Brendan’s Bits: It’s time to follow the Ivy League’s lead

The Ivy League can be a sort of sideshow at times, given how unique it is in comparison to other Division I football conferences. If the league’s history wasn’t intertwined with the very fabric of football itself, it’s easy to imagine the eight member schools existing outside of Division I today.

But right now it’s time to treat them as the norm and not the exception.

Back on March 10 the Ivy League became the first conference to cancel its basketball tournament, citing concerns about the then-emerging novel coronavirus. The reaction at the time was negative to say the least. There were calls to play the tournament for the sake of the athletes, with detractors saying it was too early to cancel such a major event, especially one that had NCAA tournament ramifications.

Oh, how foolish we were.

Fast forward to the end of June, where we currently stand with a virus that is still ravaging the United States. At a time of year when viruses are typically less of a threat, Covid-19 is popping up in record numbers in multiple states.

We’re also mere weeks away from America’s true pastime, football season, something that seemed like a distant oasis not long ago that is now approaching rapidly. Almost as rapidly as positive tests across the southern half of the U.S. are increasing, it seems. Football seems like less of an oasis now and more of a desert wanderer who needs to be rescued.

That’s where our friends in the Ivy League step in. According to Mark Blaudschun of TMG Sports, the Ivies are considering multiple contingency plans for the upcoming college football season, including one that even the most progressive fan would consider radical.

Football is a fall and winter sport, but the Ivy League could make it a spring one this year if it sees no other option for fitting a full season in before the turn of the new year. The (seemingly) outlandish contingency plan includes pushing training camp up to March 2021, with a season consisting solely of conference games running from April through mid-May.

It’s hard to imagine a fall without football, but if the depressingly negative trends associated with the coronavirus continue, we need to have alternatives ready to go. And, frankly, spring football doesn’t sound all that bad. After all, the XFL had garnered a little traction earlier this year, proof that there is at least some kind of market for spring football.

Of course, the Ivy League moving its games doesn’t mean that every conference is going to follow suit, and Penn and Dartmouth don’t exactly move the needle in the same way that Ohio State and Michigan would should they make a major change.

This is bigger than who is playing and exactly when they take the field, though. This is about making plans, as extreme as they may seem, to keep our favorite events on the calendar at all in the near future as we work through continuously perilous times. If the nerds who got the basketball tournament cancellations right are telling us to be prepared to move the football schedule, we should be mentally readying ourselves to exchange falling leaves for budding plants during football season.

Realistically, Power 5 conferences aren’t going to up and move their entire schedules to the spring. So, if you got to this point and are clamoring for Oregon’s test against North Dakota State in March or the Red River Shootout in late April, you’re probably going to end up disappointed. That doesn’t mean the option shouldn’t be considered, though, and it definitely means that leagues all across America need to be prepared to alter the season one way or another.

Maybe that means starting games later than scheduled this fall (which is another potential outcome for the Ivy League, per TMG Sports), or it could mean scrapping nonconference games in favor of a conference-only schedule (another Ivy League option, as noted above). No matter what a new year could look like, conferences from the Big 12 to the Big Ten to the Big Sky need to consider all possible outcomes.

Nobody wants to see college football games get moved this year. In a perfect world we the coronavirus would weaken and disappear with time as the weather heats up even more, football season would kick off as scheduled and we could enjoy the pageantry and chaos of the game like normal. But we’re not willing to live in that world. We’ve been told to wear masks to stop the spread of the virus and to protect one another, but we’ve got folks fighting Walmart greeters to avoid that simple inconvenience instead.

If we can’t handle these simple asks to get any kind of real life back to normal right now, it’s easy to picture an immediate future that’s disappointingly void of sports, whether we like it or not. Preparedness becomes the key. Preparedness to handle infections and preparedness to wait for football.

A fall without football? It may sound like a nightmare, but we need to pay attention to what the Ivy League is planning for. As football fans, and more importantly as a country, it’s time to follow along with anyone who suggests taking precautions to work around the virus.