Even after the COVID-19 pandemic is tamed and a vaccine has things back to what we all used to consider normal, college football will still be feeling the effects. Financially, logistically, structurally, and the management of rosters will all be impacted drastically for quite some time. In terms of roster management, Georgia has seen the extra year of eligibility rule that instilled during the pandemic come into play. Yesterday both Demetris Robertson and Julian Rochester announced they’re returning to Athens for their 6th years. Both moves have been anticipated for quite some time, and it certainly is a plus for the depth of Georgia at the wide receiver and interior defensive line groups, but it certainly is a new wrinkle for Kirby Smart and other college coaches to deal with in terms of roster management.
Coach Smart and the Georgia program are as creative as any when it comes to their numbers and making what seems like a round peg fit into a square hole. However, some programs are not as efficient and the other aspect of things is on the recruiting side. The class of 2021 all pretty much had an opportunity to visit Athens before the pandemic hit and, or had a strong relationship with Georgia staff via visits to their high schools or interactions at camps. However, many group of 5 recruits and even some late bloomers that wound up being recruited by many FBS schools are going in blind so to speak. The 2022 class will suffer even worse due to the lack of being allowed to take official visits. Look for the transfer portal to be hopping in the next 24 months, even more so than usual!
Financially, Georgia once again was able to weather the storm and in fact will be moving into a new $80 million facility soon. However, some programs were really hit hard. Colleges and universities across the country had to end programs other than football in many cases due to lost revenue. It seems to for the next 5 to 10 years, especially if fans aren’t full go in stadiums this fall, the disparity between the haves and have nots is only going to increase. TV money is a big deal, for sure in the SEC, but all TV deals are not created equal. Ticket sales and the gameday economy is crucial to the whole machine that is college football. The longer the pandemic has limitations in place on the in-stadium experience, the more programs will be threatened due to budget constraints.
Finally, the logistics and the structure of college football could be changed soon. The way that football teams traveled this past season, in large part to prevent possible exposures to the virus could stay in place for many programs. While not also the most luxurious of routes, in many cases expenses were cut by changing mode of transportation and how long the opposing team arrived prior to their game. Those types of things could help out a lot with the previous budgetary constraints mentioned earlier. Also, the craziness of scheduling and number of games played by the different conferences this season has likely made playoff expansion even more inevitable than it already was and also more likely to occur sooner rather than later.
There is no doubt that the impacts of this virus are far reaching across the globe, and the great sport of college football is not immune. Now it’s up to administrators, head coaches, assistants, and support staffs to steward the hands they’ve been dealt in such a fashion that the game not only adapts, but thrives. If more programs around the country and the NCAA do not approach the upcoming season and the lifting of recruiting restrictions with the same aggressiveness, zeal, and determination that the SEC approach it’s 10 game schedule in 2020, cracks in the foundation will be begin to sprawl out. The game needs some change structurally to keep up with the times, but for college football to remain beloved and hold on to the significance it has, the powers that be cannot simply wait back and hope for the best. The time is now to be creative and use as many resources as possible to safely navigate the game and part of our lives back to a sense of “normalcy”.