The real losers in Big Ten, Pac-12 from a fall without football
The Pac-12 and Big Ten won’t play fall football in 2020. The basis and science of the decision can be argued elsewhere, but what’s clear for the purposes of this story is that the cancellations will have wide-ranging effects. Here is a look at where this decision will have a negative impact across the two conferences
1. P.J. Fleck
Whether or not Fleck has a desire to leave Minnesota, he seems to be a season away from having the opportunity to do so ... and make a Brinks truck full of money in the process. It took Fleck just two seasons to go from five wins to 11-2. Fleck’s 2020 encore could have given him the cache necessary to land at any number of blue blood programs and grab money with both fists upon his arrival. Now such a move will need to wait, and there’s no telling if coaching salaries will be the same when the time finally comes.
2. Larry Scott
The Pac 12’s decision to cancel the fall season may well be the correct one. It’s the safest move and, frankly, the most logical. That said, it certainly will not help the league commissioner's tanking approval rating.
The list of things for which Scott will be remembered now includes signing a TV deal that prohibits most of the country from watching some games, overseeing a 15-year national championship drought, accusations of lavish spending of conference funds and, most recently, seeing his conference play follow-the-leader with the Big Ten instead of making the call to cancel the season on its own.
Whatever the facts of the situation, perception is that the league played the role of tagalong, which has given people yet another reason to be skeptical of Scott and his leadership capabilities.
3. Bars in Lincoln, Nebraska
Game day at Nebraska is unlike anything else in the region. The Huskers boast a 375-game sellout streak and the local business economy is reliant on fall Saturdays. So while everyone will miss the past-their-prime bros slamming domestic draws and telling stories about Eric Crouch at some bar on O Street all weekend, that bar’s bottom line will miss them most.
4. Justin Fields
Fields is going to be fine. Let’s get that statement out of the way early. The Georgia-born quarterback is going to go to the NFL and make millions of dollars. Nobody should weep for him. Still, there was an outside chance that the Ohio State star could have used this season -- a season during which he and his team were national title favorites -- to overtake Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence as the No. 1 quarterback on next year’s draft board. That’s gonna be tough to do from the sidelines, and, spring season or not, it’s certainly possible that Buckeyes fans will never see the star quarterback take another snap in Ohio Stadium.
5. Coaches on the verge of landing Power 5 jobs
It’s hard to get fired after going 0-0, so it seems unlikely that anyone in the Pac-12 or Big Ten is getting canned this year. This means a handful less head coaching jobs will be available this spring. That’s great news for coaches hanging on to their job security by a thread, but bad news for guys like UCF’s Josh Heupel, Toledo’s Jason Candle and others like them. That said, it’s never wise to underestimate a football coach’s ability to say or do something stupid in the middle of a pandemic and get fired without coaching a game, so all may not be lost here.
6. People that like betting noon unders
This is a group of which I, myself, am a proud member. Look, there’s something charming about rooting for punts, turnovers and a 13-10 finish between Rutgers and Northwestern while College Football Saturday is still young. This is nothing short of a tragedy for under enthusiasts. But, hey, at least we still have Vanderbilt.
7. Clay Helton
Helton saved his job a year ago when freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis surprised everyone after taking over for injured starter JT Daniels. Helton’s 8-5 record inspired some semblance of renewed optimism for 2020, recruiting saw an uptick and the Trojans became the favorite to win the Pac-12 South.
This year had the feeling of a do-or-die situation for the Trojans’ head coach, however, so it’s just as possible that the cancellation could help him extend his employment by another year as it is to hurt his positive momentum. We’ll never know, but wasting a year of Slovis’ eligibility is less than ideal either way.
8. Kedon Slovis
A dark horse Heisman candidate in 2020, Slovis’ encore to last year's unexpected breakout would have been one of the most intriguing storylines of 2020. Instead, Slovis won’t take a snap, and fans will spend another year wondering whether or not the quarterback overachieved a year ago. Plus, “Kedon Slovis” is a fun name to say, and it sucks that we’ll get to do it less this fall.
9. Scott Frost
Frost seems to have taken the news harder than any other Pac-12 or Big Ten coach. He briefly and only quasi-subtly threatened to defy the Big Ten cancellation order in a written statement and has seemed generally frustrated for a month. He also now has a handful of his players suing the conference in hopes to get the league to reverse its cancellation order.
More important, however, is the fact that the Huskers’ head coach desperately needs a good year if he hopes to keep the conversation about his future from going in a less-than-desirable direction. Frost is 9-15 as the head coach of Nebraska, and year three could well make or break his UNL tenure. Before the cancellation, Frost looked to be armed with an experienced offensive line, a capable quarterback and a truly dynamic star in Wan'Dale Robinson. Things on all of those fronts will now become more complicated with a spring season plan that carries a pile of uncertainty.
10. Ohio State fans
Poor Buckeyes. The No. 1 team in the AP poll boasts a star quarterback, a roster full of NFL talent and one of the best coaches in college football. There are multiple reasons to think the 2020 Buckeyes could stand toe-to-toe with the Clemsons and Alabamas of the world. According to oddsmakers, the chance of season ending with students celebrating in the streets of Columbus were fair to good. Now. a lot of those same students will hitch their football fandoms to the Bengals or Browns. Jeez, that’s dark.
11. Jay Tufele, Wyatt Davis, and those like them
Depending on which mock draft you read and which day of the week you read it, Ohio State offensive lineman Wyatt Davis and USC defensive lineman Jay Tufele are late-first or early-second round NFL prospects. Unlike Wade or Fields, their spots in the first round are not guaranteed and it seems likely that prospects that play well this season could bump them out and cost them millions.