As the scheduled start to the college football season grows closer, a clearer picture of what we can expect emerges. Mind you, that picture is still as clear as a bathroom mirror during a shower.
On a phone call in early June, NCAA President Mark Emmert hashed out what he expects this coming season to look like. This included a prediction that the entire season would be finished by Thanksgiving break and would likely not include much postseason play. He also mentioned that likely not all 130 teams would be able to field a team this season (see: California State schools’ decision to not host students this fall).
At this time it at least seems likely that teams will have their traditional four-week training camp. The NCAA Football Oversight Committee will recommend that coaches begin working with players on July 13, with training camps slated to open on Aug. 7.
Abbreviated college football season likely
The obvious impact of schools not hosting a season this year would be the holes in other teams’ schedules; Alabama is scheduled to play USC at AT&T Stadium in Week 1. With little time to reschedule opponents, conferences could opt to play conference games only. If the season was ordered to be wrapped up by Thanksgiving (usually dedicated to Week 14 rivalry games), teams would likely choose to nix all non-conference games rather than try to schedule conference opponents in those slots. That would present us with a 10-week college football season.
The less obvious impact of schools not hosting a season this year would be tens of millions of dollars lost, primarily from Group of 5 schools that rely on marquee games to fund their athletic departments. Some schools are already cutting teams due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Missing out on big non-conference games could cost departments up to $1.3 million.
Ultimately, the scheduling is up to individual states and university presidents and some athletic directors have already made preparations for limited seating this season.
College football Week 1 odds posted
As long as games are happening in some form this year, though, sports bettors will be doing backflips. Sportsbooks like DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM still have odds for Alabama-USC posted, along with a dozen other out-of-conference matchups that hang in the balance. While thousands of dollars would be lost with a trimmed college football season, sportsbooks would see an influx of bets on conference games, possibly evening out in the end.
Las Vegas already proved that hungry bettors would flood back to casinos. With DraftKings and other online sportsbooks providing betting opportunities from the comfort of people’s couches, it’s needless to say that sports wagering will make a full comeback.
College football will have more competition than ever
Other sports leagues have responded to the pandemic with modified schedules, namely the NBA, which will have its playoffs run into October (rather than normally-scheduled mid-June). Although not determined, it’s speculated that the NHL playoffs could run into October, along with the World Series. Rope in the usual competition of the NFL, and October is shaping up to be the busiest sports month in history.
But what effect does this have on college football, particularly betting? With the same amount of money likely being wagered (or possibly less due to the economic recession) and a wider array of things to bet it on, college football will almost certainly see a noticeable decline in wagers. Sharp money could move toward the NBA Finals or MLB playoffs rather than a Thursday night matchup between Utah and UCLA, which would affect the movement of lines over the course of the week. Whether that’s positive or negative depends on personal confidence when placing bets.
If everything goes according to the current plan (major emphasis on current), then October could shape up to be every sports fan’s dream. A trimmed college football season could prove to be the most exciting fall ever, with teams being able to make fewer and fewer mistakes and every game meaning even more than it normally does.
The college football season already isn’t long enough for most fans’ needs, but at this point a shortened season is better than no season, even if it means sacrificing being able to throw $100 at the SMU-Texas State point spread.