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Is Winter Football Viable? Let’s Ask the Important Questions

College football in the winter?

Could America’s second-favorite sport
possibly exist and thrive at a time when it’s not traditionally been
played?

Oh, you better believe it.

If Ohio State head coach Ryan Day
gets his way — and if the NFL gets their way as well — the Big Ten and Pac 12
(and possibly everybody else) would be playing eight regular season games in
January and February, with likely a conference championship and the Rose Bowl
in March.

Or at least that’s the life preserver that is currently being
clung to following the Big Ten and Pac 12 canceling their 2020 football
seasons this week.

How realistic is winter football? It depends on how
serious the people in charge are about actually making it happen.

What
would it entail?

Let’s go over the details by answering some of the most
basic questions in existence: who, what, where, when, why, and how.

It’s
a simple exercise, but one that usually produces great results.

Plus it will help our sanity to talk through the feasibility of this entire thing even happening.

Who

The
“big who” is any conference not playing football in the fall. They could choose this
route, but most notably the parties involved right now are the Big Ten and the Pac 12.

The “little who”
would be the players, and that’s where things could get tricky.

Let’s
assume every underclassman will play and we can set them aside for a moment.
The bigger question here is the upperclassmen who could be looking at the NFL
Draft later in the spring.

Some players will want to improve their draft
stock and so they would play. Others would feel secure enough and simply opt
out.

Those who play, however, could potentially be looking at 10 games
from January-March, then a couple of preseason NFL games in August, followed
by potentially 20 NFL games from September-February, should their future NFL
team make it to the Super Bowl. That’s 32 games in the span of 13 months and
one week.

Yes, playing the maximum games in this proposal would be an
outlier, but playing in the Rose Bowl and the Super Bowl would absolutely be
the goal of every player who opted in.

For the underclassmen who would
stick around, they would play at most 10 in the winter, then “be off” from the
middle of March until fall camp kicks off in early August.

Is that too
much football? Parameters would likely be put in place to limit contact in
winter practices.

Ryan Day also floated the idea that true freshmen who enroll early could play in both seasons and only use one year of eligibility.

What

To be clear, this isn’t a plan that Ryan Day
has laid out, but his mentioned start date of early January was picked up by
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, who laid out a nine-week, eight-game
regular season, beginning on New Year’s Day and ending the last weekend in
February.

The conference championship games would be held the first week
of March, followed by the Rose Bowl the next week.

There are other plans — Purdue’s Jeff Brohm released a plan that would impact both the 2021 winter and fall seasons. For many, that would probably be a non-starter. To his credit, Brohm said that he isn’t tied to any one idea, he just wanted to get the conversation started.

National media folks
can downplay how much the country would care about a winter season, and they
can downplay what it means in terms of championships, but most of those
dismissive people would also be covering the games in some capacity, so how
meaningless can they actually be?

Where

Sure, we probably could have gotten away with winter football in most Big Ten
locations this past year, but a second mild winter would be expecting too
much.

Fortunately, there is a reasonable solution.
Dotted throughout the Big
Ten’s footprint are domed football stadiums that could conceivably house
multiple games on a weekend.

You have a dome in Indianapolis, Detroit, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and even at
the University of Northern Iowa. Heck, the Big Ten could even call up Syracuse
and remind them that the moment Captain James Delany planted the Big Ten’s
flag in New York’s footprint with the signing of Rutgers, that everything in
New York state became property of the Big Ten.

Most weeks there would be seven games, so you could have three venues hosting double headers and one venue hosting a standalone game.

There are logistics to work out for sure, but since the concert industry is
currently stuck at home as well, the stadiums may be looking for renters.

Right now, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis doesn’t show anything other than
NFL on Ticketmaster until July when Guns & Roses is  supposed to be
touring.

And for the people who suggest playing in the on-campus practice facilities,
just speaking for the Woody Hayes Athletic Center playing field, most punts
end up bouncing around in the rafters, which would make the game even more
interesting, but probably not “legal.”

When

We have already covered this, so my apologies for being too thorough in the
questions above, but the regular season would start the first weekend of
January and eight regular season games would be played in nine weeks. The
postseason would then begin the first weekend in March.

Training camp would then start the first week in December, which is just
three-and-a-half months away.

Football is almost here guys!

Why

Because football players want to play football, football coaches want to coach
football, football fans want to watch football, and schools need television
money. They may even be able to get some ticket revenue by the time games
actually kick off.

How

Well, the lawyers are going to have to say it’s okay, then the Big Ten can go
out and find the right doctors to say it’s okay.

It may also take some type of players’ association trade off. NCAA member
schools don’t want it, but maybe they could accept it as a tradeoff in handing
off liability to the student-athletes.

There will also likely be improvements in testing. Cheaper, faster, and better
is how technology moves and testing shouldn’t be any different. Testing could
be done as often as needed by every school.

ACC schools could even begin testing if they wanted!

As we have already seen with the NBA, MLB, and the NHL, television partners
will do what they need to do in order to get coverage up and running, assuming
you’d rather watch live football on BTN than Rutgers Classics.

Is any of this easy? No, that’s why after all of these years, football is
played in the fall. That’s where it fits best.

Is it possible? People smarter than me believe it is. People smarter than me
also eat cottage cheese, so we can’t always trust the smart ones.

If other conferences start shutting down in the coming weeks, however, the
idea of winter ball will become easier and more possible because more people
will be looking at it as an option.

For now, we can safely assume that the Big Ten is doing all of the necessary due diligence on this matter just as they were when they were allowing teams to practice and releasing a schedule and then canceling football while welcoming students back to campuses.