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Peterson: Re-discovering that there’s no one-size-fits-all for college football

Randy Peterson
Des Moines Register

So now, we’re in a staring contest. Who will be the first to decide the fate of 2020 fall college football: College football’s biggest classification of strength (aka Power Five), or the NCAA’s Board of Governors?

Let the staredown begin.

It actually started Friday afternoon, after the BOG accepted a Power Five and NCAA Division-I Football Oversight Committee request to delay a decision on whether to postpone championships this fall — or to allow soccer, women’s volleyball, cross-country, field hockey and lower-level football to proceed as usual.

Who blinks first?

No one wants to be the person that actually utters the play-on mandate, or pulls a cord on a sport that a lot of people think will eventually be pulled.

No one is leading college football’s overall plight to find a workable plan for a healthy fall season. How many quarantined players during a week equals not playing a game? Will anyone nationally be keeping weekly tabs on the number (not individuals’ names) of positive COVID-19 tests?

Gary Barta, Kirk Ferentz and Bruce Harreld chat on the sidelines before the Hawkeyes' game against Northern Illinois at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018.

The Board of Governors meets again on Aug. 4. By then, maybe we’ll know more, but for now, it looks like a situation in which no one wants to make the ultimate decision. That’s the takeaway from weekend conversations with people connected to all levels of college football.

College football’s mantra includes being flexible

The Big 12, SEC and ACC are waiting as long as they can before declaring their intent for football in the fall — and the Big 12 might wait the longest. Schedule models have been formed, re-formed and tweaked.

Conference opponents only? Conference opponents plus one or two others? Starting the season on time? First games on Sept. 19 instead of Sept. 5? Pushing the season to the spring?

It’s all out there. Hopefully, by the time fall camp opens during the first week of August, everyone will know the tentative plan.

Give the Board of Governors credit for listening to Power Five leaders who cringed that the rug would be pulled on the NCAA staging fall championships in the sports it oversees — which isn’t football at the highest level.

What would the optics have been if, for example, bigger conferences played football, while everyone else was sidelined? I’ll help you. Not good.

Everyone now has a couple more weeks before the decision time clock expires to figure out workable solutions — assuming one exists.

Oct 20, 2018; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners athletic director Joe Castiglione speaks with former WWE host Jim Ross (right) before the game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The largest schools want to play football, but only if it’s safe. They’re trending toward changing the starting date — some favor earlier, some later. They’re trending toward a conference-only format that includes playing someone beyond who’s on annual schedules. The buzz word is flexible.

It’s about safe and manageable ways to start football

On Saturday, Kansas added Southern Illinois to replace the New Hampshire game, which was lost when the Colonial League decided not to play football and the Wildcats chose not to seek an independent schedule. The Salukis originally were scheduled to play at Wisconsin, which was scratched with the Big Ten’s earlier scheduling decision.

Also over the weekend, Oklahoma moved its opener against Missouri State up a week — to Aug. 29. The Sooners’ press release said the date was changed to allow “more scheduling flexibility in addressing potential issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

"If the season is indeed permitted to start as scheduled, the benefit of extra time between games will help our teams manage any variety of possible circumstances that may occur," OU athletics director Joe Castiglione said. "Our original schedule had an open date between the second and third games, so now we will have a span of five weeks to play three games. It provides us a more gradual approach to safely manage the conditions of these unprecedented times. We're thankful to Missouri State for their cooperation during this process and to the NCAA for allowing both teams to start the season a week earlier."

Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell celebrates with defensive lineman Steve Wirtel (39) after an NCAA college football game against Texas, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 23-21. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

There’s another school of thought that goes something like this: Start later, like Sept. 19. Give the bubble in which football players have been existing time to re-seal after students converge on campuses having in-person instruction.

Both plans seem workable, assuming it’s even healthy enough to play.

Both seem all right, especially in a college football climate in which one plan doesn’t necessarily have to fit every program.

Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been writing for the Des Moines Register for parts of six decades. Reach him at rpeterson@dmreg.com, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete. No one covers the Cyclones like the Register. Your subscription makes work like this possible. Subscribe today at DesMoinesRegister.com/Deal