No one can mess up a good thing like the NCAA. The NCAA Football Division I Oversight Committee recently announced they will examine the possibility of a 14-week football season.
Why? In theory, it makes some sense. The NCAA wants to add an extra bye week for student-athletes to have extra rest time. But when you actually go through the logistics and look at the calendar, it doesn’t quite add up, and I don’t see it benefiting the student-athletes enough to justify a change.
It’s a rapidly changing landscape in college football with two-a-days being eliminated earlier this year. But as a result, teams received a waiver this season to start practicing as early as late July to make up for the fact that two-a-days cannot take place.
This could be a test run to see if coaches enjoy starting practice in late July and then possibly starting the season a week earlier in August, which would, in turn, allow teams to fit in two bye weeks.
Incase you’re wondering, the NCAA Football Oversight Committee could not extend the season by a week on the back end because of finals, along with bowl game preparation. So if the league truly wants to give teams more rest by adding a bye week, there’s no other option than to do it on the front end of the season.
But, if I were Bob Bowlsby, the Big 12 commissioner and oversight committee chair for NCAA football, there are several reasons I’d avoid this. First off, it’s just not smart to have these players playing games an extra week earlier in August when the heat and sun is even stronger. There are already enough times in that opening week when you get a game in Gainesville, FL, Columbia, SC, or Austin, Texas, where it can still push well into the 90’s, and if you get that humidity that’s more prevalent in the Southeast than Big 12 country, it can be brutal for the players.
And while the opening weekend used to be a cupcake game for many Power 5 teams, which allowed them to play their starters for a couple quarters and then work in the back ups, that’s no longer the case. This year alone we have Florida State-Alabama, Florida-Michigan, West Virginia-Virginia Tech and BYU-LSU. Yes, some of these games are at neutral sites and in domes, but it’s more the big picture that in these are games the starters will be playing for the entire 4 quarters. Risking moving this game up a week in the August heat doesn’t seem like a good way to ease the players into the season.
Also, while the idea of giving players an extra bye week during the season is admirable, it’s not really necessary. College football is not the NFL. In college, every Power 5 team typically plays a very low-level FBS team or often times even an FCS opponent. Then, FCS opponents typically have a Division II team on there schedule. These are essentially bye weeks for the players and the coaching staffs. They can all give us the cliche lines of “not overlooking our opponent”, but if you think Oklahoma (or whoever) preps for Louisiana Monroe the same as Ohio State, you’re kidding yourself.
As it currently sets up, the college football season is perfectly designed. Opening up Labor Day Weekend, one week prior to the NFL, gives the sport a weekend to shine. And now that teams are scheduling big-time match ups to start the season, it’s become appointment television. With the three-day weekend, the sport can spread out quality non-conference games over a three or four-day period from Friday to Monday.
Moving that schedule up a week when people are still trying to soak in the last rays of summer will not create an environment of must-watch TV and will likely see a drop in ratings on opening weekend.
If college football and the NCAA were really that serious about player health, they would eliminate a game from the schedule. With the College Football Playoff, a team like Alabama played 15 games last year, one less than most NFL players. But of course we know that will never happen because less games equals less money. So instead, under the guise of player safety, they’ll insist the best way to do that is to extend the season with two bye weeks, even though those of us with an IQ over 75 can see right through it.
The competition committee will present its recommendations to the oversight committee in October. My hope? The folks involved with the NCAA football oversight committee wise up and realize what a mistake this would be for the sport, players, coaches and fans.
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