference did go to one hub for the season — Mandel's picks are Atlanta for the SEC, Charlotte for the ACC, Indianapolis for the Big Ten, Dallas for the Big 12 and Salt Lake City for the Pac-12. Could this really work?
The reason this will never happen is because it is an open admission that football players are not normal students and the term "student-athlete" is a complete sham meant to devalue the labor of kids brining in hundreds of millions of dollars to their institutions. But it seems to me like virtually every part of this problem has been mostly resolved for this year. Most schools are going online anyway, so the players can do their work from anywhere. And the NCAA is already rolling out guidelines for players to be able to profit from their own names, images and likenesses, which is just short of an admission that the NCAA has been scamming these kids for decades. So would playing one remote football season really be that big of a deal?
And as for how much this would all cost, Mandel lays out that at least for his example of the SEC, it's really not that big of a deal.
The Athletic — The costs, of course, would be astronomical. The NBA reportedly spent $150 million on its Bubble, not just on room and board but testing, security, transportation and the like. And that’s with just 17 players per team, not 105.
It shouldn’t cost quite that much, but schools have been known to spend $40,000-$50,000 to put their teams up the night before games. Over a 10-week season, that comes out to as much as $3.5 million. Double that to cover the other costs and we’re talking $100 million for a 14-team league. That’s enormous. But keep in mind, the SEC took in $721 million in revenue last season and distributed around $45 million to each school. It would just be subtracting $7 million each from next year’s amount.
And as long as the requisite NFL teams sign off on having their stadiums used as one of the necessary venues, it shouldn't bee too difficult to find a handful of places to play these games in the cities mentioned. Here's what the week of November 7 as scheduled in the SEC could look like in the Atlanta bubble.
While I find it unlikely that this idea has even been discussed among the powers that be, we're really up against it now in terms of having a plan. We're pushing August 1, which was supposed to be the absolute drop-dead date to have something in place.
I honestly have no idea if this system could work or not. It seems to have a plethora of logistical nightmares, particularly this close to the start of the season. But it's better than what we have.